As late as the 19th century St Helen's did not exist. It grew up and was named for the parish church of Windle parish, about 12 miles North East of Liverpool.
The glass industry was established here owing to the ready availability of sand and coal. The St Helen's Canal was built in 1757 to transport raw materials and finished products to and from the Mersey. In the 1830s the St Helens and Runcorn Gap railway was built for the same purpose.
The town grew rapidly and was made a county borough in the 1880s. The glass industry continues to dominate the town but the many coal mines including Clock Face, Sutton Manor and Lea Green were closed from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The town itself (ie the old county borough) included the suburbs of Clock Face, Sutton and Windle.
The main tourist attraction is St Helen's World of Glass, a museum dedicated to the glass industry.