Category Archives: Liverpool

The Times, has a go at Sir Joshua Walmsley in 1839

It’s great to see that the press hasn’t changed much in 175 years. This is a report from The Times in 1839, having a go at Sir Josh.

Sneaking Visit Of The Sneaking President Of The Board Of Trade To The Sneaking Mayor Of Liverpool

The Right Hon. Henry Labouchere (1798 – 1869) later 1st Baron Taunton

The Right Hon. Henry Labouchere, the President of the Board of Trade, was entertained at the Town-hall, Liverpool by the Whig Mayor, on Friday last. He arrived from Manchester, where it is said he has been sounding the leading Whigs as to his chances of being returned for that borough in the ever of the anticipated retirement of Mr. Greg. The hon. gentleman was sojourning in Manchester with Mr. Mark Philips M.P., Mr. Greg’s brother-in-law. Your reporter having been given to understand that Mr..Labouchere’s visit to Liverpool was of a public nature, made application to the mayor for admission to report the proceedings, the answer to which was, ” That the mayor had. not yet determined on the course to be pursued with respect to reporters at the dinner.”

No further notice having been taken of the application up to the day of the ” banquet”  the reporter to “ The Times ” again wrote to his worship for a decided answer, stating that he did not presume to dictate what course the Mayor ought to pursue, but reminding him that the last time when the Mayor of Liverpool entertained a public character (Lord J. Russell) his Lordship was misreported by an amateur reporter. To this application the Mayor returned the following answer-:

“ The Mayor has now given the fullest consideration to the application of the reporter of The Times, and, with every disposition at all times to accede to any request from. the press, so far as may be properly within his power, he is obliged to decline the present application on the ground that the dinner to which Mr. Labouchere is invited is not public, but private.

Town-hall,Dec 20 ”

It was subsequently ascertained, that the liberal Mayor  “with every disposition to accommodate the press,” admitted some of his own creatures, who of course would report nothing more than was suited to his worship’s views.

The following brief account of the proceedings is from one of them, published in a Liverpool paper of Saturday :-

“Visit To Liverpool Of The President Of The Board Of Trade.

“Yesterday, Mr. Labouchere, the President of the Board of Trade paid a visit to Liverpool, as the invited guest of our worthy chief magistrate. The right hon. gentleman received during tho day, a number of deputations from the several commercial associations of the town, at the Town -hall, at intervals (on each introduction) of half an hour.

He was waited upon on the part of the following bodies successively,

The American Chamber of Commerce.

Deputations from the Associated Bodies, Mr. W. M. Duncan, secretary.

The Anti-Corn-law Association, Mr. H.T. Atkinson, Honorary Secretary.

Duty on Slave-grown Sugar Association, represented by, Messrs, Sandbach and Tinne.

These occupied the attention of the right hon. gentleman from half-past 1 to half-past 3 o’clock.

Liverpool Town Hall

At the latter hour Mr. Labouchere, accompanied by the Mayor, appeared on ‘Change, where he was warmly received. He then visited the News-room, where, as well as on ‘Change, the concourse of merchants and others was unusually dense. On his entering the News-room, the rush at the door was more than inconvenient to those who fell within its vortex.

The right hon. gentleman, on reaching the centre of the room, was received with loud and repeated cheers. Before these had subsided, a few foolish and fashionably-dressed young men, near the door, set up a sort of ass, demonstrative at once of their want of courtesy to a stranger and a highly- respectable and able gentleman, and of their own close affinity to the animal whose cry they imitated. These very partial and contemptible tokens of disapprobation were speedily drowned amidst renewed cheers, clapping of hands, and other demonstrations of welcome to the distinguished visitor. Three cheers were then proposed for the mayor, and the call was heartily responded to. Three cheers were next proposed for ” Sir Robert, “ and the response was most vehement and enthusiastic. Some one rather faintly, and not generally heard in the room, then proposed ” three cheers for the Queen “ ;  but the respectable parties present, considering the place and the occasion altogether unsuitable for a demonstration of political feeling (which it was sought to exhibit in a sort of ‘pothouse’ sort of fashion, that might not have concluded till midnight.) very properly refrained from a response. Mr. Labouchere met with the kindest reception from numbers of our most respectable citizens ; and, when he left the room, many of them accompanied him back to the town-hall.

At 4 o’clock he there met a deputation on the trade with the Royal and Brazilian Association, headed by Mr. Alderman Moon.

At 5 o’clock he met a deputation of the Hayti [sic, Haiti] trade, consisting of Mr. Alderman Sheil, Mr. Killock, Mr. Greenshiel, Mr. Maunder, and Mr. Mocatta, who, we learn, represented to the right hon. gentleman the impolicy of forcing coffee produced in foreign colonies to be sent to the Cape of Good Hope and brought back, in order that it might be introduced into this country at the lower duty of 9d. per pound.

