Yankee Doodle Dollar!

In the first of a series of special articles, Warrington History Society looks back at the impact Burtonwood’s gigantic American Airbase had on the town between 1942 and 1993. First up, we travel back to 1957 to reproduce a report on the multi-million pound contribution the base was having on the local economy. The report, slightly edited for ease of reading, first appeared in the ‘Burtonwood Beacon’ newspaper in Autumn 1957.

This week Burtonwood’s money men tallied up its dollar expenditures for the fiscal year 1957 and arrived at an interesting sum: between 1 July 1956 and 30 June 1957 it spent a whopping $21,012,944 million dollars (or £7.5 million sterling) in the local community, a sizeable increase over its 1956 spending.

An American serviceman shopping in Warrington

An American serviceman shopping in Warrington in 1957. Around 6,000 US personnel were based at Burtonwood in 1957, some with family members, giving a massive  boost to the local economy.

A major portion of the grand tally was the massive $13.08m (£4.67m) which streamed into the local gold stream via pay checks and conversions. Of this, $6.89m (£2.47m) was converted into pounds by American men and women and spent locally, and $6.19m (£2.21m) was given to the Air Ministry for payment of wages to UK civilians. These figures were monies paid out to both regular Maintenance/Operations personnel, and employees in co-appropriated fund agencies: clubs, youth center, dependents’ school, PTA, etc.

The second highest figure on the long list was the huge $3.02m (£1.08m) spent on major repairs and minor construction— the general maintenance necessary to keep Burtonwood airbase operational such as the building, recondition, repair and maintenance of thousands of offices, work sites and living quarters on the base.

Supplies accounted for $1.87m (£668K) — money spent locally to purchase “any thing other than equipment.” Petroleum, oils and lubricants made up a major portion of the Maintenance/Operations Supply fund, which was mainly comprised of expendable items.

Maintenance men work on a Boeing WB-50 bomber at Burtonwood's Mary Ann site in 1957.

Maintenance men work on a Boeing WB-50 bomber at Burtonwood’s Mary Ann site in 1957.

Utilities burned up $1.45m (£516K) —bills for electricity, water, coal, coke, garbage and trash disposal, and like items.

Contractual Services cost $560K (£200K). These monies were used for the repair of equipment, road haulages, laundry, janitorial services, bus contracts, etc.

Rentals were paid out to the tune of $490K (£176K) —for the rental of cold storage facilities at Aintree, near Liverpool, off-base office spaces at Liverpool and Southampton, certain on-base quarters in Site 6, and others.

Equipment, mainly locally purchased office desks, typewriters, furnishings, etc., totalled $230K (£83K), Rates & Property Taxes cost NAMAE $120K (£46K) and Communications (telephones and rentals) cost $190K (£68K).

And finally, car enthusiasts purchased $230K (£82K) worth of British automobiles through AFEX (money transfer) here. These figures do not include the large number of automobiles purchased through other sources.

American Servicemen cashing cheques in Warrington

In 1957 Burtonwood personnel converted $6.89m dollars into £2.47m pounds. Most was converted over the desk or through checking accounts.

The giant total amount was funnelled out through Burtonwood mainly in salaries, which were converted into rent monies, food, petrol, clothing, entertainment, and general living expenses.

But the tremendous sum didn’t quite break the camel’s back. At the last count Burtonwood’s net assets (or as one person explained ‘what we own less what we owe’) was figured out to be a trim $242.56m (£86.6 million)!

UPDATE: 60 years on and according to the inflation calculator at moneysorter.co.uk the value of £1 in 1957 would be £16.85 today. If we apply this rate of inflation to some of the figures quoted (see table below) the scale of the financial impact Burtonwood Base had on the local economy becomes even clearer:-

Fiscal fact 2017 Value
Burtonwood Airbase’s total contribution to the local economy in 1956/57 £126.53m
Money converted into GBP by Burtonwood’s US service personnel in 1956/57 £41.49m
Wages paid to UK civilians by Burtonwood Airbase in 1956/57 £37.27m
Burtonwood Airbase’s net assets in 1957 £1.45 billion
Another shot of a Boeing WB-50. This particular model was used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Burtonwood.

Another shot of a Boeing WB-50 only this time in colour. This particular plane was used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Burtonwood. All of the images on this page were reproduced with the permission of Aldon Ferguson, president of the Burtonwood Association.

The Burtonwood Association
The aim of the Burtonwood Association is to uphold the memory of the men, women and activities that occurred at RAF Burtonwood and to record them for future generations. It is also responsible for running the RAF Burtonwood Heritage Centre at Gullivers World. To find out more click here.

Warrington History Society
Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 to encourage an interest in all aspects of Warrington’s history and archaeology. To find out more click here.

Five facts from 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, here are a handful of facts Warrington History Society members have been enlightened with over the past 12 months. Thanks as always to our speakers and website contributors and a Happy New Year to one and all. 

Fact One

Albert Puffet, England's tallest policeman in Warrington in 1932In 1932 Warrington had the distinction of employing the tallest policeman in England. PC Albert Puffett stood at an astonishing 6ft 9.5 inches tall and was often seen walking the beat and directing traffic in the town centre. Although PC Puffett was the tallest PC in 1932 there were some taller PCs in later years with Warrington one of the last forces to reduce its height requirements from 6ft. (Source: WHS Lecture #360 “Policing in Warrington” – Paul Carter, 19/9/16).

Fact Two

Orford Tannery's stable block on the move 190675 years before the ill-fated “moving” of the old Academy Building from Bridge Foot to Bridge Street in 1981, a more successful building re-location exercise took place in Warrington. The building in question was a stable block belonging to Orford Tannery. In 1906, with the tannery strapped for cash, local builder Harry Fairclough came up with a way of saving the company some money – he moved the entire structure across a road using temporary beams, horses and manpower. Whereas the Academy (a famous 18th century learning institute for dissenters which led to Warrington briefly being known as “The Athens of the North”) had to be rebuilt once the dust had settled on its 19 metre journey, the transportation of Orford Tannery’s stable block is reported to have gone much more smoothly. (Source: WHS Website article: “Orford Tannery” – Peter Warburton, Dec 16).

Fact Three

William Beamont, Warrington's first mayorWarrington has much to thank its first mayor William Beamont for. Not only did he successfully lobby for the town to become a self-governing municipal borough (1847), he played a pivotal role in ensuring the town centre had a suitable sewerage system, even paying for some of the work out of his own pocket. During his lifetime (1797-1889) Warrington’s population grew from 10,000 to 50,000, a five-fold increase that brought problems such as overcrowding, ill-health and insufficient schooling but William Beamont had a hand in addressing them all.  His commitment to ensuring the town centre’s sewerage system was completed in the mid-1800s undoubtedly saved lives as most of the population then lived in the town centre and infant mortality rates quickly fell. (Source: WHS Lecture #359 “Three Mayors of Warrington: Beamont, Bennett and Hayes” – Andy Green, 18/4/16). For further information on William Beamont click here.

