LOCAL history expert Steve Wainwright, of the excellent website Sutton Beauty And Heritage, has been sharing some fascinating details about the history of the Red Lion pub in Sutton and its landlords.

He wrote in response to Gerry Ryder, who was asking how long his great-great-grandfather John Hamlet Norris was landlord of the pub.

Well, Steve informs us that Norris took over the reins on December 19, 1871, when the licence was transferred from a George Sutton.

Steve wrote: “Previously, Norris was manager of a grocery store in Sutton and in February 1869 was fined a shilling in court for having ‘unjust weights’. He was then living in the long-demolished Taylor’s Row, which was also mentioned in your columns.

“In 1861, Norris was recorded as being a baker and a resident of Sutton’s wonderfully-named Ditch Hillock. This became Waterdale Crescent circa 1896 and was also the address of the Red Lion, which locals dubbed The Glass Barrel.

“Norris departed the inn soon after the death of his wife in 1876. Her death occurred a year after the drowning of their son. Nine-year-old John Hamlet Norris junior died after falling into a gas tank in Sutton Road while playing with his mates.”

Steve said that such accidents to young children were endemic in St Helens then.

He said that, remarkably, “on the same day and at the same time that young John perished, the little son of another pub landlord drowned in a sink-hole in Parr”.

Steve went on to share stories of others who were at the helm of the Red Lion.

He said: “James Baldwin was another of the many licensees at the Red Lion.

“He and his family had the fright of their life during the night of December 10, 1891. A bad storm severely damaged the inn and a chimney stack crashed right through the Red Lion’s roof into a room that the family was occupying.

“Understandably, the shaken Baldwins soon left and James Pilkington took over as licensee.

“He had his own problems and was said to have got five women ‘into trouble’.

“Details of other licensees of the Red Lion are on the Sutton Beauty And Heritage pubs’ pages — but, alas, I have no photos.

“The present Red Lion is not, of course, the same pub. The original was demolished in 1963 and a new building was constructed on land at its rear. Missing from the doorway of the new hostelry is a glass barrel.

“I am informed that this had hung over the entrance to the original inn and was the source of its unusual nickname.

“I wonder what happened to it? Perhaps Coffey Time readers know?”