We are unable to give the replies of Mr. Labouchere to the several deputations, but are informed that he did not enter into lengthened arguments on each particular topic, but stated that he felt assured the important representations made, when laid before Government, would receive the most anxious and careful consideration, with a view to meet the wishes of the parties, and thereby promote tho commercial welfare of the community.

Dining Room, Liverpool Town Hall

At 6 o’clock, the right hon. gentleman and the other guests of the Mayor, to the number of 80, principally merchants, sat down to a most splendid dinner in the banquet- room of the Town-hall. After the toasts of ‘ the Queen’ and ‘the Queen Dowager,’ the Mayor gave the health of their distinguished visiter, Mr. Labouchere, and the other members of Her Majesty’s Ministry.

Mr. Labouchere in a feeling reply, said that he was proud to address so large an assemblage of commercial gentlemen, who, though necessarily entertaining different shades of political opinion, were all united in the great common object, the happiness and prosperity of their native country. He was aware that in the office which he had the honour to fill he had succeeded a gentleman of great ability and practical knowledge, and that he must necessarily appear to disadvantage; but he hoped, by imitating the example of his predecessor, and availing himself of tho suggestions of such able individuals as he had that day met, to conduce to the commercial advancement of this great empire. From an early period in life his interests and his hopes had been bound up with its trading prosperity and welfare. He had visited several of the manufacturing towns, and regretted that he could but stay one day longer in this second city of the kingdom. He had that day received a number of deputations, and during the remainder of his stay he should be glad to communicate with others, and to avail himself of any information from them or from individuals in any way connected with the objects and duties of his office. He concluded by proposing ‘ Prosperity to the town and commerce of Liverpool,’ and sat down amidst much cheering.

Sir J. Tobin  acknowledged the toast in a very feeling and appropriate manner.

The health of the Mayor was afterwards drunk, to which he made a suitable and eloquent response.

Several other appropriate toasts were given,and replied to. Not the slightest feeling of political dissension was manifested, and the meeting separated highly gratified by the splendid hospitality of the evening, and the sentiments of universal good-will so eloquently expressed.”

It will be seen, from the above account, that at ” the private” visit of the President of the Board of Trade to the Mayor of Liverpool, public business was transacted with deputations from no less than six associated public bodies representing the interests of an immense number of the mercantile community. Such is the anxiety evinced by the Whigs to afford facilities to the press in their arduous duties of furnishing information to the public.

The following is another account of Mr. Labouchere’s visit published in a Liverpool paper to-day:-

“This gentleman, who has lately been at Manchester, it is supposed on an electioneering expedition, and whose intention to visit Liverpool had been rather pompously notified in the Radical prints, received some addresses and deputations yesterday morning at the Town-hall.

Precisely at half-past 3 o’clock,according to an announcement which had been pretty extensively circulated – (not publicly, of course), the right hon. gentleman, accompanied by, or rather walking side by side with, his worship, the Mayor of Liverpool, Mr. Joshua Walmsley, and followed by a rush of gentlemen, most of them excited by curiosity, entered the Exchange news-room, which, as is usual at that hour, was already pretty well thronged. The right hon.- gentleman and his worship (the latter of whom, by the by, looked magnificently humble, or humbly magnificent-which you like) having entered at the centre door, walked up the room for a few yards amidst complete silence.

Then the presence of the distinguished guest or visitant having become known, there was  – what do you think ?  Oh, such a feeble war !  –   nine persons and a half squeaking out, as if they were ashamed of themselves, ‘ Hurrah !’  whilst a strong bass of hisses accompanied the treble of applause. ( You had better not say, however, a ‘bass of hisses,’ or Parson Aspinall may perhaps pun upon it on Monday, and say it was very base.)  Well, that ‘ hurrah,’ like a still-born child, or a bubble, or a tobacco-puff, or some other thing equally evanescent, having passed away, and without the slightest attempt at repetition, there was about three seconds of dead silence, during which, as I suppose, the ‘ worthy gentlemen’ were still progressing upwards-not towards heaven, I don’t mean, but towards the top of the room. I followed, as fast as I could push myself through the crowd, but at last got to a standstill, and then the three seconds of dead silence having expired –  that is gone dead  –  there arose a shout from some person whom I could not see- (I don’t -say it was from Charles Jackall Atkinson or whatever that renowned would-be town-councillor calls himself – he has so many names, I quite forget his present one-but I do know that the jackall was loitering about the room to wait upon the ‘lion,’ or ‘ lions’) – well, there was a shout, from some one, of. ‘ Three cheers for the Mayor‘  and the order was obeyed to the very letter. There were three cheers –  that is, three persons (calculating nine tailors-to make a man) shouted out ‘hurrah,’ and, as before, the hisses  –  though hisses are not such telling things as shouts   –   preponderated.

