WITH certain bakeries and pie shops standing proud for well over a century, it's common knowledge that Sintelliners are partial to a pastry.

Whether it is Blackburn's, Burchall's, Pimbletts, or Cottoms, St Helens' best pie has long been up for debate, and through tried and tested recipes, each bakery has cemented itself as a household name.

While Pimbletts and Cottoms has changed hands over the years, and Greenalls and Livesleys have fallen by the wayside, I decided to head out and see how each bakery is faring and how their delicacies are tasting decades after they first started.

READ > The family pie shop serving Sintelliners for 180 years


St Helens Star: Blackburns the Bakers, on Cambridge RoadBlackburns the Bakers, on Cambridge Road (Image: St Helens Star)
Launching on Cambridge Road in 1942, Blackburns the Bakers has long been a firm favourite in St Helens.

Passed down from his grandmother and father, owner Mike Blackburn said that the bakery is "always busy and getting busier" after 81 years in the town.

Mike said that the team "know [they're] doing something right" as queues still form outside their doors, with customers returning for their freshly-made pies, pastries, sandwiches and cakes.

St Helens Star: A minced steak pie from BlackburnsA minced steak pie from Blackburns (Image: St Helens Star)
At Blackburns, I tried the minced steak pie and after all these years, you can tell that Blackburn's has the recipe to a tee.

With the Blackburn's team starting their day at 5am, you can tell that the pie is made fresh on site as the pie's thin pastry breaks away with ease and the meat is full of flavour.

Although the pie is a little on the small side, it is a steal at £1.90 compared to some of chain bakeries or supermarkets.


St Helens Star: John Burchall outside the Westfield Street pie shopJohn Burchall outside the Westfield Street pie shop (Image: St Helens Star)
First opening as a butcher's shop in Church Street and merging as a bakery, Burchall's has been serving the people of St Helens since 1840.

Making the short switch to Westfield Street in 1921, Burchall's is frequently mentioned as one of the most loved businesses in St Helens and has become famous for its juicy pork pies and quality meats.

The business has been passed down to owner John Burchall from his great, great grandfather and although he said that there has been a "big drop off" in custom over the years, there are plenty of people who come back time and time again.

St Helens Star: Burchall's famous pork piesBurchall's famous pork pies (Image: St Helens Star)
As Burchall's is famous for its pork pies, I couldn't try anything else than this and you can understand why they're such a favourite on first bite.

Instantly, juice comes pouring from the pie and much like Blackburns you can tell that the products are made fresh on site.

Despite the juice, the pie retains a crispy, flaky pastry and is packed full of seasoned, tasty meat and a flavoursome jelly.

At £2.20 it is another reasonably priced pastry and you can understand why local pubs and wholesalers also want to stock their shelves with a Burchall's pork pie.


St Helens Star: Pimbletts bakery, on Jackson StreetPimbletts bakery, on Jackson Street (Image: St Helens Star)
First launched in 1921, John Pimbletts & Sons became synonymous with St Helens and was a household favourite for many across the borough.

The bakery stood proud for almost 100 years until it fell into administration and closed down following the financial crash in 2008.

Following the bakery's closure, the business was taken over by Arthur Bevan, who continued baking their handmade products under the rebrand of 'Pimmies Pies'.

Using the same recipes passed down from Pimbletts, the business switched to a unit on Jackson Street not far from the town centre, and was taken over by estate agent and businessman Ryan Little in 2021.

St Helens Star: A steak and gravy pie from PimblettsA steak and gravy pie from Pimbletts (Image: St Helens Star)
At Pimmies, I tried the steak and gravy pie which had delicious minced steak with a flaky thin pastry.

I did reheat this one so the crusts were a little more crispy than the others, and it didn't seem to have too much gravy filling, but at £1.80 I can't have many complaints.


St Helens Star: Cottom Bros, on Lock StreetCottom Bros, on Lock Street (Image: Google Maps)
Originally cooking at the back of their mother's house, brothers John and Arthur established Cottom Bros in 1958 and moved to Kirkland Street, not far from St Helens town centre, in 1963, and later to Lock Street.

The business was passed down to John and Arthur's sons, Peter and Arthur, but later split as Peter launched 'Cottom Foods' with a focus on northern sausages.

Southport-born Will Munro took ownership of Cottom Foods in 2015 and then merged the two businesses in 2021; with Cottom Bros still going strong on Lock Street and the trusted supplier of pies for Saints' rugby league games.  

St Helens Star: A chunky steak pie from CottomsA chunky steak pie from Cottoms (Image: St Helens Star)
I bought another chunky steak pie from Cottom's, which although was the most expensive of the bunch at £2.40, was the biggest product served.

Again, I reheated this pie but I felt that the pastry was a little thicker than the other options and the steak I had was a little tough and chewy at times.

Nevertheless, it was it still retained a nice flaky crust and its gravy filling was extremely tasty.

With such a history of pie shops in the town and any passing on their trusted family recipes, there is evidently an abundance of pastries that Sintelliners have to choose from.

Of course, there are even more regional and national bakeries like Waterfields, Greenhalghs, Galloways, and Greggs, and with mouth-watering options at each location, I'm sure that the fierce pie debate will rumble on for quite some time.