Before the start of the 19th century and indeed during the early years of that century Runcorn was a quiet, idyllic, rural place on the south bank of the river Mersey. The air was so healthy that people came to the town to convalesce from illness. During the summer months, people came to bathe in the river Mersey. In the 1801 census the population of the town was a mere 1,470. The whole area, which later in the 19th century was to become a major centre of the chemical industry, was then entirely rural. Across the river were the hamlets of Farnworth, Appleton, Ditton and Woodend, which later were to form the industrial chemical town of Widnes. The combined population of this area to the north of the Mersey was then only 1065 1.