St Helens Circle History-Foreword

history of st helens circle forewordLong serving St Helens Brother, Ron Parr, tells us what stimulated him to research and write the story of the formation of St Helens Circle..

What prompted me to write the Circle History?

Well, you may be surprised to learn that it was the menu printed for our Annual Ladies Night (or Turkey Dinner as it used to be called)! As you are aware, the back of the menu lists all the Presidents of our Circle from its inception to the present day but this was not always the case. Well, you may be surprised to learn that it was the menu printed for our Annual Ladies Night.

When I joined the Association in the late 70s the menu showed our Founder President (1914) then a blank against each year until 1966 then most, but not all presidents were listed. I queried this and was told that all our records had been lost or stolen and no one knew who they were. I decided to rectify this but didn’t realise that my research would take two/three years.

I scoured old directories, sought help via Catena and even visited Chesham Place in London. I also received help from an unexpected source, I was chatting to the sons of a long deceased member who had been Circle Secretary for a number of years. I told them of my research and they said that they had recently disposed of an old wardrobe from their parents’ bedroom and behind it had found a lot of Catenian memorabilia and offered it to me. It proved invaluable in my research!

Having completed the list I couldn’t let go!

I hope you enjoy reading my account as much as I enjoyed putting it together.


Click Here For The Circle History Part 1 Article



St Helens Circle History-Part One

catenian circle history part oneThe Story of  St Helens Catenian Circle Part One…

On a number of occasions, particularly anniversaries, mention is made of the date our Circle was formed, and the attendance at its inauguration, of Brothers Sandy and Shepherd together with brothers from Wigan and Liverpool Circles. However nothing is said of the part played by these brothers. Who were they? Where did they come from? How did the Circle fare when these gentlemen left?

[pullquote align=”right”]I have tried to follow the fortunes of the circle during the first three years of its life although at times, and for the sake of continuity, I have extended the search to a later period[/pullquote]

With the above in mind I have tried to follow the fortunes of the circle during the first three years of its life athough at times, and for the sake of continuity, I have extended the search to a later period. Several years ago I was told that at one time the Circle kept its records in the presbytery of Holy Cross Church and following a robbery at the church, they disappeared, how true this is I do not know. However I do have the Circle’s first Minute Book and the Treasurer’s Ledger from 1914 to 1962. The ledger came to me by chance. I was visiting an elderly brother and during our conversation I happened to mention my desire to research the Circle history. He remarked that he had an old book belonging to the Circle that had lain in a cupboard for many years and would I take it off his hands, I was highly delighted to discover that it opened in 1914!

Using the Minute Book and Ledger allowed me to cross match events and costs. Use was also made of the Association’s year books/directories, St Helens Library and Archives and Peter Lane’s History of the Catenian Association. St Helens Circle is mentioned only once by Brother Lane but the book has proved to be most useful in identifying people and events.

And so to the beginning, 7.30pm on April 6th 1914 in a room at the Royal Raven Hotel in Church St.

[pullquote align=”left”]Seven Catenians from outside St Helens and eighteen business and professional men from St Helens gathered together to take part in the formation of the 21st Circle of the Catenian Association[/pullquote]

Seven Catenians from outside St Helens and eighteen business and professional men from St Helens gathered together to take part in the formation of the 21st Circle of the Catenian Association. In the chair was Brother Henry Sandy the President of Birmingham Circle (indeed he was its Founder President, his circle having been formed in February 1912). He was an architect by profession and had a practice in Stafford and was to become Grand President in 1917.

Also present was Brother Joe Shepherd, the Association’s first Grand Secretary and a member of Manchester Circle. He was an accountant by profession and had a practice in Manchester. Records show that he was extremely active in promoting the Association, travelling far and wide in doing so. It is interesting to note that when appointed Grand Secretary in 1910 he was only 25 years old. In Peter Lane’s History of the Association it is recorded that when he resigned as Grand Secretary in 1923, he was being paid an honorarium of £300 per year, but what was not recognised until after his resignation was that during his years of office he had made use of staff, stationary, printing etc from within his own private company to further the aims of the Association. Only then did Grand Council realise how much time and effort he had put into the advancement of the Association. The other Catenians present that evening were Brothers Rankin, Lomas and Smith of Liverpool No 4 Circle and Brothers Baron and Donoghue of Wigan No 16 Circle. Research has shown that Brother John Lomas was the first secretary of Liverpool No 4 Circle and eventually transferred to Stockport Circle in 1935  (his son Frank was the Founder President of Macclesfield Circle and later became Grand President of the Association).