Fact Four

Cromwell's Cottage, WarringtonDating back to the mid-1600s, the Grade II* listed “Tudor Cottage” in Church Street is one of Warrington’s most iconic buildings. Although Oliver Cromwell did not stop there during the civil war (he is believed to have stayed a few doors down where the old General Wolfe pub was located) over the years the cottage has served as an iron mongers, bicycle shop, chip shop, offices for Rylands and much more.  Many images of the cottage exist but few, if any, show the deep open sewer that used to run along its outside from medieval times until the late 1800s. The sewer was so deep and wide that hefty stone “flats” were needed to gain access to the cottage and others along Church Street. When the River Mersey was high, the channel often spilled over bringing mud, water and chaos to one of the town’s busiest thoroughfares. (Source: “Buttermarket to Cockhedge”, a new book by WHS member Harry Wells, Nov 2016. Copies available from the information office in Warrington Market).

Fact Five

Boultings Building, WarringtonFor the first 100 years of its life the Grade II listed Boultings Building on Winwick Street was a Presbyterian church known as St John’s. In the mid-1800s open air services were known to take place outside the church on St John’s day (24 June) when the church’s minister is said to have preached with “great fervour, earnestness and fluency”. Before the church could be sold in 1909, the remains of the church’s founder and first minister, The Rev. Alexander Hay, and the family of another minister who had been laid to rest in the church’s crypt had to be moved to a new grave at Warrington Cemetery. (Source: WHS Website article: “St John’s Chapel, Winwick Street” – Margaret Fellows, Oct 16).

Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 to encourage an interest in all aspects of Warrington’s history and archaeology. Our next lecture, “A Walk Around Warrington” by Margaret Fellows will take place on Monday 16th January at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel, Cairo Street, at 7.30pm. Members and non-members are welcome to attend. To find out more click here.

Orford Tannery

Tanning (the process of converting animal skin into leather by soaking it in acid) has long been associated with Warrington. At one time (in 1927) the concentration of tanneries in the town was the highest in the country with an astonishing 7% of the UK’s 300 tanneries located here. Winwick Street, Mersey Street, Tannery Lane, Latchford, Penketh, and Orford were just some of the areas where tanning took place. In one year alone a reported 20,000 hides passed through the town’s tanneries. In this article Warrington History Society’s Peter Warburton recalls the history of Orford Tannery before ex-worker Mave Donelan recalls what life was like working there in the 1950s. 

A 1920s view of Orford Tannery from the Church Tower of St Margarets and All Hallows. You can see the roof of Orford School on the left of the picture.

Orford Tannery was a major employer in Orford from the late 1800s until the 1950s and was a benefactor to both St Margarets and All Hallows Church and the school.

The piece of land upon which Orford Church Hall stands was given by William Mortimer & Company, the owners of Orford Tannery, situated on land at the top of Sandy Lane. The history of this now long gone business is interesting, as Orford Village owes it much for its early development.

Orford Tannery was built in the early 1800s and the yard was bought by Branscombe, Squire & Ovey in 1846 but it failed some five years later. James Reynolds then acquired the site and was later joined by William Mortimer, a relation from Cornwall, who, on James’s retirement, assumed ownership of the business.

Picture this, it’s 1906, eight years after Harry formed his company and he’s involved in the tendering to build a new stable block for the Orford Tannery in Warrington. The owners of the tannery are a bit short of brass and simply cannot afford the new building, so Harry comes up with an ingenious and cost-effective solution. He relocates the existing block by creating temporary beams under the building and sliding the entire structure across a road using only horses and manpower.

In 1906, the tannery needed a new stable block. With the business strapped for cash, local builder Harry Fairclough came up with a neat way of saving some money – he moved the entire structure across the road using temporary beams, horses and manpower!

In 1891 the Commercial Directory listed William Mortimer as operating two tanneries in Warrington, one in Orford and the other on Manchester Road.

The company produced tanners rough strap butts (basic leather straps that can be used for belts etc.,) and sole leather as its specialities, and the company prospered under William Mortimer until his death at the age of 59 in 1900.

Several years before this he had engaged Percy Densham, a Bristol tanner and a distant relative, to help him run the business when it was converted to a limited company and Percy was appointed as its managing director.

The Orford Tannery prospered before the 1914-18 War and was extended to include a new seven storey drying shed which was sadly destroyed by fire only a few months after its completion.

In the First World War, Sir Percy Densham, as he had then become, was appointed as a government advisor on leather purchases for boots and belting because of his position as chairman of the United Tanners. Hugh F.Gough, distantly related by marriage to one of the founders James Reynolds was made Managing Director and H.P Mortimer, William Mortimer’s eldest son, had been chairman of the company since 1900.

Orford Tannery from the air, 1951. Copyright Areofilms Limited/Britain From Above.

Orford Tannery from the air, 1951. Copyright Areofilms Limited/Britain From Above.

During the 1920s the business went into decline and by 1929 was running at a loss. In February 1931 H.P. Mortimer, the chairman, committed suicide and a year later the board decided to put the company into voluntary liquidation.

The close down of the yard was expected to take twelve months, but almost immediately the company was restarted as Orford Tanning Company Ltd., and by 1941 was part of the Sargar Group of Companies.

In 1941 John Brown, who had started work at the Orford Tannery in 1911, became its managing director and under his leadership it had become by 1956 the largest local industry with some 200 employees.

leather_advertFollowing the Second World War the company had developed a flexible bend leather suitable for lightweight shoes that was directly competitive with the performance of composite and other synthetic soles. In May 1947 the company exhibited this material at the British Industries Fair in Earls Court, London where they were listed in the catalogue as “Manufacturers of Bends, Shoulders and Bellies for Sole Leather, from English, Wet-salted, Dry, and Dry-salted hides. Ox and Bull Strap Butts from best English Hides, also Bull Necks for Polishing”.

The company’s soft shoe leather brands of “Battleship Oak” and “Willoford” helped it survive the 1950s but by then other tanneries had developed their own comparable leather.

By 1961, the tannery’s workforce had been reduced and in 1965 it was instructed by its parent company to make 30 employees redundant. But this move was not sufficient to save the company and by May 1966 the remaining 69 workers were told the yard and business would be closed and moved to W.J. Sargar in Colne, Lancashire.

On Wednesday 6th March 1968 the tannery buildings were razed to the ground by a fierce fire that could be seen up to 5 miles away. The fire started at around 10pm and at one time over 100 firefighters and 15 appliances from across Lancashire and Cheshire were on the scene. The 1.5 acre site has since been developed for housing.


“I had been working at the Box Works in Warrington for some time and decided I needed a change. So, in 1958, I got a job at the Orford Tannery Yard. This was situated at the top of School Road and I’d thought my other jobs were dirty but this topped the lot.

