When Queen Elizabeth made her first trip to St Helens in 1954, she’d ventured no further than Victoria Square.

So the monarch’s second visit on May 25 1961 was seen as an opportunity to inspect some of the industry for which the town was renowned.

In particular, Pilkington’s revolutionary new float glass plant at Cowley Hill was to receive the royal seal of approval – along with the newly modernised railway station.

The royal train was not due to arrive at Shaw Street until 10.15am – but crowds had gathered in the station yard from an early hour.

Joe Murphy, the outgoing Mayor of St Helens, had the honour of receiving the Queen at the station.

St Helens Star: The Queen arriving at St Helens Central StationThe Queen arriving at St Helens Central Station

The sovereign wearing a diamond brooch and pearl necklace enquired of Councillor Murphy whether the revamped station had used St Helens glass. “Oh yes!”, replied the Mayor. As if British Railways would dare use any other glass!"

Once the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were seen walking to their Rolls Royce, what was described as a “roaring welcome” emanated from the crowd.

And as their vehicle made its way through the town to Cowley Hill, it was reported that gasps of delight and admiration went up from spectators. “Isn’t she gorgeous”, one teenager was said to have remarked. “She’s beautiful”, gushed another.

At Pilks’ works, the Queen and the Duke were asked to wear splinter-proof spectacles.

These had reportedly been tinted to prevent people from thinking the couple normally wore glasses!

Prince Philip was reported as having asked “countless” questions about the technicalities of glassmaking and the pair observed a plate glass tank where the heat reached temperatures of 1,600 degrees centigrade.

Staff applauded the Queen and Duke as they walked into the polishing department and the couple then entered Pilkington’s secret float glass plant, leaving the press and civic visitors outside.

During their tour the monarch and her consort were introduced to many workers and presented with glass paperweights.

After signing Pilkington’s visitors book, Joseph Owen of Clinkham Wood and Thomas Mitchell from Haresfinch then demonstrated glass cutting to the royal visitors.

The couple then walked through a red-carpeted building where a stand accommodating 1,000 people had been erected. The group cheered and clapped wildly and at the end of the building a number of teenage girls pretended to swoon at the sight of the Duke!

Several hundred more fans were gathered outside the glassworks to watch the royals leave, marshalled by a policeman riding what was described as a "magnificent chestnut horse".

Pilkington employees were lined up just inside the factory's new Queen's Gate to bade the couple farewell and as the cry "she's coming" was heard, the crowd surged forward.

Some women and children then rushed from the other side of the road towards the gates and fought to obtain good vantage points.

The police held them back and when the Queen's car appeared, a great cheer went up. The royal Rolls Royce halted for a moment to give the throng a longer view before driving off to Knowsley Hall.

St Helens Star: A medallion created to mark the Queen's visitA medallion created to mark the Queen's visit

The day had been a special one for Sarah Dingley from Priory Gardens, off Hard Lane.

The 85-year-old had been disabled all her life and had been allowed to sit in her wheelchair immediately outside the Queen's Gate, within touching distance of the royal car.

Sarah's journey to Pilkington's had been her first outing in nine months.

Despite failing eyesight, Mrs Dingley was close enough to see the Queen in detail and said she looked "lovely". Her daughter added: "This will be something wonderful for my mother to remember for the rest of her days."

  • 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