Richard Rankin was Founder President of Liverpool No 4 Circle and a Liverpool cotton merchant by profession. William Smith was a stockbroker in Liverpool. Stanislaus Baron was a Solicitor practising in Wigan and Ashton in Makerfield and was probably a relative of J.A. Baron, one of our founder members. Past Grand President Harry Yates tells me that Stanislaus Baron was a well-respected brother of his Circle and that to this day Wigan brothers have a bowling match for the Stanislaus Baron Cup. Furthermore his wife gave a considerable sum of money to the Association Jumbulance Appeal in memory of her husband. As yet I’ve not located Brother Donoghue, the directory for 1915/16 does not list him as a brother. One can only assume that he has resigned or died.

To summarise, the gentlemen from St Helens were:-

J.A.Baron, W.J. Chisnall, W.P.Collins, J. Davies, J. Dennett, F.P. Dromgoole, W.Ellis, J. Frodsham, W.C. Gerrard, E.M. Hollingsworth, C.A. Joliffe, T. Middlehurst, J. Pritchard, R. Seddon, G. Scott, G. Stringfellow, J. Sephton and W. Woodcock.

Who were they? What were their professions? Did they live locally?

J. A. Baron was an architect, mining engineer and surveyor with an office in Baldwin St  St Helens. His home address is given as Haresfinch Hall. In later years he moved to Crank and is listed as a quarry owner. I wonder did he have any connection with Crank Caverns or the quarries at Billinge?

W.J. Chisnall was a plumber and decorator and lived at No3 Old Market Place, St Helens (town centre).

W.P. Collins lived in Kiln Lane, Dentons Green and had a grocery business in Tontine St, St Helens (town centre).

J. Davies (father of our present brother Joe Davies) was a solicitor practising in Hardshaw St, St Helens and lived at 68 Church St (town centre). In 1920 he had moved to No 12 Wolsley Road, St Helens. He was also a town councillor.

J. Dennett was a solicitor and was listed as a Licence Officer and Mayor’s Secretary in the Town Clerk’s Office. He lived at 31 King Edward Road, Dentons Green.

F.P. Dromgoole was the proprietor of the St Helens Newspaper and lived at ‘Alderleigh’ Regents Road, St Helens

W. Ellis was an architect with offices in Hardshaw St, St Helens and a home in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

J. Frodsham was another solicitor practising in Hardshaw St, St Helens. He lived at 156 North Road and later moved to Eccleston Park, Prescot. For those interested in golf, he was a founder member of Grange Park Golf Club.

W.C. Gerrard  was a House Furnisher with a shop in Bridge St, St Helens (town centre).

E.M. Hollingsworth  was a chartered mechanical and electrical engineer employed as the Chief Electrical Engineer for St Helens Corporation. He later joined the United Alkali Company, Widnes as their Chief Engineer. He lived at No2 St Ann’s Road, St Helens.

C.A. Joliffe  This is an interesting one. He is listed as ‘non Professional’ but in the directory of 1915/16 he is residing in the Isle of Man and listed as a consultant brewer.

J. Middlehurst  was a brick manufacturer in Sutton Oak and lived in Hall St, St Helens (town centre)

J. Pritchard owned an iron foundry in St Mary’s St, St Helens (town centre) and lived at ‘Abbeyford’, Dentons Green.

R. Seddon was a glass merchant with premises on Warrington New Road, St Helens. He lived in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

G. Scott was the secretary to Sir Joseph Beecham (of pills fame) and lived in Laurel Road, St Helens.

G. Stringfellow was a grocer in Ormskirk St and lived in Eccleston Park, Prescot.

J. Sephton was an estate agent with an office at 60 Crab St, St Helens. He lived at 140 North Rd.

W. Woodcock was an iron founder and engineer in St Mary’s St, St Helens. He lived at Spring House, Queens Rd, St Helens. In later years he owned a foundry in Ravenhead and perhaps by a twist of faith I had the responsibility for its demolition to make way for a float glass factory for Pilkington plc.

Click Here for St Helens Circle History-Part two