The History of Halton - Liverpool City Region
Halton is a borough with two towns and three town centres.
It has a growing population of over 126,000 people and is located inside the
Liverpool city region.
The first occupation of Halton took place way back in the stone ages. Since then it's been home to a variety of different people from the Romans to the Vikings. The amalgamation of Runcorn and Widnes into the district we now know as Halton, first began around the 12th Century. When the then Baron of Halton acquired land on both banks of the river. In doing so, he started a relationship between two sides of the River Mersey that has lasted for almost 800 years. Halton borough Council was officially formed after an upsurge in population and the emergence of Merseyside as a borough in 1974. Widnes which was formally a part of Lancashire became detached from the county geographically, leaving the newly formed Halton Borough Council to join Cheshire in 1974. This remained the case until 1998. When the creation of 'Cheshire East' and 'Cheshire West & Chester' excluded Halton council, making it an independent 'Unitary Authority' detached from any other county administrations. In 2009 an agreement was made with the five boroughs of Merseyside's Metropolitan Council to form a new 'Liverpool Super Council', this was later officially named the 'Liverpool City Region'.
Although Halton belatedly uses both the Cheshire police and Fire Rescue services, it hasn't been a part of Cheshire since the late 20th century.
The History of Widnes Town
Widnes is an industrial town set on the northern bank of the River Mersey.
Before the industrial revolution Widnes was made up of a small number of settlement villages. It was the opening of a chemical factory in 1847 that the town started to flourish. With people arriving from local towns and from countries like Wales, Ireland, Poland and Lithuania. Eventually settling down and starting a new life in Widnes.
In 1875 the Widnes Vikings RLFC were formed under the then name of 'Farnworth and Appleton Football Club'. The Vikings have since gone on to play a major role in the history of rugby league.
The town saw the opening of the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge in 1905. This created a direct road link to Runcorn for the first time, albiet via a carraige. The building of the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge followed its demolution 1961. The towns population has rose steadily since the victorian era and now stands at just over 61,000. Through good or bad times the chemical industry has continued to play a key role in the towns fortunes. However, in recent years Widnes has witnessed a great deal of change come to the town. With the new Widnes Waterfront Project, 3MG, The Mersey Gateway and continued success for the Vikings. The future looks a lot less reliant on the chemical trade and a lot brighter for Widnes.
The History of Runcorn Old Town
Runcorn was a minor settlement set on the south bank of the River Mersey until like Widnes,
the industrial revolution took hold of the area and the popultion began to rise.
At the end of the 18th century a port was created on the north eastern coast.
In 1868 the Runcorn Railway Bridge was opened giving Runcorn a direct
rail link over the River Mersey to Liverpool.
By 1901 Runcorn had a population of more than 16,000 and had established itself as a
vital port for the maritime trade.
Various industries involved in soap and alkali manufacturing eventually began to
take hold of the western coast of Runcorn.
Aswell as shipbuilding, engineering, tanning and quarrying trades.
Giant sandstone rocks from Runcorn's quarry were shipped far and wide,
they were even used to build the foundations of the 'Statue of Liberty' in New York.
By the time the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge opened in 1961,
Runcorn's population had grown to 26,035 people.
The next wave of people saw the population of Runcorn rocket to more than double that figure. It was the creation of the 'New Town' housing estates, which has had an enormous impact on the old town of Runcorn and its inhabitants ever since.
The History of Runcorn New Town
In 1964, East Runcorn was designated a 'New Town' area for the over-crowded
residents of Liverpool.
During the 15 year period that followed between 1964 and 1979,
Runcorn New Town saw around 40,000 new residents arriving from Liverpool.
Massive housing projects were built as part of the Liverpool Masterplan,
aimed at reducing the overcrowding in Liverpool's inner city areas.
They tranformed a once baron land of fields into new homes by the
Runcorn Development Corporation for Liverpool housing associations
like Riverside, Plus Dane, CDS Jackson, Liverpool Mutual Homes and the Liverpool Housing Trust.
Halton Brook saw the first house built in 1967 and was the first estate to be finished.
It was mainly south Liverpool residents like the Ford workers and their families that settled onto the first estate.
In 1972, the large housing estate of Castlefields was finally completed.
The remaining eight estates that followed throughout the seventies are the Whitehouse Industrial Estate, the Astmoor Industrial Estate, the Brow, Southgate, Palacefields, Brookvale, Murdishaw and Windmill Hill.
By 1980, the total population of Runcorn stood at nearly 66,000. That's an increase in its population of more than 153% in only 19 years. Runcorn experienced a huge shift in its demographic during this time too, as most of the new arrivals were young couples with children. Over the years, the new town area has continued to have strong connections to Liverpool.
Subsequent Changes to Runcorn New Town
Southgate has since been demolished and is now called Hallwood Park.
Castlefields is currently undergoing one of the biggest urban regeneration projects
in Europe and is now boasting a new community area for the estate.
Other estates like Windmill Hill, Murdishaw and Halton Brook have also had parts of their homes renovated over recent years.
All aboard the Halton Monorail
It's pleasing to know that even as far back as 1964,
some local developers had the foresight to envisage a clean overhead monorail
system for Runcorn.
One that would have served to link up the new town housing estates. In the end, it was the most cost effective yet still similarly innovative Busway Network that won the votes. Its main circular route that links up all of the new town estates is an excellent legacy that has served the community as a whole since it was built back in 1971.
It is however quite humbling to think that should a grandiose scheme such as a monorail system ever be revived for the Liverpool city region. The day a monorail elegantly drifts through Halton could one day come to fruition.