In plain words, and with very tittle exaggeration  -I own to a very little    27 persons responded to the shout of   ‘ Three cheers for the Mayor !’   27 persons, out of a body of gentlemen amounting probably to    how many do you think the room would hold    –  say 700, and that’s a low estimate, I think     cheered the Mayor of Liverpool ! I  was going to say it was a radical shame, and isn’t it ?

Well, I -can’t help it;  it was not my province to shout, or ,I would have shouted; for I felt humiliated, somehow, at the fact of there being a mayor of Liverpool who had descended to such a level that, after it had been bruited abroad that he was about to visit the Exchange news-room with a ‘ lion’ of such dimensions as Labouchere, he could raise only 27 persons to shout for him., Why, a common ass  –  a very common, twopence a-mile wench-carrying ass, such as you see over at Cheshire on holydays –  it went out in company with such a noble creature as a  lion  – could raise 35 tailors to applaud, and 35, multiplied by 9 would make 315.

Well, the “ immense applause ‘ having subsided, a gentleman called out ironically or sarcastically ‘Three cheers for the French Navy !’. which excited some laughter amongst those who were up to snuff, but many seemed to think it mal apropos  and accordingly, another gentleman followed it up by a much better aimed shot. He called out ‘Three cheers for Sir  Robert Peel’ , and the applause which followed was most hearty, enthusiastic, and general. I heard a Radical afterwards characterize it as tremendous, but a reporter would hardly go as far as that.

I then looked for the Right Hon. Mr. Labouchere and his satellite, but I could nowhere behold them; I suppose they must have slunk out of the room at an upper door; for in an instant the crowd began to slacken, and laughing groups were seen in every direction, some of whom I heard make use of such expressions as, ‘Well, I think they have got enough of it’ and “They didn’t seem to like it’.

Liverpool Town Hall

It was very funny altogether, – very funny – I wish you had been there. And what is perhaps as funny as all, the whole scene did not occupy above a minute or two; it was over in less than no time; the infusion of Conservatism in the dose seemed to be too strong for the stomach of the lions, and they went away. There is one consolation, however, if the Ministerial visitor was deprived of his expected portion of applause and adulation, and congratulation, and he would in the evening, have a dinner, which would satisfy his physical appetite, if appetite he had any, after what had occurred. The Town-hall was, at all events, lighted up.

“ This is all I know. I intended to have told you the whole in one slip and a quarter, but I have made a slip in my calculation – a good many slips, I think.”

The Times, December 23, 1839

Sir Josh has an accident 1841

We regret to have to announce that Sir Joshua Walmsley is at present confined to Wavertree-hall by an accident of rather a peculiar character. We understand that he had been travelling for some considerable distance on Sunday last, by railway to Liverpool, and that on getting out of the carriage, after it had arrived at its destination he found his right leg much stiffened by the length of time he had been sitting. Almost immediately after he had placed it on the ground, two of the muscles close to the knee suddenly broke, and rendered him unable to walk home. Medical assistance was speedily rendered, and the necessary remedies applied, but, up to the present time, he is obliged to have the leg in a sling, and to be assisted in moving about the house. It will surprise many of our readers to learn that Sir Joshua is about to leave Liverpool almost immediately, and to take up his permanent residence in Staffordshire. We understand he has come to this determination within the last few days. He will, however, still continue to carry on his mercantile business in Liverpool as usual, and will occasionally return to superintend the concerns of the house with which he is connected.-

from the Liverpool Mail, reprinted in The Times, September 11, 1841

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley 1794 -1871 – Chapter 1


Early Days— Father’s Prophecy — Knowsley School — Boyish Recreations — The Earl of Derby — His love of Sport and homely Kindness — Leaves Knowsley for Eden Hall — No Recreation there — Attack upon an Orchard — Surrender of Assailants upon Conditions — Violation of the Treaty — Schoolboy Retaliation for Breach of Faith — Wrestling Matches — The Father’s Death — An Anecdote of the old Man — Reduced Means — Becomes a Teacher — A Sporting Adventure— Young Walmsley a good Shot — Provides Game for Eden Hall — Is attended by similar odd Characters — Leaves School.


Custom House Liverpool

Joshua Walmsley was born September 29, 1794, in Concert Street, Liverpool His father was a builder, a man of considerable ability and enterprise, whose affairs prospered during the boy’s early childhood. He had extensive premises in Berry Street, and possessed quarries of freestone in Toxteth Park, and of marble in Kilkenny. Many fine buildings were erected by him in Liverpool. Mrs. Walmsley is described as a woman of energy and ability. On one occasion, when her husband was absent for two years in Ireland, she managed his affairs so skilfully that on his return he found them in a more prosperous condition than when he left. A girl, one year the boy’s junior, completed the household.