“The ground floor of the tannery had these huge pits that seemed to contain dirty water. They were in fact lime pits, I learnt, in which the hides soaked. The men used to pull the slippery hides out with long hooked poles, but I didn’t go that close; I didn’t fancy falling in.


Map showing the location of Orford Tannery.

“Further along the same floor was an old man with a gigantic mass of these slimy wet hides that were being put through a huge machine with funny rollers. There were bits of hide and water going everywhere and a big mountain of the stuff on the floor all around him. After he had carried out this task he piled the now quite dry hides on a bogie awaiting collection by my friend Sylvia and now me.

“We had to bend down and push this truck full of hides to a ramshackle old lift. We’d travel up in this rattling lift to the second floor which was a large dirty room, unlit with fifteen to twenty partitioned-off bays that covered the whole floor. I think there must have been windows, but they were so dirty with years of grime that they didn’t let in any light at all. The only available light we had in the whole place was from two small 40 watt inspection lights that we used to carry with us and plug into the bays in which we were working.

“We used to put one light at the front of the bay to illuminate the truck full of cows’ bellies, then we’d have a bucket full of oil mixed with water in which we’d dip a cloth and wipe each hide with the liquid. After this the hides had to be hung up to dry at the back of the bay where we had placed the second light. It used to look quite spooky; just like hundreds of people hanging by their necks from the beams! This job of wiping the hides left our hands a dirty brown colour as it did everyone else’s and the only way to get them clean was to dip them into a vat of raw bleach that was left there for that purpose. This left my hands very cracked and sore, but they soon got used to that treatment and were alright after the first couple of weeks.

“We never bothered to clean our hands for our ‘baggin’ (lunch break) but just got on with eating our food with our hands still filthy. Everyone else did it, so I followed suit and it didn’t seem to do me any harm. It makes me squirm now when I think of it.

“After some months working with Sylvia, a person on the top floor, a place that was quite light and pleasant to work in, left their job. Sylvia had been working at the tannery for a lot longer than me so got promoted and I was left to do the job alone. It was really spooky up on that second floor with the shadows, the smells and the cold as it was the middle of winter. Because it was pitch black in that drying room, apart from those two small lights, I felt isolated, a bit scared and I didn’t fancy talking to myself all day. You definitely needed two people up there to help you get over the shadows, the little noises and the isolation. I decided the job was not for me and so I moved on.”


Some of Orford Tannery’s workforce, circa. 1920. Image courtesy of Charlotte Holcroft of Massachusetts whose grandfather is pictured in the middle row. If you can spot any of you own relatives on this picture please let us know.

Additional material by Andy Green.

Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 to encourage an interest in all aspects of Warrington’s history and archaeology. The Society’s next lecture “A Walk Around Warrington” by Margaret Fellows will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 16th January 2017 at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel in Cairo Street. For further details click here

The ‘Rostherne’ Goblet

Warrington – often referred to as the town of many industries – was once a major centre for glassmaking with pressed glass being a key speciality. Here Warrington History Society member John Slater recalls the fascinating history behind one example of fine commemorative glassware with Warrington connections – The ‘Rostherne’ Goblet.

goblet_bigCurrently on display in Warrington Museum is a large 23cm high mid-Victorian goblet finely engraved with the image of a church and a dedication to Sarah E. Saxon. The date 1866 appears under the dedication.

When the goblet was offered at a London saleroom in 2008 {eventually selling for £1,680}, the engraving was attributed to the Bohemian craftsman Wilhelm Pohl; largely because of the architectural subject and quality of the engraving. It is known that Pohl was living in Orford Lane, Warrington in the 1860’s near to the Orford Lane Glassworks then owned by Peter Robinson and Edward Bolton. A further investigation of the goblet has been undertaken to try and substantiate the Pohl attribution.



The goblet depicts Rostherne church as it looked in the mid-1800s (top). The lower image shows the church as it looks today.

This has been indenitfied as St. Mary’s, Rostherne near Knutsford, about 10 miles east of Warrington. At the end of the eighteenth century the Egertons, living at the nearby Tatton Park, bought the ‘advowson’ of the church (the right to choose the vicar). Extensive restoration work was carried out in 1888 by the architect A.W. Blomfield, commissioned by Wilbraham Egerton, first and last Earl Egerton. The goblet depicts the Church as it appeared in the mid-nineteenth century with four (2 x 2) ‘dormer’ windows in the roof of the nave; several chimneys from the various heating systems then in use and a quatrafoil window in the eastern wall of the Egerton Chapel.

Today there are three ‘dormer’ windows arranged linearly along the nave, the chimneys and quatrafoil window have gone. Also, as might be expected, the modern churchyard is much larger than the one shown in the engraving. The detail in the engraving is ample testement to the skill of the engraver. There is a house at the western end of the Church. In the summer this is obscured by a clump of trees, but the engraver indicates its presence by showing a window visible through the foliage. Amongst the vegetation on the right-hand side, below the Church, is the name Rosthorne, the nineteenth century spelling of the village name


the-dedicationSarah Ellen Saxon nee Carter was born in Warrington in 1846. She was the illegitimate daughter (no father’s name on the birth certificate) of Sarah Carter and grand-daughter of William and Catherine Carter nee Antrobus of Bank Street, Warrington. On 7 September 1865 Sarah Ellen married Thomas Saxon, glassblower, at the Wesleyan methodist chapel, then in Bank Street. Witnesses to the marriage were James England, glassblower and Mrs Sarah Brooks*. Sarah Ellen died in August 1866, shortly after giving birth to a daughter Edith Saxon. This accounts for the date on the goblet. It is noticeable that the quality of the date engraving is poor suggesting strongly that it was not made by the same hand as the other work on the goblet.

*Sarah Carter married Thomas Brooks in St James, Latchford in June 1862. She died in 1868, age 43.


Born in 1836 in Yorkshire; his father George Saxon, glassblower, was originally from Warrington but moved first to St. Helens and then to Worsbrough, near Barnsley (presumabley to the recently established Worsbrough Bridge Glassworks.) In the 1861 census Thomas is recorded as living in the Ancoats district of Manchester, occupation glassblower. After his marriage to Sarah Ellen Carter, the couple went to live in Winwick Road, close to the Orford Lane Glassworks. It seems very likely that Thomas worked here; the more so that James England was a witness at his wedding. The England family had a long standing relationship with Orford lane; James’s Grandfather was one of the founders of the Glassworks.


1 – Orford Lane Glassworks
2 – Wilhelm Pohl; Orford Lane
3 – Thomas and Sarah Ellen Saxon: 9 Winwick Road
4 – Thomas Saxon: Allen Street (address on marriage certificate)
5 – Sarah Ellen Carter: Bridge Street (address on marriage certificate)
6 – William and Catherine Carter: Bank Street



Although hopes of finding some direct documentary evidence to support the Pohl attribution have not been realised we do, nevertheless, have the coincidence of Saxon and Pohl, senior artisans in the glass industry, living near one another and probably involved in the same Glassworks. It therefore, together with the other evidence of subject and technique, seems reasonable to suggest that Thomas Saxon commisioned Wilhelm Pohl to engrave the goblet as a wedding gift to his wife. No direct evidence has been found to link Sarah Ellen Carter to Rostherne. But there may have been a connection with the Carter/ Antrobus* families. Edith Saxon is recorded in the 1871 census as being the foster-child of John and Elizabeth Vost, living in Rostherne. Unfortunately Edith died in1880; she is buried in St. Marys Churchyard with her foster-parents.


