Back in 1856

Posted on: 29 October 2021

Back in 1856

Back in 1856

JB&B Leach Estate Agents is celebrating 165 years of trading, but how would things have looked in St Helens in the year that the business commenced trading in 1856?

Queen Victoria was 19 years into her reign as Queen, supported by her beloved Prince Albert with the United Kingdom then including the whole of the British Isles including what is now the Irish Republic.  The British Empire covered almost one fifth of the planet!

In March 1856, The Treaty of Paris was signed which signalled the end of the Crimean War between an Alliance of Britain, France and Turkey against Russia, famous for the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister heading up a Liberal Government, but if you wanted to vote then the people of St Helens wouldn’t have had much of a say as all women and working class men were ineligible.  Life expectancy at birth was little more than 45 years of age, with one in five children not reaching the age of 5.

Laws were still in place such that as soon as a woman became married, all of their possessions including property automatically passed to their husband!

St Helens had been formed from the rural townships of Windle, Eccleston, Sutton and Parr with the Civil Parish of St Helens having been formed in 1852.  The position of the town in the Lancashire Coalfield and its ability to supply raw materials to nearby Warrington, Chester and Liverpool gave rise to its rapid growth as a centre of industry.  Beechams had recently opened their first factory in St Helens in 1849, Greenall’s largest brewery was located in the town centre just off Bickerstaffe Street and the local landscape was dominated by the glass works of the Pilkington Brothers and Francis Dixon’s Ravenhead Glass.

From a business perspective, telephones had not yet been evented so business relied on the written word and the recent introduction of telegrams and travel and transportation would have been largely by horse drawn carriage, the Sankey Canal or by the Liverpool to Manchester Railway.

Housing in St Helens would have been growing rapidly with old mining cottages being replaced in vast numbers by “modern” terraced houses.  The wealthy businessmen of the area would build their homes along Prescot Road on the way to the more affluent areas of Prescot and Huyton.

It is against the above backdrop that Joseph B Leach spotted an opportunity to open for business in St Helens as “Land Agents, Surveyors, Auctioneers and Money Lenders” and the rest, as they say, is history!

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