No Hole Too Dank: Welcome to the unbelievable and absolute horror that is St Helens.
The North’s very own time machine, St. Helen’s is a land that time forgot with its grim, bleak and depressing post-war reconstruction era feel. This is surely the frontier and outer rim of the known world if you are from Liverpool. Here you will find some grotesque sights on par with Runcorn, Widnes and Wigan. You’ll be surprised to find that dinosaurs still roam here and often frequent down the pubs reminiscing over the good old days before the Romans left and when jobs were still available. Desolate and uninviting, St. Helen’s can only live in the past as the rest of the developed country has simply forgotten about it.
The former pride of the town is Pilkington’s Alexandra Park building, a 1960’s cold war tower block dominating the view and a central point in the town. Pilkington’s Glass was the main source of employment for the town before being sold to a foreign company. This has now upsettingly been preserved as a listed building as it is one of the best known preserved examples of a miserable era that everybody would like to forget and is akin to an open infected wound in appearance. The towers presence is like Sauron’s all-seeing eye and is a constant visual reminder for future generations of the sheer bleakness and hopelessness that they face in a town with no direction or meaning.
Surrounding this block are the factories that loom large over the town and sadly resembles a catastrophic accident at Chernobyl; and much like the people of Prypiat, the residents of St. Helens are too at risk of genetic mutations. The insular nature of the town has created a stream of simple people who are missing a few vital genetic components. The hills have eyes in this squalid cesspool and this achievement can only be matched by other outlying no-mans-land areas like Widnes and Wigan where the rivalry is high for two reasons, rugby and the race to find new genes. If you arrive by train to St. Helens Central station then the mere sight of this disused complex will make you suicidal and is truly a sight to behold! These cold war looking ruins are such an eye sore that on first inspection you would believe that you’ve just arrived in a third world country with a total collapse in civilisation. I’ve known illegal immigrants to run back into the lorries from which they emerged after feasting their eyes on this war torn shell of a town.
Historically the town’s main trade was glass making and mining, both of which have now gone overseas; the harsh reality is that unemployment is extremely high with little opportunities besides low level retail. The mining may have stopped but St Helens continues to be a pit of despair. St. Helen’s can easily be characterised as a frontline trench full of excrement, the sick and the wounded living a simple existence on state rations and hoping for it all to end soon. You will lose the will to live if you are trapped within its barren trench walls for too long but there seemingly isn’t any government ladder to climb out with. St. Helens desperately needs investment and a new industry in order to survive and thrive but it will likely end up the way of Skelmersdale whose community rarely functions and is prone to collapse. It has to be said that St. Helens is still the most promising of these Dark Age settlements and may still rise from the ashes with much needed care, support and attention.
However at present, St. Helens looks like it’s been closed for business for many years and peak hour shopping looks like a post zombie apocalyptic wasteland has hit; there is simply no activity to sustain any trade whatsoever outside of the mobile phone accessory business and pound shop bakeries. The town has all the charisma and excitement of a T.J Hughes closing down sale (which incidentally happened many moons ago and was quite comically its most prestigious retailer). Most of the outlying residential areas are grey, stark and extremely dangerous. Visitors from the Falls Road in Belfast would feel quite comfortable in these familiar surroundings.
Totally devoid of any purpose and unflattering on the eyes, St. Helens is home to the North’s gypsy communities and is plagued by its roaming gangs that effectively rule the streets. St. Helens also boasts an impressive number of disabled residents, beaten only by Southport. This understandably is the reason for St. Helens having a monopoly on GP practices and health centres, which can be found every 100 yards in any direction and adds to the depressing state of the place. The main communal area for socialising is the Job Centre and this is most likely where the local survivors will find their future partners as they battle it out with the immigrants for entitlements, larger homes and sometimes jobs.
Totally defunct and depleted of all use, St. Helens compromises of little entertainment but what it does have is offered by way of two Weatherspoons pubs; the Running Horses, which caters for anybody under 40 and the Glass House, which is a place for those flat capped ‘peaky blinders’ looking geriatrics that drink themselves to death to wade away the hours whilst watching the races. The people here are scarred and abandoned, hoping for a miracle by way of local investment or other small opportunity to drag them away from suicide.
Don’t expect any kind of night life in the town as you’ll quickly find that this is confined to half a street of the most dismal, dilapidated and shocking shanty town establishments such as Dreeem. A tour of the local nightlife can be completed in less than 2 minutes walking distance through Westfield Street. Drinking in St. Helens is a traumatic and intense experience when trying to stay alive amongst the angry clubbers and moody back streets; and much like an abscess you really want that pressure to be relieved with a quick incision at the root of the problem. And that problem people is frequent street violence, but this is understandably the only outlet for a population chained down by poverty, inbreeding and no easy escape from a town with no opportunities; well that’s unless you’re one of the king gypsies ruling your ghetto patch.
If St. Helens was located near the ocean then it would certainly gain a reputation as a gaudy pirate utopia with its lax policing, illegal dealings, cutthroats, local raiding and its vile congregation of wenches who are easy prey. Pirate town or not, it’s still washed up. However, much like a pirate port, St. Helens offers many essential routes out of the town and most of its lucky inhabitants survive on employment and normality elsewhere away from their base of operations.
There is however one redeeming feature, and that St. Helens College. This is without a doubt the best educational establishment for further training and higher education within the North West and is the town’s only saving grace. This impressive structure stands smugly over the ruined wreck of the town and is quite frankly the only beacon of hope for the people who want to escape, just as long as you are still willing and determined to better yourself academically. I cannot commend the college enough for the extremely positive impact it has had on the town. This is solely the only thing that the town can be proud of and is highly recommended to any students of Merseyside and further afield.