The Old Fox Inn in Buttermarket Street. Thomas Saxon was landlord of the inn prior to his death in 1885.

Thomas Saxon remarried after his first wife’s death and had another family; one son and four daughters. But no trace of the ‘Rostherne’ Goblet has been found until it reappeared in 2008. It seems likely that Elizabeth Saxon (second wife) disposed of it after Thomas Saxon’s death in 1885. At that time he was landlord of the Old Fox Inn, Buttermarket Street, Warrington. This was demolished when central Warrington was redeveloped in the early 1900’s.

*Catherine Carter was the daughter of Thomas and Ellen Antrobus. She was born in Lymm in 1797. Lymm is a neighboring parish to the west of Rostherne.

References & Acknowledgements

  • Bonhams; New Bond Street; Sale 15957, 17.12.2008, lot 383
  • Hajdamach, C.A (1987) J.Glass Assoc. 2 P. 41-54
  • England, C.A (1993) Thomas England Glassmaker, 1759-1821
  • Unpublished research note held at Warrington Library, Local Studies Section
  • Information on births, marriages and deaths were obtained from the relevant church and local record offices.
  • Thanks are due to Mr. Whitlow, churchwarden, and other members of St. Marys congregation who helped to define the changes that occured in the Church during the 19th century and assisted in the location of the grave of Thomas and Elizabeth Vost and their adopted daughter Edith Vost-Saxon.
  • Thanks also to members of staff at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery; in particular Mrs. M. Hill who arranged the photgraphy of the Goblet.
  • Mr. G. Macgregor, Altrincham, took most of the photographs.
  • Map source OpenStreetMap.
  • A version of this article was first published in The Glass Cone (a publication of the Glass Association).

Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 to encourage an interest in all aspects of Warrington’s history and archaeology. The Society’s next lecture “Howley, Fairfield & Latchford” by Gordon Speakman will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 21st November 2016 at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel in Cairo Street. For further details click here


St John’s Chapel, Winwick St.

Many Warringtonians will remember The Boultings building on the corner of Winwick Street and John Street as the former headquarters of electrical engineering company W A Boulting Ltd. Others may recall it as a short-lived mid-1980s nightclub called The Silver Fox Club. But did you know that for the first 100 years of its life – from 1808 to 1909 – this attractive Grade 2 listed building was in fact a church called St Johns? Back in 2003, Margaret Fellows researched the history of St John’s Chapel for Warrington History Society’s Winter 2003 Newsletter. Her article is reproduced below with her kind permission.


St John’s Chapel, Winwick Street, was founded in 1808. The initial congregation comprised Episcopalians from St James Church and Presbyterians from Cairo Street Chapel.

The first St. John’s Chapel was founded in 1808 in Winwick Street, but to find the origin of its first congregation we have to go back to events in 1796. It was in that year that the then minister of St. James Church in Knutsford Road, having built up a large congregation, moved to a new living. Although he took care to find a suitable successor, his successor’s teaching was not liked by all members of the congregation, causing a group of them to move away to attend the Stepney Independent Chapel.

Within three years the group had grown in number consisting of Episcopalians from St. James, Presbyterians from Cairo Street Chapel and a few from the Stepney Chapel in King Street. A larger room in which to hold their meetings was offered to them, and they applied to the Countess of Huntingdon – who was at that time the main patron of the theological colleges – to be provided with a minister. This new Minister was the Reverend Alexander Hay, who became the founder and first Minister of St. John’s, which opened on Thursday, January 7th 1808.


Rev. Alexander Hay – founder and first minister of St John’s Chapel.

In the early years, Reverend Hay preached six times a week, as well as other meetings and visiting, for which his stipend was 80 guineas a year. In 1814, St. John’s opened classes for adults in private houses in different parts of the town, and soon, about one hundred and fifty people were attending. Sadly, the self-imposed burden of building up the church took its toll on the health of Alexander Hay, and he died on 17th May, 1827 aged 47. He was interred in the left aisle of the chapel, an inscribed tablet being placed on the wall. Several ministers followed, but sadly, by 1852 the congregation had dwindled to about 50, and the church was offered for sale. It was purchased by Mr. Robert Barbour, and in March 1854 the congregation was received into the Presbyterian Church of England.

Robert Barbour was consistently financially generous during his ownership, and in 1873 he donated the Chapel building as a free gift to the Trustees. When appeals were made for money for repairs and refurnishing, he gave generously. Many friends also gave financial help, the name of Peter Walker appearing frequently. In those days, pew rents provided a large part of the church income, but ”the plate” at the church door was introduced in 1865.

The last minister of St. John’s was the Reverend James Warnock, who served his whole ministry in Warrington from 1877 until has death from typhoid in May 1900. Due to financial problems no further minister was inducted, and in 1906 the committee agreed to offer the Winwick Street buildings for sale.

On 7th August 1908 the trustees accepted an offer of £1150 for the site. The last service was held on 7th January 1909 and the chapel was closed, the congregation then consisting of about fifty people from Stockton Heath, Bewsey, Padgate, Orford and Howley. Despite having no spiritual home they were not discouraged, and held one service each Sunday in the Cairo Street Unitarian Church.


The ‘Boultings’ today. After the congregation moved out in 1909 it was used as offices for the tannery on the other side of John Street with a footbridge connecting the two buildings.

In April 1909 they decided to find a site to build a new church and a new minister to try to rescue the congregation. They chose Mr. William Reid as their Preacher-in-charge, who did his work well, and steady progress was made in both membership and finances.  By April 1910 they had not only secured a site, but were proceeding with the building of a new church on Wilderspool Causeway. The old building in Winwick Street subsequently became the offices of Winwick Street Tannery.

So, you may well ask, what became of the remains of The Reverend Alexander Hay? This was more of a problem to unravel. After following several false leads, and much searching, the burial register revealed that his remains were “Removed by Licence from St John’s Presbyterian Church, Winwick Street, Warrington”. What the register also revealed, a fact of which I was not previously aware, was that three other persons had been buried in the crypt. These bodies had also been removed. They were Mary Bird, aged 32 and her two unnamed infant daughters (presumably all had died at childbirth), who had been the wife and daughters of the Reverend Caleb Bird, the Minister of St. John’s from 1836 to 1841. Mary Bird and her daughters had been buried in 1838. All four were re-interred in one grave in Warrington Cemetery on the 10th September, 1908. In those days, they were classed as dissenters, and consequently were buried in unconsecrated ground.


