AN inn where passengers travelling in horse-drawn coaches during the 18th century would stop off for a tipple has provided the inspiration for the name of a new town-centre pub.

The Star revealed last month that high-street pub chain JD Wetherspoon had snapped up the Chicago Rock Cafe on Chalon Way West, St Helens.

Work has begun this week on the £500,000-plus transformation of one of the town centre’s largest entertainment venues and bosses hope it will be open for business by early next month.

The Star has learned the venue will be called The Running Horses, a title inspired by a coaching inn that researchers have told Wetherspoons stood near the site until 1964.

According to historians, an old coaching route from Liverpool to Warrington passed through the town centre junction and passengers would stop at an inn, named the Running Horses, for refreshments.

“The unusually named inn was probably built in the late 18th century and stood on the site of today’s entertainment complex. The earliest recorded licensee was James Bridge, who was in charge in 1790.

“The old coaching inn eventually became part of Greenall’s pub/hotel empire (which was founded in St Helens).”

Other names considered for the pub included The Four Feet Seam – a reference to the former Sutton Manor pit and St Helens links with the mining industry.

Another suggestion was The Jazz Singer, taken from the title of the groundbreaking 1927 film on which St Helens-born George Groves, Hollywood’s first ‘sound man’, was a recording engineer.

The hugely successful picture, starring Al Jolson, brought sound to what until then had been the silent screen.

But bosses plumped for The Running Horses and the new venue is expected to create 35 new jobs.

JD Wetherspoon has said its other St Helens pub, The Glass House, will remain open.

Star columnist Chris Coffey writes: “ I never remembered a coaching inn called the Running Horses. However, it is listed in Baines 1825 History, Gazetteer and Directory of Lancashire.

It was in Bridge Street and the landlord was an Edward Gray.

This photo (right) shows the bottom of Bridge Street in the 19th century.

The street to the left of the horse-drawn tram is Water Street, so the buildings in the left foreground will be in the general area of Yates's and Chicago Rock.