How the power of men led to the founding of Parr Baths

A few months ago, the star reported on proposals to replace the Parr Swim and Fitness Center with a “state-of-the-art leisure complex.” Hopefully the council’s plans – which include a new Saints training center – will materialize much sooner than the first Parr baths.

Would you believe it took 40 years to build! And construction on Recreation Street came after a notable show of force by the Parr people that forced the City Council to turn around.

At election rallies in the mid-1930s Margaret Shard had promised to campaign for the building of baths in her new constituency at Parr.

Then came the war and although councilor Shard became the city’s first woman mayor in 1945, post-war austerity meant there was no money to make her vision a reality.

St Helens Star: Parr Baths exterior in 1975Parr Baths exterior in 1975 (Image: St Helens Archive Service)

It was not until 1963 before design work on the new pool began, and in January 1965 a local newspaper reported that the long wait was almost over: “A £300,000 luxury swimming pool with capacity for 500 bathers and with tiered seating for 300 spectators to be built Parr… The project will mean the end of a seven mile trip to Widnes for dozens of Parr swimmers each week.

READ> Ambitious plans to build a sports complex and demolish former Parr Baths

However, the government denied the necessary sanction to St. Helens Corporation to lend the money needed to build the baths, believing the project to be too expensive. However, it was still hoped that the program could be funded through other means.

In 1968 letters appeared in local newspapers criticizing the lack of progress. But what really sparked the anger of Parr residents was a report in July 1969 that the City Council had opted for a 9-hole golf course at Sherdley Park rather than the long-promised pool.

The decision had been made for financial reasons as the golf course could be built at £63,000 with the baths estimated to cost £500,000 (about £10m in today’s money). But the people of Parr had had enough of delays and excuses, and on July 10, 1969, dozens of angry parents and children staged a rain-drenched three-mile march to City Hall to protest the decision.

St Helens Star: Foundation stone laid by Alderman Arthur Luther in 1973Foundation stone laid by Alderman Arthur Luther in 1973 (Image: Stephen Wainwright)

The Cherry Tree Drive Flats Tenants Association had collected 4,000 signatures for a petition and promised “not to be fobbed off by slag talk from the authorities”.

Their member Isabella Harrison told the local press: “Definitely have a golf course – but not at the expense of the kiddies. They are the most important members of our society. There are many pubs in St Helens. Now they refuse to build a bath for the children. Instead, they’re building a golf course—another adult amenity. The little ones have nothing at all. The council put people on these estates in Parr and forgot about them.”

Organizer Richard Coulburn claimed that since 1963 fourteen children have drowned in the canal at the Hotties and the local Parr Blitz. “Where can you go swimming?” he asked. “You have to queue for hours at the Boundary Road baths. When you finally get in, who can swim for 20 minutes?”

Stung by criticism, the council were quick to announce they would set up a sub-committee to draw up plans for a smaller project at Parr, costing £250,000. In response, Richard Coulburn said: “We’re delighted, but we won’t be satisfied until we see the plans in black and white. The estimate of half a million pounds was for an Olympic style pool but we’ll be happy with a smaller one.”

It took nearly three years to finalize the designs and allocate the money for Alderman Arthur Luther, the chair of the council’s operations committee, to say, “I’m pleased to report that we can move on now, and this time we have.” we support the Sports Council. The project had a turbulent history due to money issues, but I hope this is the end. The pool will be 33 meters long and should be a great addition to the city.”

And on July 24, 1975, Councilor Peggy McNamara, then Mayor, officially opened the new pool. Inflation had increased the cost to £374,000. In 1935 it would have cost a lot less!

Stephen Wainwright’s latest book The Hidden History Of St Helens Vol 2 is available from the St Helens Book Stop on Bridge Street and online on eBay and Amazon. Volume 1 of Hidden History is also still available How the power of men led to the founding of Parr Baths

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