John Street was formerly known as St John’s Street. It’s name was changed after the church became redundant.

Margaret’s article throws interesting light on a building lots of us have passed on many occasions. We conclude this article with an eyewitness report that takes us back to the heyday of the church itself.  It is from the pen of former Mayor William Beamont who, on walking past the chapel on St John’s Day 1860 recalled an open air service that was taking place outside. Wrote Beamont: “As I passed Townsend {as the area was then known} the new Presbyterian minister of St John’s was preaching in the street with great fervour, earnestness and fluency. I stopped to hear him and was pleased and I hope edified.”

Lewis Carroll

frances_broomfield_alice_paintingLewis Carroll, creator of the much loved ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ stories, will be the subject of Warrington History Society’s next talk on Monday 17th October 2016.

Carroll’s influence looms large in Warrington. There’s the iconic Tea Party sculpture in Golden Square (officially unveiled on 30th May 1984 by HRH The Prince and Princess of Wales), two pubs – The Looking Glass in Buttermarket Street and The Hatter in Whitecross – and much more.

The area’s most notable Lewis Carroll landmark however is probably the Visitor Centre located within All Saints Church, Daresbury, where Carroll’s father was vicar from 1827 to 1843.

This month’s talk, “Lewis Carroll Through The Window”, will be given by Irene Rutter, one of the Centre’s visitor guides. Irene will recall the life and times of the famous Daresbury-born author, who spent the first 11 years of his life in the Village, through the memorial window that was erected in his honour at the church.


Daresbury-born Lewis Carroll whose work  is said to have drawn inspiration from some of the curiosities on display at Warrington Museum.

Carroll, real name Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was much more than an author. The Visitor Centre refers to him as a “churchman, storyteller, University don, pioneer photographer and puzzler” and Irene will touch on many of these aspects of his life during her talk.

Warrington History Society’s talks are open to members and non-members alike. The Lewis Carroll talk will take place at Friars Green Independent Methodist Chapel, Cairo Street, Warrington (opposite the Postern Gate’s car park) on Monday 17th October at 7.30pm. For further information visit warringtonhistorysociety.uk

Irene Rutter: Irene was born and brought up in Warrington, attending Beamont and Warrington High School before going to Manchester Royal Infirmary to study Radiography. She has worked in the Health Service for 41 years at various hospitals, including the old Warrington Infirmary, and her passion for Lewis Carroll’s work started at an early age.


Edwin Russell’s sculpture in Golden Square, Warrington. Created from granite and depicting four classic Lewis Carroll characters (Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Sleepy Dormouse and the March Hare), the piece cost £25,000 to create and includes a number of empty seats allowing passersby to join the party.

Warrington History Society: Warrington History Society was formed in 1964 with the aim of encouraging an interest in all aspects of the history and archaeology of Warrington and its surrounding areas. For information on how to join the Society visit warringtonhistorysociety.uk/join-us/

Main image (top of page): ‘The White Rabbit’s House’ – the latest Lewis Carroll inspired painting by Warrington born artist Frances Broomfield. To see more of Frances’ paintings and illustrations visit francesbroomfield.co.uk

Warrington’s Libraries

As LiveWire’s consultation period over the modernisation of Warrington’s libraries enters its final weeks, Warrington History Society’s Chairman ANDY GREEN takes a look back at the history of the town’s book-lending service, the origins of which date back to 1760, and urges townsfolk to have their say.

Eyres Press - located close to where Golden Square now stands - and the origin of Warrington's municipal library.

Eyres Press – the private library that operated from within this building, was the precursor to Warrington’s municipal library.

In 1848 Warrington had the proud distinction of becoming the first town in the United Kingdom to open a rate-supported public library. It was born from a long-established private subscription library that had been operating in Warrington since 1760 from the Horsemarket Street premises of the printer William Eyres. Known as the Warrington Circulating Library, it was used mainly by tutors from the nearby Warrington Academy, but in 1844, six years after joining with the town’s Natural History Society, its members sought to make its collections available for the benefit of the town as a whole.

In 1848, this wish became a reality when the town’s first Mayor, William Beamont, and its first Clerk John Fitchett Marsh, took advantage of the government’s 1845 Museums Act by vesting the Society’s books and artifacts in the council. The Museums Act allowed boroughs with 10,000 or more people to raise monies for the establishment of museums and thus, almost by default because of its sizeable book collection, Warrington became the first town in the country to have a municipal library.

In the same year the cities of Canterbury and Salford followed suit by establishing libraries as annexes to their own museums. Nearby Manchester later became the first local authority to provide a dedicated public lending and reference library but this wasn’t until the passing of the Public Libraries Act of 1850 and its opening in 1852 was a good four years after Warrington’s rate-aided library had come into being.

Crowds gather to watch Mayor Willian Beamont lay the foundation stone for Warrington's central library and museum.

Crowds gather to watch Mayor William Beamont lay the foundation stone for Warrington’s new purpose-built central library and museum.

By the mid-1880s, Warrington’s municipal library – by now housed in purpose-built premises in Museum Street, the foundation stone of which was laid by William Beamont in front of a massive crowd – boasted over 20,000 books and was thought to be the largest of any town in England based on the number of books per head of population.

Warrington has another distinction with regard to its libraries. Another unrelated library service, known as the Warrington Perambulating Library, is recognised as one of the first mobile libraries in the country.

Warrington's Perambulating Library - operated by the town's Mechanics Institute and one of the first mobile library's in the country.

Warrington’s Perambulating Library – operated by the town’s Mechanics Institute and one of the first mobile libraries in the country.

Established by the town’s Mechanics’ Institute in 1858, it comprised a travelling one-horse cart that set out to visit “every door in Warrington”. It was said to be a resounding success with the Institute’s book lending rates increasing by over 300% in just 12 months.

The existence and success of these libraries led to an increase in literacy levels across the town and Warrington became known as a centre of cultural excellence – facts seemingly overlooked when the RSA voted the town bottom of its Heritage Index in 2015.

Our current library service is something I feel we Warringtonians should be very proud of. The proposal to close our central library in favour of a wellbeing centre in Golden Square that does not include a true lending service seems a backward step as it detracts from one of the town’s great historical distinctions. Surely, if the library in Museum Street is to be turned into a heritage centre, the ability to lend books as well as view reference books should be maintained to continue a service that dates back to 1848. It is much better to say Warrington “has” the longest established rate-aided library rather than “had”.

Personally, I believe it is good that the town is reviewing its library service, even if it has been sparked by the need to reduce costs. The establishment of libraries within ‘neighbourhood hubs’ seems a sound idea particularly if sharing a number of facilities within one building reduces costs and increases book lending.

For areas without a nearby hub, we should think very carefully before closing their libraries. We should not forget that books are enablers – they help educate and improve lives. On a recent consultation with a GP, a member of my own family was offered a book “on prescription”, an initiative supported by many public libraries including Warrington’s LiveWire. This national scheme helps people manage their well-being through self-help reading and is endorsed by health professionals who acknowledge how empowering books can be.

