The area now appears to be largely rural with little industry and extensive housing. However, Stanley Bank was one of the key areas of the industrial development of St Helens and in the past the Sankey Canal at Stanley Bank was the focus for a range of industry including iron slitting, copper working and the transport of coal mined locally.
When the Blackbrook extension was added to the Sankey Canal (around 1770) this was an important event in the development of the area’s industry and allowed coal to be more quickly and cheaply exported to places like the busy port of Liverpool and Cheshire where it was used in the salt industry.
The Stanley Copper Works was established by Thomas Patten (from Warrington) in 1772 and was superseded by the Stanley Smelting Company in 1785. Although the exact location of the copper works is not known, historical documents suggest that some 30 tons of copper per week were cast into brass and copper ingots for the East India trade. The source of the copper ore is thought to have been the mines on Parys Mountain in Anglesey. The precise location of the copper works is still not clear, but it is known to have been close to the iron slitting mill and may have been situated on the track road to Stanley Bank Farm. Copper production had ceased by 1815.
The process of iron slitting (cutting iron up into strips) is thought to have arrived in Britain in the sixteenth century. The Stanley Iron Slitting Mill was established in 1773 by partnership consisting of Alexander Chorley, Thomas Leech, John Postlethwaite and John Rigby to slit iron from the furnaces at Carr Mill to the north of Stanley Bank. The iron was transported to Stanley Bank from Carr Mill along a narrow channel that can still be seen where it joins the dam. There must therefore have been some means of unloading the boats and carrying the iron down to the mill from the pond, but we have no evidence to suggest what this structure may have looked like.
Alexander Chorley is believed to have come from Warrington and he may have known the owner of another local slitting mill (Thomas Titley) at Lymm in Cheshire. The Stanley Bank slitting mill does not appear to have been successful, and in just over a decade in 1784 the mill was offered for sale. (The advertisement for the sale provides some information about what buildings may have been at Stanley Bank at the time. However, as it also included Carr Mill what exactly was present at Stanley Bank is not clear. Nevertheless, warehouses, housing and gardens are mentioned). Around this time there also seems to have been a fall in the demand for the products made by the slitting mill as technology changed. In 1785 John Rigby died and Alexander Chorley was made bankrupt. He then became the manager of the copper works.
The slitting mill was taken over in 1800 by two Liverpool merchants (John Weston and William Blocklebank) and an iron slitter (James Harriman). The lease for the mill mentions shops, warehouses, wheels and other items of equipment implying that the mill was a substantial operation at this time.
Unfortunately, the remaining history of the site is rather unclear, but sometime between 1800 and 1824 it was converted to a corn mill. This was closed between 1900 and 1911 and then demolished. However, many of the building outlines visible on the site today relate to this part of its history.
Before the start of the project only the stubs of walls of the mill building could be seen above ground. The clearest evidence of the site’s history was the dam wall, which had also been damaged and partly rebuilt. At the start of the project much of the area had been repeatedly vandalised and the site was overgrown with vegetation.