Halton Borough Council unveils its new ceremony suite, dedicated to the memory of a remarkable woman, Muriel J Preece MBE, on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2024.

Muriel was the first woman to be elected to important public office at Runcorn and who offered a distinguished record of service to the town and to the borough of Halton.

The Preece Suite at Runcorn Town Hall celebrates her legacy. It will be officially opened by the Mayor of Halton, Cllr Val Hill, on International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Muriel Jessie Preece was born at Broadway in the Cotswolds and came to Runcorn in 1919 to teach at Runcorn Grammar School, and later became Deputy Headmistress of Helsby Grammar School, from where she retired in 1953.

Taking on a world entirely dominated by men, she became Runcorn’s first woman councillor in May 1953, and the following year was elected as a county councillor on Cheshire County Council. She became a Magistrate and served as Chair of Runcorn Citizens Advice Bureau. She was a founder member and later President of the Runcorn & District Soroptimists Club, and retained her lifelong passion for education, becoming a governor of many schools in Halton.

In 1961 Muriel became the first woman to Chair the Runcorn Urban District Council, breaking the glass ceiling into a world that had until then exclusively been the office of men. During her time as Chair, she greeted HRH Princess Alexandra at the official opening of the Silver Jubilee Bridge, and later became the Council’s representative on the Board of the Runcorn Development Corporation, using her influence to shape plans for the Runcorn New Town.

Her work and passion for Halton were recognised throughout the district, so much so that in 1961 Widnes Corporation awarded her the Freedom of the Borough of Widnes, an unprecedented move ahead of the time before the twin towns would merge as the new Borough of Halton.

In1967 she was awarded an MBE. She died in 1975 and her MBE was displayed at the Runcorn Boys Club, who had benefited so much from her commitment. When the building was later destroyed in a fire the medal was rescued from the charred debris, somehow surviving the fierce blaze.

Muriel’s MBE is now displayed at the Preece Suite as a symbol to inspire both women and girls to strive to achieve their full potential in life.