Such services, and the advice available from librarians and archive support staff such as the ever-helpful Lynda and Patsy in the local history section of our central library, should not be jeopardised and I would urge anyone with similar views, or indeed different views, to take advantage of LiveWire’s consultation period which runs until Friday 21st October 2016. They are our libraries and we should have our say.

Let your views on the future of Warrington’s libraries be known by visiting LiveWire’s website.

Memories of the Old Market


Warrington Golden Square Logi“Coming out of the Post Office and into Golden Square, I sat down on one of the seats for a rest. It was a grey afternoon in January and I was waiting for a friend to join me.

Suddenly, the air was full of shouting and a bustling and jostling crowd of shoppers! I was sitting in the middle of a street at the side of the fish market, from which came the cries of “a lovely bit of fish for tea, Mrs”- “fresh shrimps”. At a stall at the end of the fish market, a woman stood, hands on hips a flat black cap on her head and a sack apron tied around her ample waist. Old Charlie Lee sat, his black board at his side with a witty ditty chalked upon it, rabbits hung from the sides of the stalls and cock chickens too, with their heads swinging in the draught. Folks were pushing and shoving their way through the stone flagged market between the stalls, fish and poultry gave way to the tripe stall on the left with its peculiar smell, and “Cheese Jimmy” on the right where his silver haired sister bounced up and down in her efforts to cut through a huge cheese with a wire.

Then up 3 or 4 stone steps and you were in the Meat Hall where the butchers stood besides haunches of beef, hatchets at the ready, to make chops and joints to sell and to display on their counters. One could also purchase fresh vegetables and newly laid eggs from the stall at the top of the steps. Bread and biscuits were sold here too. Looking back from the top of the steps down into the well of the fish market, crowds of people, men women and children of Warrington, did their shopping, mainly on Wednesdays and Fridays. Walking back through the shouting and clamour and smells of the market, one emerged at the far end facing the Barley Mow, a row of peddlers selling anything from pegs to dusters, dishcloths and hankies on the pavement and along the old wall of the inn.

At the side of the Mow ran Market Street a busy thoroughfare leading to the wholesale vegeta ble market, passed Stirrups Butchers on the left and lower down the “rag” market with more shops. Some spring to mind, Peakes the grocers, Gaskells the bacon people, Morleys where shoes could be left to be heeled and soled and wallpaper purchased and Suttons provided linoleum by the roll and Geddes the tea and coffee merchant. In Market Street stood the “Cattle Market Inn”, the venue of farmers who came to town to barter for the best prices for their grain and produce. Across the street from the Cattle Market entry could be gained into the huge “rag” market where anything from shop soiled linen to carpets materials and bedding, could be bought very cheaply, Here were Butterworths, Harts and Baileys, Naylors (taffe Naylor) to name but a few. Stall upon stall of everything that anyone could want. The heart of the town of Warrington.

Walking back up to the other end, passed the large clock which stood at the centre of the “rag” Market, one could nip through the little wynd to come out on the other side of the Barley Mow, passed the vaults and pay a visit to Ashcrofts hardware shop for nails and screws and at the back of the shop buy wood, the scent of the sawdust filling the air.
And so back to where I sat on my seat facing the empty iron structure, the clammer and the shouting the pushing and shoving of an age long passed but remembered with affection, to see the modern Warrington so different so alien. Market Street blocked off by Bon Marche and the entrance to the Mall. It was time to go home.”

{This article was first published in Warrington History Society’s Winter 2002 newsletter}

question-questionDo you have any fleeting memories of old Warrington that you’d like to share with us? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us with your story and who knows, it could be appearing here very shortly!

The Great Oak of Winwick

{This article was first published in Warrington History Society’s Autumn 2002 newsletter}


The Great Oak of Winwick.

There once stood at Winwick an old oak tree of unusual size that its branches once served as a canopy for a dinner party of 124 persons, a company “never exceeded in any public occasion in the County of Lancaster”.

The dinner was given for Captain Phipps Hornby, the third son of the reverend Geoffrey Hornby a former rector of Winwick. Captain Horby commanded the ship named the VOLAGE at the Battle of LISSA, and captured a French flag. The young captain (he was only 26) returned to the village of Winwick early in August 1811 after five years away from home. The villagers arranged a princely banquet for him on the 26th August 1811 to honour his victory.

The interior of the great tree was covered with fine white cloth, giving it the appearance of a huge tent, the tables arranged in a semicircle round the trunk as shown in the picture.

The Winwick Oak stood in a field a little distance to the south of the church (near Rectory Close). It covered an area of ground 100 yards in circumference, the lower branches extended 90 feet north to south, and 87 feet from east to west, the diameter of the trunk at the base was 14 feet; and 11 feet at a height of 5 feet. The first branch was 7 feet 6 inches from the ground.

Loyal toasts were drunk, two songs were sung, specially written for the occasion one by Mr Fitchett the other by Mr Green and some Latin verses, by a local bard of which the following is a translation.

Renowned for generous shade, behold in me
A monarch oak of thrice a century;
Ye kindred trees, let memory cease to dwell
On those sad days, when struck by fate ye fell;
And turn to when, beneath my verdant shade,
A social throng the votive banquet made;
And hail’d him safe who war’s dire perils o’er,
The laurels earned in fight at Lissa wore.
Vain! if they hoped by union with my name
To add more lasting honours to his fame.
Since I must yield to time’s relentless sway,
Resign my bark and cast my leaves away;
While Hornby’s name unhurt by chance or fate,
Unchanging still, shall be forever great.

On the 4 February 1850, while Captain Hornby was living and had been knighted and made an admiral, the broad oak, a beautiful time honoured ornament of Winwick, was blown down by the wind, to the great grief of the neighbourhood; and the Latin bard’s prophecy that the hero’s name should survive it was thus part fulfilled.

A picture of the dinner under the tree is in St. Oswald’s Church, Winwick, together with the French flag captured at the Battle of Lissa, some wooden benches made from the timber of the broad oak after it was blown down and a memorial tablet to the memory of John Fitchett who wrote one of the songs for the banquet.

When this article was originally published Ray commented that its contents were based on information obtained from ‘A History of Winwick’ by William Beamont and St. Oswald’s Church.

Public Timekeeping in Warrington


In the 21st Century our days are kept in order by timepieces. At one end of the scale there are clocks which keep time to an accuracy of one second in 3 million years while at the other end we can buy a watch for a few pounds and regard it as an item which can be disposed of when fashions change. As well as our clocks and watches we can find out the time by reference to the telephone, television and computer. Mankind has not always needed to know the time to such accuracy as we do now: in centuries past work was regulated by day and night and the seasons. Even when clocks became more common they did not tell the same time uniformly throughout the country: that only came about when the railway system came into being and trains ran to a timetable. However, there was a period of time in between when clocks and watches were not available to the majority of the population but they did need to reckon the passing of the hours. This is when public timekeeping came into its own.

