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

St Helens Circle History-Part Two

catenian circle history part twoHere follows the next instalment of the history of the institution of the mens Catholic group in St Helens, otherwise know as the St Helens Catenian Circle . This article has been written by long standing Catenian brother, Ron Parr.

The History of the first St Helens Circle meeting continues…It was 7.30pm on April 6th 1914 in a room at the Royal Raven Hotel, Church St, St Helens where 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…

Joe Shepherd, the Grand Secretary, explained to the assembled gentlemen the objects and aims of the Association and Brothers Sandy and Rankin followed with further details. Unfortunately no record exists of what exactly was said. Following the explanation, Mr F. Dromgoole proposed and seconded by Mr G. Stringfellow, “that a circle be at once opened in St Helens”. This was unanimously accepted by all present. Brother Sandy then initiated all gentlemen present.

The first action of the new circle was to appoint its officers and the following brothers were elected:-

President-Bro. G. Stringfellow

Vice President-Bro F. Dromgoole

Chamberlain-Bro J. Frodsham

President’s Marshall-Bro. W. Woodcock

Vice President’s Marsha-Bro. J. Baron

Treasurer-Bro J. Sephton

Secretary-Bro. W. Ellis

Registrar-Bro. J. Davies

Guard-Bro. G. Scott

The officers were then invested with their insignia of office and the meeting formally closed. Short and sweet?

But one can imagine that quite a celebration followed.

The second meeting of the Circle took place on May 5th 1914 at the Royal Raven Hotel in the presence of all brothers enrolled the previous month, a full attendance, I wonder how long this lasted?

The minutes recorded that Brother Lomas of Liverpool No 4 attended. He read the minutes of a Grand Circle meeting held at the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield on Saturday April 18th 1914 and explained in detail several items.

The Circle minutes do not record what he said but research has shown that a meeting to revise the constitution of the Association was held in Sheffield on that day and at that hotel. At this meeting the delegates agreed to reduce the size of Grand Circle because it was becoming too unwieldy.

Perhaps at this point it would be useful to explain and differentiate between Grand Circle and Grand Council. The Association was called the ‘Chums Benevolent Association’ until 1910 when it was renamed the ‘Catenian Association’. Indeed if one looks at the original charter of Liverpool No 4 Circle (formed October 1910) it can clearly be seen that the words ‘Chums Association’ has been deleted and replaced by the ‘Catenian Association’. We all know that the first circle of our Association was Manchester No 1 followed by London. Soon after, Leeds Circle was formed, then Newcastle.[pullquote align=”left”]We all know that the first circle of our Association was Manchester No 1 followed by London.

Round about 1910, i.e. two years after the Association was formed, records show that it was governed by a Grand Circle comprising the president, vice president and three members of each Circle. Grand Circle met four times a year and elected twelve of its members to control the day-to-day activities of the Association i.e. the Grand Council. They also elected a Grand President and the Association was governed from Manchester.

By 1914, the year our Circle, the 21st Circle of the Association was formed, one could visualise that Grand Circle was becoming somewhat unwieldy, hence the meeting in Sheffield referred to above. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed to reduce the number of delegates from each circle to two.

At the Circle Meeting held on June 15th 1915 it was proposed that our Founder President Gervaise Stringfellow be nominated for election as a grand director but I can find no evidence to indicate that this happened. He died in April 1919 after a long illness and therefore I doubt that he was ever elected.

One of the items discussed at this second meeting of the Circle was the forward reservation of the room at the Royal Raven Hotel. The two marshals and the secretary were asked to speak to the proprietress, Mrs Grace and discuss the rental of ‘the large room and the adjoining small room’. At the following meeting they reported back that a charge of five shillings per night had been agreed. This included fires in the rooms when required, and lighting. She also provided a price list for refreshments but no record of this list exists.

The meeting also discussed the time and place for the first annual dinner and also the fixing of a ‘Door Levy’. One can only assume that this was a way of raising funds to pay for the rent of the room, postage and stationary etc. At the third meeting of the Circle this levy was fixed at sixpence or approximately 2 1/2p in today’s money.

Whilst on the subject of money, it should be noted that the Circle had no funds to start with and had to build up its resources.

Each of the founder members paid an annual fee of one guinea and the treasurer’s records show that each brother paid a voluntary levy to the Grand Circle Benevolent Fund of five shillings, but one or two brothers gave half a guinea. The majority of these founding brothers paid five shillings and sixpence for a medallion and two shillings and sixpence for a year book (directory).

As yet I have not seen a medallion and therefore don’t know whether or not it was to be worn on the lapel or on a watch chain. However Brother Basil Shacklady has shown me a gold medallion which he believes belonged to his grandfather (enrolled September 1920, died 1933). This has a small eye at the top as though it was made to take a fine gold chain. The financial records indicate that from about 1919 only a few brothers purchased medallions and his Grandfather is not recorded as having purchased one, and therefore it is not unreasonable to assume that the medallion in question actually belonged to his father (enrolled 8th December 1914, died 1923). As a point of interest, the president, at the end of his year, received a medal. In 1919 the financial records show that this cost fifteen shillings and sixpence. Close examination of the financial records of 1914 show that the Circle also had to purchase regalia, this cost £6.6s.6d.

Part three of the Circle History continues next month…

Click here to read Part Three of St Helen’s Circle History

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