Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human have just returned from another local walk. Our area has recently been designated a Tier 3 Covid restriction zone so, we are limited in where we have our adventures. We are not complaining because if that is the worst thing that happens to us during this pandemic well, we are happy with that.
Runcorn has 26 Blue Plaques dotted around the town. Some of them commemorate people while others celebrate our town’s buildings. The big feller found plenty of information on-line about the siting of the plaques but, after contacting the Runcorn & District Historical Society he was armed with a digital map and leaflet. The map showed the locations of the first twenty Blue Plaques. More plaques have been installed since the publication of the leaflet. We decided to walk around the ‘Old Town’ and to visit the first 16 plaques. This would mean that we could walk from home and follow the trail in numerical order. Numbers 17 to 20 and the newer plaques were planned for a later visit.
We set off from home on a sunny October afternoon heading toward The Brindley Theatre, where our first discovery awaited us. My human has added an image of the map above so, we won’t describe our walking route. I had a good run along the Bridgewater Canal towpath as we strode into town. A few ducks and swans taunted me by their presence, on the water as we passed by them. My human gave me a verbal warning for leaning over the canal bank and almost falling in, again!
My dad said that he would not be taking any close-up photographs of the plaques but, you should be able to pick them out on his snaps. He said that people may want to discover them for themselves by visiting the locations. I think that he just can’t take good photos myself!
1 JAMES ALISTAIR TAYLOR
Born in Curzon Street in 1935, he used the name Alistair but, was known by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, as Mr. Fixit. He worked as Brian Epstein’s personal assistant in the 1960’s. When Brian Epstein died in 1967, he became the General Manager of Apple Corps, the Beatles business arm. He worked with artists such as Cream, Bee Gees, Cilla Black, The Four Tops and The Moody Blues. He died in 2004.
2 THOMAS HAZLEHURST
The plaque is located on Mark Reynolds Solicitor’s building and was once known as Camden Cottage. The Hazlehurst family lived there while they manufactured soap and alkali in the Camden Works behind the building. Thomas, born in 1816, was a Methodist and philanthropist who paid for three schools and twelve chapels in the area. He died in 1876 and is buried in Runcorn Cemetery.
3 HUBERT FARRELL (BERT) STARKEY M.A., M.Ed.
This plaque can be found on the wall of the Curiosity Bookshop. Bert was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and author. His book ‘Old Runcorn’ is renowned as the best historical record of the town. His work included championing the listing of Runcorn’s historical buildings. Born in 1926 and died in 2011 he was a founder member and vice-president of Runcorn & District Historical Society.
4 THE WATERLOO HOTEL
Nowadays the building houses the Wat Phra Singh Buddist Temple the old pub was built in the 1830’s by the once busy Top Locks of the Bridgewater Canal. It was used as The Archer pub in the TV series, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. It was once a favourite pub of Ted Smith, the Captain of the Titanic.
5 CASTLEROCK SHIPYARD
This plaque can be found at the side of Mersey Road on one of the supports of the Ethelfleda Railway Bridge. Ethelfleda, the Saxon Princess, built a small castle or fortress on this site and the shipyard took its name from that. The shipyard opened in 1810 and Mersey Flats were constructed here to work on the river and canals in the local industrial expansion. The last boat was built here in 1953 before the area was developed for the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
6 SIR THOMAS HENRY HALL CAINE C.H., K.B.E.
The plaque is located on the wall of the Clarendon public house. Born in 1853 in Bridgewater Street, Hall Caine was once one of the world’s most successful fiction authors. He was also the secretary of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, whom he wrote about his time with. Bram Stoker, his friend and author of Dracula dedicated his famous horror story to him. He died in 1931.
7 PRIVATE THOMAS ALFRED ‘TODGER’ JONES V.C., D.C.M.
On the side of 67 Church Street close to the, now demolished home of Todger Jones in Princess Street. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism during the Battle of Morval in 1916, where he single-handedly captured 102 German soldiers.
8 SIR WILLIAM EDWARD DUDLEY O.B.E.
Sited on the Co-operative store building, the plaque commemorates the work of William Dudley who lived in, the now demolished, Loch Street. He became the Chairman of the Runcorn Co-op Society in 1896. By 1933 he had been promoted to the President of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. He received an OBE and later, a knighthood, for his work with the Ministry of Food. He was also the Chairman of the Runcorn & District Council and a Justice of the Peace. He died in 1938 and is buried in Runcorn Cemetery.
9 THE ROYAL HOTEL
The Royal was originally known as the White Hart Hotel until, allegedly, Prince William of Orange once stayed there and it was given its regal title. It is a Grade II Listed building and is the town’s oldest licensed premises.
10 OLD QUAY YARD
This plaque, sited on The Deck Apartments, commemorates the area that originally provided Runcorn’s water supply from the Sprinch brook. It is the site of the crossing to Woodend in Widnes which began in 1178. It was a busy shipbuilding area from 1802 to 1890.
11 THE RUNCORN FERRY
Situated on the side of the building once known as the Boathouse in Mersey Road, the plaque marks the area of the Ferry across to Widnes. The building was originally known as the Ferry Boat Inn until it was renamed The Boat House Inn in 1825.
12 THE OLD POLICE STATION
Built in 1831, this Grade II Listed sandstone building was once the Runcorn Town Hall. It contained cells and a courthouse with the original town stocks still standing outside. It became a police station in 1883 and markings above the side door still indicate the buildings former use.
13 PROFESSOR JOHN RILEY HOLT F.R.S.
This plaque can be seen on the gable end of 1 Old Albert Terrace, where his family lived in the early 20th century. Holt became Professor of Experimental Physics at Liverpool University. He was elected to the position of Fellow of the Royal Society for his discoveries and research into nuclear and particle physics.
14 RUNCORN ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL CLUB
The plaque has been erected on the wall of the old Bridgewater Bar (now Lockdown) in Canal Street. The football ground of the club was behind the building and housed the town’s team since 1918. They were originally known as the Tanners due to links with the local tannery industry and later known as the Linnets, due to the green colour of their kit. They were the premier non-league team in 1982 but failed to enter the Football League due to the sub-standard facilities here at Canal Street. The club sold the ground in 2000 after a series of small disasters and poor league form. In 2006 the team folded sadly after 88 years.
15 VICTORIA ‘SPRINCH’ BOATYARD
Currently the home of the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club the Sprinch boatyard was once one of England’s premier boatyards. It closed in 1948 after a decline in traffic on the Bridgewater Canal.
16 THE TANNERIES
This plaque is located inside the Bridgewater Garden Centre commemorating the tanning industry that dominated the town’s industrial past. Runcorn was the largest producer of leather in the country at one time. Tanneries within the area included Camden, Highfield, Puritan and Astmoor.
We passed a couple of newer plaques on our walk but, the big feller said that he would ‘mop up’ the remaining plaques on our next walk around Runcorn. He said that we would have to drive to a few of the ones that are outside of the ‘Old Town’.
The walk for me was over familiar territory but, we don’t usually stop every couple of minutes while my dad reads something and takes photographs. I didn’t get to run around much either. I think that this was a walk for the big feller mainly. I can’t complain because I had already been for a run in a park in the morning and if I play my cards right, I will be out again later. He can’t resist me! Till next time!