“Time is Precious. Peter Winstanley erected this dial 1756”; so read the inscription on a dial on the stable wall in the yard of The Bull’s Head, Bridge Street. Not quite the first public timepiece in Warrington but one that gave you a little reminder every time you looked at it. It was soon followed by a second near Peter Winstanley’s residence with another adage “Virtue join precious Time. The gift of Peter Winstanley to the Publick in Stanley Street Warrington 1757”.

Inscriptions on timepieces are not always inspiring or even visible. In 1647, Colonel John Booth gave the town possibly its first public timepiece – the curfew bell. It originally hung in a tower on the corn market and bore this inscription: “Donum Johannis Booth Colonelli et rectoris hujus de Warrington 1647” (The gift of John Booth Governor of this market town of Warrington 1647). Beamont’s record of the inscription is somewhat different being: “Exdono Johannis Booth armigeri Colonelli et rectoris emporii de Warrington 1647”. It later became the fire bell and later still was transferred to the clock in Trinity Chapel.


Holy Trinity Church – home of Warrington’s town bell and clock.

A variety of different dates are given for this move to Trinity Chapel. Beamont says that a bell with this inscription was put in the steeple there in 1706 but he adds that the old curfew bell was also in the steeple. This other bell bears the following inscription: “Deo et ecclesia dedicavit Johannes Blackburn SSTP Hallelujah Henricus Penn fecit 1706” (Consecrated to God and the Church, John Blackburn SSTP Hallelujah Made by Henry Penn 1706).   A newspaper article suggests it was moved in 1810. If either of these is correct it would have been moved again after the steeple was blown down in 1822. However, the minutes of the Police Commissioners for the town on 19 August 1841 contain a resolution that Messrs Joseph Perrin, Peter Smith, John Smith and James Houghtin be appointed a committee to make an agreement with the Trustees of Trinity Chapel to move the fire bell to the top of the steeple if practicable. Yet again, another source says that it wasn’t transferred to the town clock (in Trinity Chapel) until 1855 when the old court house – where it had been – was demolished. It is known that a new fire bell was hung on the west end of the new Market Hall when that building was erected in 1856. I suspect that these items refer to more than one bell and although we may not be able to disentangle which bell was where during these years it seems that the town authorities were beginning to take an interest in public time keeping.

On 21 April 1836 the Police Commissioners decided that the salary to be paid to the ringer of the Town Bell at 6.00 am and 8.00 pm, should be paid by the Treasurer as “a matter materially attending to the regulation and order of the town”. In April 1863 Hamlet Savage was the ringer of the bell at a wage of 3/- (15p) per week and he was given explicit details of the times for ringing it:

  • 5.55-6.00 am: Monday to Saturday
  • 7.55-8.00 am: Sunday
  • 8.00-8.05 pm: Every evening (the bell was rung for 5 minutes then there was a break followed by the ringing of the number of days in the month)
  • 10.45-11.00 pm: Saturday (in addition to the earlier evening ringing)
  • 9.45-10.00 pm:  Sunday (in addition to the earlier evening ringing)

The Town Clock is housed in the tower of Holy Trinity Church, Sankey Street (built 1760). The first official reference to it is in the same Police Commissioners’ minutes referred to previously (21 April 1836) when Mr Carter tended his bill for one year’s care of the clock: from May 1834 to April 1835 the bill was 2 guineas (£2-10p). The Commissioners ordered that this sum should be paid by the Treasurer as, like the ringing of the Town Bell ‘it was a matter materially tending to the regulation and order of the town’. James Carter’s own notebook shows that he had previously received payment in 1824 for work on the clock. As the steeple of Trinity Chapel (as it was called until February 1870 when it became a parish in its own right) was blown down in 1822 the clock was probably put in when the replacement tower was erected. Unfortunately James Carter does not give us any other information about the clock.

The next official mention was on 1 February 1849 when Mr Carter (James died in 1848 so this is one of his sons, probably Joseph) reported that the winding ropes were ‘so worn as to be dangerous’. The prices of new ropes were to be ascertained and we can only presume that they were bought.

In 1852 more work needed to be carried out: Mr Carter was authorised to effect repairs not exceeding 45/- (£2-25p). New ropes for the weights were supplied by Mr Wagstaffe for 28/- (£1-40p) and to complete the improvements Mr Whittle repaired and repainted the dials at a cost of 10/- (50p).

In the Warrington Guardian of Saturday 14 August 1858 there is an interesting report of the debate of a resolution at the previous week’s council meeting. Councillor Holmes put the resolution that it was desirable to provide an illuminated public clock for the convenience of the inhabitants. He suggested that the matter should be referred to the General Purposes Committee to ascertain the best site for such a clock and an estimate of its cost. The important word is presumably ‘illuminated’ as there was already a town clock but why was the councillor thinking of another site? Councillor Pickmere provided the answer when he said that Mrs Houghton’s shop almost shut off the view of the clock from Market Gate. He believed that Market Gate was the only place for a public clock as anywhere else would only serve that locality whilst Market Gate was the true centre of the town. His suggestion was that a clock should be suspended on chains from the 4 buildings at the corners of Market Gate and have 4 faces one towards each of the principal streets.

Councillor Holmes thought that the current clock could be made ‘a yard or two higher’ and if illuminated could be visible from more places than if it were put on any other public building in the town. He estimated that the cost of installing illumination would be £50-£80 with running costs dependant on the length of time it was lit. Councillor Edelsten did not think that it was the right time to be spending money on an illuminated clock but if one was really essential it should be sited at one end of the market shed with one face to Market Street and the other to the market hall. The resolution was sent to the General Purposes Committee and at their September meeting the borough engineer. Mr Coxon, was requested to obtain information as to the cost of maintaining the proposed clock. At the October meeting, he reported that much depended on the size and situation of the clock. A clock on a pillar ‘similar to the one opposite the Electric Telegraphic Company offices in Castle Street, Liverpool, would best answer the purpose and might be placed with advantage at the corner of Market Gate at the angle in front of Messrs Picton and Hattons’. This would cost £70-£80 with maintenance of £5 per annum. The committee resolved that it was not prepared to approve Mr Coxon’s plan and no one seems to have resurrected Councillor Pickmere’s suggestion! However, it was not long before the council was forced into action.

In November 1861 Mr Coxon reported to the General Purposes Committee that the dome of the clock tower in Trinity Church was much decayed and it would be prudent to cease ringing the bell. He suggested that the trustees should have it repaired or replaced. A builder, Mr Gibson, advised the commissioners of the chapel that it should be replaced but they did not have sufficient funds to do this. The rector, Mr James Nicholson, on behalf of the Commissioners approached the corporation pointing out that in the past matters of this nature had always been met by the inhabitants of the town generally as “it is especially devoted to the town clock and the bell”. He promised the Corporation full co-operation from the commissioners. The General Purposes Committee then resolved that Trinity Chapel was the best site for a public clock for the convenience of those passing through the town and the following January the Commissioners of the chapel offered, and had accepted, £50 towards the cost of rebuilding the tower; the total cost was estimated at £200.

