"Mummy, Oh Mummy! She's Beautiful!", was what one 8-year-old girl was reported as exclaiming upon seeing the Queen in St Helens. Elizabeth II's first visit to our town took place on October 21st 1954, with the 28-year-old receiving – as one newspaper put it – a "right royal welcome".

It was a much-anticipated event and crowds began lining the route from an early hour.

Popular sightseeing spots were at the junction of Westfield Street and Lowe Street and by the Oxford Cinema in Duke Street.

St Helens Star: The Queen	and	Prince Philip	prepare	to enter	the	Town Hall

Around 4,000 excited school children were conveyed in double-decker buses to various locations. The youngsters had an extra reason to cheer as they'd been granted a half-day holiday in the afternoon!

The weather kept fine with occasional sunshine and a stiff breeze in which the considerable bunting and flags on show fluttered wildly – as if they too were excited by royalty coming to town.

Ellen Anders from Joseph Street in Sutton and her daughter Mary had arrived in Victoria Square at 6am in order to stake a good spot to see the Queen. Mrs Anders told one reporter: "She's worth it. We may never see her again."


The distinguished visitors were not scheduled to arrive until 11:30am and by then the Square was packed tight with an excited crowd. The spectators had been warned to avoid dangerous vantage points – but the advice was ignored. Six brave souls climbed to the top of the Gamble Institute and others mounted the War Memorial and Queen Victoria's statue.

Three bus shelters in the Square also served as makeshift viewing platforms. However, too much weight was exerted on one roof and a glass pane gave way causing some alarm.

St Helens Star: The Queen arrives in 1954

An escort of white helmeted police on motorbikes headed the royal entourage and the Queen and Duke were met with loud cheers as they arrived in Victoria Square.

Elizabeth and the bowler-hatted Prince Philip were introduced to the Mayor of St Helens, Thomas Hignett, and after the playing of the National Anthem the party entered the Town Hall.

The head of state going inside our municipal seat of government was something new, as the two monarchs (George V & George VI) who had previously visited St Helens had ventured no further than a specially mounted stage outside.

After leaving the Town Hall, the royal couple signed the Distinguished Visitors Book.

Their signatures would then be placed in the Mayor's Parlour in an illuminated frame, along with the autographs of the Queen's father and grandfather.

One newspaper wrote that when the party exited the Town Hall, "the waiting crowd released their mounting emotion in a united orgy of cheering, shouting and waving."

Then as the Queen walked down red-carpeted steps to her car, she was "smiling charmingly and repeatedly she waved back gaily again and again to the delighted and adoring crowd."

The visit lasted just over twenty minutes and after formal handshakes and curtsies, the royal entourage were driven through wildly cheering crowds in Cotham Street.

In Westfield Street there were thousands more congregated eight or nine deep. Flags, handkerchiefs, hats and scarves were thrust out towards the royal car and after the procession had passed, the crowds rushed onto the road – "like a huge tidal wave", as described in one report.

People higher up Westfield Street and on Croppers Hill followed suit and rapidly the roads were transformed into rivers of people. As the entourage finally disappeared from sight, women were seen weeping in the street. An elderly lady of seventy-eight said: "Well, I've seen her. I will never see her again, but it's made me happy if I die tomorrow!"

Stephen Wainwright’s book 'The Hidden History Of St Helens' is available from the St Helens Book Stop at 11 Bridge Street and online from eBay and Amazon. Price £12.