St Helens became a significant centre for coal mining and glassmaking in the 19th century but is still a town built on industry and commerce. The urban area of St Helens had a total population of 176,843 as per the census in 2001.
St Helens was formed from Eccleston, Parr, Sutton and Windle which were the townships of the parish of Prescot. They became civil parishes on their own in 1866.
The St Helens name is derived from the St Helens Parish Church located in Hardshaw, Windle. 1816 saw the rebuilding of the parish church and it was at this point that the church was rededicated to St Mary but that only lasted up until the church was rebuilt yet again between 1916 and 1926 after a fire, whereupon the historic name "St Helens, St Helens" was bestowed upon it.
During the industrial revolution, coal and other raw materials needed to supply the industry in the surrounding area was provided by way of the Sankey Canal.
St Helens residents have various names that they are known by including "St Helensers", "St Helens People" and "Sintelleners". "Woolybacks" is also a name used by some Liverpool residents derisively, but this actually originated as a result of the unloading of Amercian cotton in the Liverpool docks.