In addition to producing the town clock, George Blackhurst made many other timepieces whilst working in Warrington. This Brass Quarter Striking Skeleton Clock recently fetched £2,800 at auction.

In addition to producing the town clock, George Blackhurst manufactured many other timepieces whilst working in Warrington between 1851-58. This Brass Quarter Striking Skeleton Clock recently fetched £2,800 at auction.

Councillor Edelsten, of whom we have already heard, offered the council a clock to be put up on Mrs Houghton’s shop at Market Gate ( if Mr Wilson, the owner, agreed). He said “he would take care that it was such a clock as would be not only a credit to himself but useful to the town”. It was to be made by Mr George Blackhurst, a Warrington clock maker, and be guaranteed for 12 months. He asked that the Corporation should pay him 1/- (5p) per year as acknowledgement. A sub-committee was set up to confer with him. However, there seems to have been some ill-will between the members of the sub-committee and Councillor Edelsten as he wrote to the General Purposes Committee complaining that they would not accept it on his terms but only under certain conditions. “I am astonished,” he wrote, ” and after the uncalled for remarks….the Corporation must accept the offer as it stands or decline it altogether.” The corporation declined it.

Warrington Museum has a regulator with winders dial which is stated to be part of George Blackhurst’s town clock of 1855 which came from Hamlet Houghton’s shop; however it is the wrong year if this was Councillor Edelsten’s clock.   There is no mention of this clock in the minutes of the General Purposes Committee and from the subject matter it undoubtedly would have been mentioned if it was there in 1858 or 1861. It seems then that either the date is wrong and Councillor Edelsten put up a clock notwithstanding the sub-committee’s views or this was merely a large or turret clock that was on Houghton’s shop and calling it the ‘town clock’ is incorrect.

In April 1862 the Committee accepted tenders for the work on the clock tower: Richard Kitchen, for iron work £160; John Jackson for masonry, joinery and scaffolding £85; H & S Chandley for painting £8.

In August of that year the Committee, as ever trying not to spend more than is absolutely necessary, asked the Gas Company to illuminate the dial free of charge. The Gas Company’s reply, in which it took no responsibility for the safety of the clock, was to agree to illuminate but with a meter from which, £7.10.0 (£7.50p) per half year would be deducted. By September it had been firmly decided that the old clock could not be repaired and that a new one was to be purchased. In October J Bailey and Company of Manchester had their tender of £255 accepted for the construction and erection of a new clock.

By May 1863 there was dissatisfaction with Bailey’s conduct concerning the clock. Some of this frustration is shown in the following verse which appeared in the Warrington Guardian of 30 May:

Dithery, dithery dock, what’s up with the trumpery clock? It tells nothing but lies, you don’t know how time flies, unless by the Borough reeve’s clock, And that tells the truth like the giver; on both you may safely rely, so three cheers for J B now and ever, and three groans for the clock in the sky.

The real problems are seen through the minutes of the General Purposes Committee. In May 1863 the Committee gave Bailey’s 14 days to finish the clock or the contract would be cancelled. Bailey’s wrote agreeing to this but did not do the work. Next Mr Coxon was told to have the work carried out by some other firm and charge it to Bailey’s. However, this does not seem to have happened either, because it is not until August 1864 that we are informed that Bailey’s had completed the work “according to contract” (!) and £300.16.4 (£300.84p) had been paid with £45.16.4 (£45.64p) being for extra work on the dial and telling hammers. Unfortunately the minutes supply us with no more information about this strange state of affairs.

In July 1871 the old clock which had been taken from the tower was requested for use by St Paul’s Church to “provide a clock for the people at that end of the town” and the Committee resolved that it should be handed over to Dr Massingham as long as the Corporation incurred no expense.

January 1876 saw a new lighting system used on the clock. Arnold and Lewis of Manchester set the jets further away from the dials where they gave a brighter light and ensuring the dials would stay cleaner. The cost was £20 per dial exclusive of joinery and ventilation work and in May £92 was paid to the company for the work which included some other repairs. £15 was also paid to Henry Holt for painting the tower which was next painted in 1881 when Mr Whittle was paid £20.

Another new clock was placed in the tower in April 1883. Mayor John Crosfield presented a clock made by Mr Joyce of Whitchurch to be put in Holy Trinity church and this was accepted with none of the antagonism that surrounded Councillor Edelsten’s proposed gift of over 20 years previously. James Joyce was a highly respected maker who had made, among other turret clocks, one for Worcester Cathedral. In July of the following year the minutes tell us that the corporation asked the company to provide an estimate for care and repair of the clock for the following three years. In that same year the rest of the clocks belonging to the corporation were put into the care of Mr Edward Eustance for their repair and winding. He was paid £10 per year for three years. In 1886 it was arranged with Joyce’s to fit new opal dials to the Town Clock.

After the dark years of World War 2 the Warrington Guardian of 28 July 1945 reported that the clock and tower were to be painted and pointed respectively. The possibility of adding more lights was going to be considered and an attempt would be made to clean the faces from the inside. The ironwork was to be scraped and the figures, fingers and weathervane were to be gilded. It was mentioned in this report that the tower from the church roof upwards was regarded as town property. The Warrington Examiner of 8 August 1952 reported that in 1948 the clock and tower were overhauled as the weather vane had attained a list of 5o and it was thought to be a danger to the public.

Eustance's Clock, Sankey Street.

Eustance’s Clock, Sankey Street.

Other well-known clocks in Warrington have been the market clock in the old covered market and E & A Eustance’s clock above their premises in Sankey Street. A clock had been on that site for many years. An advert in the Warrington Guardian of 26 November 1862 used the words “The Illuminated Clock” with their name and address. It was finally removed in 1993 when the firm moved into Golden Square and, unfortunately, seems to have disappeared from public sight.

{This article was first published in Warrington History Society’s Millennium Scrapbook in the Year 2000}.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Minutes of Police Commissioners for Warrington – Vol 1 & 2 (WCL ms 1354); Minutes of General Purposes Committee, Warrington Corporation (WCL ms 1630); Notebook of James Carter (WCL ms 2433); Warrington Guardian – 14 August 1858; Warrington Guardian – 28 July 1945; Warrington Examiner – 8 August 1952: A Bennett Proceedings of Warrington Literary and Philosophical Society 1898-9 “Glimpses of  Bygone Warrington” 1899 (WCL S10211); W Beamont with notes by J Kendrick jnr: A Chronicle of Events at Warrington at and shortly before the Great Civil War (WCL 5152); GA Carter: Warrington and the Mid Mersey Valley 1971; Warrington Town Trail 1 1976 (WCL p2859); Dava Sobel: Longitude 1995; David E Duncan The Calendar 1998. WCL is the Warrington Central Library reference number.