A typical mining family rests on the roundabout by St. Helens YMCA, just off the A571. The Landings was conceived by Thompson Dagnall, depicting a collier picking coal, a young boy breaking the coal and a pit brow lass, who worked on the surface picking stones, all sitting around a central column of coal. The statues were erected to highlight the integrity of the industry to St. Helens, and the devastation of townsfolk when it shut down. The area’s last pit closed in 1993, signalling the end of a dangerous industry.
Atop her throne in Victoria Square, the statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in 1905, and originally sat in the centre of the square – it was only moved to the west side in 2000. The Grade-II* listed statue, to celebrate the benefits St. Helens received under Queen Victoria’s rule, was donated to the town by Colonel William Windle Pilkington, member of the glass-making family and mayor at the time.
The Millennium Needle at the back of the Hardshaw Centre is a functional installation unveiled in 2006 – a spiral metal staircase winds around the 20 metre sculpture, leading up to the car park. Small holes in the top of the Needle allow light to shine through, with floor lights originally illuminating the giant stainless steel piece. But what does it mean?
Well, the Needle was created to reflect St. Helens’ ambitions and confidence at the turn of the new millennium; reaching, as it does, for the stars.
You might have spotted the three large boulders lurking around St. Helens – one located in Friends’ Garden, one in Dale Crescent in Sutton Leach going toward Mill Lane, and the other in Sutton Park – but have you ever stopped to wonder where they originated from? The glacial boulders are theorised to have been left behind by the last Ice Age in the Lake District. The boulder at the Marina Avenue entrance to Sutton Park is thought to be over 12,000 years old, and was brought down from up north by ice glaciers.
Unveiled in April this year at Vera Page Park – close to the Steve Prescott Bridge – this bronze statue commemorates all those who lost their lives in their workplaces. The statue was dreamed up by the St. Helens Workers Memorial charity and stands proudly on the former Lyons Yard which was home to a combination of major industries in St. Helens. It depicts an industrial worker lifting a child, and was constructed from old tools and machinery parts – a tribute to what the children of so many industrial workers lost.
This statue, which sits on a roundabout along St. Helens Linkway close to Ravenhead Retail Park, was awarded Grade-II listed status back in 2016. Designed by Arthur Fleischmann, the artwork dates back to 1964 and depicts a miner atop a cutting drum to mark the invention of the Anderton Shearer cutter, which was first used at Ravenhead Colliery. The statue actually used to stand across from Anderton House in Lowton before it was relocated to St. Helens.
Former Saints star Keiron Cunningham is widely considered one of the greatest rugby league players of all time. Born in St. Helens, he made his debut for Saints in 1994, winning five Super League Championships, seven Challenge Cup Winners medals and two World Club Challenge Winner medals in his long career. Cunningham was also ranked by Rugby League World as the greatest player of his era in 2007. His statue was unveiled in 2010 and remains at the Totally Wicked Stadium today.
Tucked away in Sherdley Park is a metal bench with some famous faces standing just behind it. The Sustrans Portrait Bench depicts comedian Johnny Vegas, Saints star Steve Prescott MBE and an anonymous glass blower who would have worked in the town.
Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, Sutton Manor’s Dream was a result of a Channel 4 programme – The Big Art Project. The 66 foot high sculpture originally placed seventh on the show, missing the shortlisted spots, but was commissioned when several other projects fell through.
Constructed from white marble and developed in association with local ex-miners, the sculpture depicts a nine-year-old girl looking to St. Helens’ future on the site of the former Sutton Manor Colliery. It was pegged to be Merseyside’s version of the Angel of the North, visible from the M62.
On the way up, don’t miss the metal canary bench as a nod to the birds who would died of carbon monoxide poisoning ahead of the miners, warning them of impending disaster. Another bench depicts a coal cart with the words ‘Beneath this ground toiled human worms, gave all they had to give’ inscribed above, while six flame-like monoliths inscribed with poems by artist Bernadette Hughes and local schoolchildren makes up ‘From Earth, Light’, leading the way to Dream.
The Green Man
In The Duckeries in Parr lie a series of ‘Poetrees’, and at the helm, the Green Man. The carved wooden sculpture was created on the site of a disused colliery spoil heap, crafted to look over the newly planted trees as nature takes over once more.
Colliers Moss in Bold is home to a number of examples of rural art. The former colliery was landscaped into a nature reserve after the pit closed in 1985, resulting in the loss of over 800 jobs. Now former machinery makes up a strange sculpture garden – a huge pit head wheel still stands on the site, while a winding wheel has been transformed into a small footbridge for walkers at the entrance to Colliers Moss Common. Nearby, find the towering Millennium Bridge as it runs over the railway line, and discover a huge bronze nut cracked from its stone shell. The installations perfectly capture how a site of former industry has gone on to be reclaimed by nature.
Sankey Valley Country Park near Carr Mill Dam is the site of the former Stanley Iron Slitting Mill; built in 1773, the mill was powered by the water in the reservoir, and continued to operate until 1830, when it was replaced by a corn mill. The mill heated and rolled iron ingots forged at Carr Mill and slit them into bars for use in nail-making. Now the site has been rejuvenated into a country park, and houses several sculptures harking back to its heritage including a water wheel and metal carts.
Welcome to St. Helens
The iconic Welcome to St. Helens sign can be found on the Micklehead Green roundabout on St. Helens Linkway, and welcomes people travelling from the M62 or from Widnes way into the borough. Embossed with staples of St. Helens including the Rainhill Rocket, the World of Glass’s huge kiln, a Mersey flat boat from the Sankey Canal, the Sherdley Bridge and a rugby ball, the sign is a show of what the borough is represents to the rest of England – and indeed the world.
In Haydock Library you’ll find a bust of a miner still wearing his helmet, donated on behalf of the National Union of Mineworkers North Western Area. Designed by Elizabeth Frink, the sculpture points to Haydock’s mining heritage and offers a reminder of the explosion at Haydock Colliery in June 1878 which took the lives of 204 men and boys. Also on display is a time capsule which was buried in the foundations of Haydock Cottage Hospital back in 1886. The capsule was discovered and dug up in 2017, containing a copy of the Earlestown Guardian and annual hospital reports.