This Saturday (May 11) is the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone for the present Lowe House Church in St Helens.

Dedicated to St Mary, its original place of worship had been built in 1793 on land donated by Winefred Eccleston. Her maiden name had been Lowe, which is where the name originates.

The decision to build a replacement Roman Catholic church was taken in January 1914 – but the outbreak of war meant their grand plans had to be put on hold.

Once peace was declared fundraising could resume and they did so by all possible means.

An unnamed St Helens joiner praised the priests' efforts in Charles Forman's book Industrial Town: "They collected, borrowed and begged every penny for that church.

"It's a magnificent building, put up entirely by local labour. I can't think of any other that's worth calling a building that's been put up in my lifetime in this town."

The Lowe House Carnival held on the Volunteer Field (aka Barracks Field) was an important means of fundraising.

Its fair lasted for about a week and in May 1919 the St Helens Reporter described some rather unusual exhibits: "Amongst recent arrivals has been Manders' American menagerie, where real lions ramp and rage, and where a real man goes into their cages and makes them go through most terrifying evolutions.

"Mr. Mitchell has won the hearts of the children by extending invitations to several schools in the town to come to the fair on certain afternoons “free, gratis and for nothing”. They came in droves with their teachers, and had the time of their lives."

Mitchell was the organiser of the fair who may have won the hearts of the children but probably not the hearts of the poor captive lions!

In August 1920 the Lowe House Church Building Fund benefited from a gala that had a "monster" pageant as its highlight. This included much fancy dress, floral costumes, a cycle parade and a portrayal of Joan of Arc by Agnes Swift of Windle Farm. The 9-yearold even had her own retinue acting the parts of French peasants and squires.

Roman Catholic places of worship in St Helens have tended to take a long time to be built, as they did not enjoy the same level of philanthropy as C of E churches. But in order to sustain interest in the project an imposing War Memorial Chapel was opened at the site of the new Lowe House on July 15 1923.

This would be attached to the church and nearly 2,000 people attended the ceremony, which was conducted by Dr Frederick Keating, the Archbishop of Liverpool. The chapel dedicated to St George contained tablets bearing the names of 174 men of the Lowe House parish who had died during the war.

And then on May 11 1924 Dr Keating laid the foundation stone for the new Lowe House Church, which was witnessed by many thousands of Catholics, as the St Helens Reporter described: "The great day arrived at last. All ways led to Lowe House.

"And what a wonderful sight it was! The scene within the precincts of the new church and the vicinity almost baffles description. Crab-street and North-road were beflagged as if it were a great national occasion such as Armistice Day and the streets were almost impassable. Mounted police patrolled the route along North-road past the church, but still the crowd continued to increase until it swelled to great dimensions."

But it would take six more years for the building of the grand Lowe House church to be completed.

Stephen Wainwright's three books The Hidden History Of St Helens Volumes 1 to 3 are available from the St Helens Book Stop, The World of Glass and online with free delivery from eBay and Amazon. Price £12