Sixty years ago this week Lennon's new supermarket in Ormskirk Street in St Helens was opened.

One local newspaper dubbed it a "housewife's heaven" as they described how supermarket shopping "on a really big scale" had arrived in the town.

Built on the site of what had been the Scala Cinema, the store opened on July 30 1963 and claimed to be one of the biggest supermarkets in the country – if not the largest.

Frank Lennon had established the business around 1910 with a small grocer's shop in Park Road in Parr and a very busy stall on St Helens market. The business grew rapidly and by 1930 Lennon had branches in Earlestown, Prescot, Leigh, Bolton, Ormskirk and Southport.

Upon Frank's death at his home in West Park in 1952, his sons Terence and Dennis inherited the firm. After travelling to America to study the new methods of retailing, the brothers opened their first supermarket in Widnes in 1958 and their second in St Helens a year later.

Other followed in nearby towns with Lennon's Warrington supermarket notable for its car park on its roof. But when the Ormskirk Street venture in St Helens was opened, it was the brothers' biggest and a 6-page newspaper feature called it "The New Super Supermarket!"

Green Shield trading stamps was a big attraction at the store. The forerunner to modernday loyalty cards meant customers received stamps for every sixpence that they spent, which could be redeemed for gifts. Upon Terence Lennon's death in St Helens in 1984, he was described as "the man who gave the North West Green Shield stamps".

St Helens Star: Part of Lennon's advertisement in the St Helens Reporter of July 27, 1963 for their new Ormskirk Street supermarketPart of Lennon's advertisement in the St Helens Reporter of July 27, 1963 for their new Ormskirk Street supermarket (Image: St Helens Reporter)

Lennon's Ormskirk Street store also featured several other innovations – including "magic doors". Customers were informed that these would automatically open when they stood on mats at entry points.

The new "super supermarket" also featured Reditune in-store background music, which was played back to shoppers from cartridge machines. And another innovation was what was described as a "moveable rail" that carried shopping trolleys down into the store's basement. However, on Lennon's first day of business in Ormskirk Street some shoppers were wary of the new trolley technology.

"This is the only one of its kind in the country," explained Terence Lennon. "It has been used successfully in France, and I am sure in time St Helens housewives will accept it as yet another aid to easier shopping."

The store's manager in charge of a staff of 70 was Joseph Middlehurst. He had been educated at St Joseph's in Peasley Cross and had started work as an errand boy at the age of 14.

It used to be common for new buildings in St Helens to be designed and constructed by local firms. And so it had been with Lennon's new Ormskirk Street store. The architect was J. M. Wilson and Son of Hardshaw Street and the builder was Astbury's of Hamer Street.

The sub-contactors included Neill's of St Helens Junction who fabricated the steelwork; decoration was by C. A. Critchley of Church Street; E. Halliwell of Heath Street provided the roof insulation; Seddons of Warrington New Road installed the windows and lighting and electrical installation was courtesy of C. A. Nelson of Corporation Street.

In 1984 Lennons sold their chain of 41 supermarkets and 94 off-licences to the Dee Corporation. The food stores were rebranded as Gateway and the off-licences were sold off.

Then in 1986 Lennon's large office complex that they'd built in 1973 in Corporation Street in St Helens was put up for sale. After several other changes of ownership, Iceland now occupies the Ormskirk Street premises.

Stephen Wainwright's latest book 'The Hidden History Of St Helens Vol 2' is available from the St Helens Book Stop and the World of Glass and online from eBay and Amazon (free delivery). Volume 1 of 'Hidden History' is also still available. Hidden History Vol 3 will be published on September 1st.