Among the reminiscences of early days recorded in the notes Sir Joshua Walmsley has left, is the vague recollection of a large workshop filled with busts, statues, and architectural ornaments, where he and his sister used to carry on their merry games, and where on one occasion, with the help of his little playmate, he carved a monumental stone for a deceased favourite cat. These were happy days, but trouble came in the shape of family dissension and failing business; the husband and wife separated, and the children were sent to Christleton, near Chester.

Here the brother and sister attended a day-school, but their real intellectual food was supplied from another quarter. The people with whom they lodged were connected with the stage. Shakespeare’s plays were the constant study and theme of conversation in the house, and before the lad could read well, he was able to declaim long passages from the tragedies and comedies, and before he understood the meaning of the word history, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Henry V., and Richard III. were living heroes to him.

At the end of two or three years the children returned to Liverpool, and were sent to day-schools, but the candid record tells how young Joshua was self-willed and impetuous, chafing against discipline, and not a very diligent scholar. “ One day,” he says, “ my schoolmaster chastised me brutally. My father’s indignation on seeing the bruises was roused to such a pitch that he horsewhipped the man who had inflicted them. I never forgot this. From that day I gave up my vagrant habits, and love for my father was deepened by gratitude.” In spite of all his shortcomings, the keen-sighted old man discerned signs of character that pointed to a bright future for his son. “Jos will be Mayor of Liverpool,” he used to say in the boy’s hearing.

To be mayor of his native town was the highest dignity the Liverpool builder’s imagination could picture, and this faith in his son brightened the latter years of his life. The boy, whose ambition had been kindled by reading and learning Shakespeare’s plays, listened with a swelling heart to these predictions. “ They sank into my soul,” he says, and I resolved that the day should come when they would be fulfilled.”

In his own old age. Sir Joshua, alluding to his father, writes : “ I do not know any earthly gratification I would have enjoyed more than ministering to his declining years, and witnessing his joy when seeing me fulfil those predictions which his own trust in me had no slight influence in bringing about the realisation of.”

Joshua was next sent to Knowsley School, where he spent the three brightest years of his boyhood. There he formed many life-long friendships, none of which was more fruitful of happiness than that of his future brother-in-law, Mr. James Mulleneux. Of Mr. Baron, the master, he speaks with affection and respect.


Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby 1752 – 1834

We have some pleasant glimpses of this school life and its play hours. A favourite amusement of the boys was to make apple-pies with fruit and flour bought out of their own pocket-money. They dug ovens in the ground, heated them, and baked their pastry. No doubt dirt was an ingredient of the composition, but it mattered little. The pies were relished by the young cooks with a gusto that no feast or fare of after years could boast. Knowsley School stood on the borders of Knowsley Park. One day, while the boys were intent on their apple-pie making, a quaint but elegant old gentleman made his appearance. His carefully-brushed hair hung down in an elaborate cue. He wore silk stockings, silver buckles, and a beautifully-cut coat The grave aristocratic manner of this stately presence awed the boys, and they paused in their pie-making operations. Presently, however, their shyness wore off, for the gentleman seated himself on a large stone in their midst, and began talking to them like any ordinary mortal.

It was the Earl of Derby. The boys had often heard of him, for (be it understood we are speaking of four generations back) he was famed for his love of cock and dog fighting and other sports. [At a dinner party in 1778 held on his estate “The Oaks” in Carshalton, Lord Derby and his friends planned a sweepstakehorse race, won the following year by Derby’s own horse, Bridget. The race, the Epsom Oaks, has been named after the estate since. At a celebration after Bridget’s win, a similar race for colts was proposed and Derby tossed a coin with Sir Charles Bunbury for the honour of naming the race. Derby won, and the race became known as the Derby Stakes.]  

He questioned the lads about their cooking, and gave them culinary hints which, when followed, improved the flavour of their pies. After that he often came to see them, and the boys would gather round him and listen to his anecdotes and advice. Then rising to leave he would tip the lads all round. Needless to say that the old gentleman with the grand genial manners became a great favourite. Little did the son of the Liverpool builder then foresee that he would one day become acquainted with the earl’s son, would work in the House of Commons with his grandson,[who was Prime Minister three times]  and in his latter years be on a friendly footing with his great-grandson, the present Earl of Derby. But the pleasant days at Knowsley were coming to an end. The terms at Mr. Baron’s school were too high for Mr. Walmsley’s reduced means. With a sad heart his son received the tidings that he must leave Knowsley School for one in Westmoreland.

Eden Hall, as the establishment was called, merits a brief description, as a type now unknown in England. From twenty to twenty-five pounds per head was the yearly sum paid by one hundred and thirty boys for board, lodging, and education. ” Breakfast at Eden Hall,” writes Sir Joshua, “consisted of a slice of black rye bread, a large proportion of bran entering into the composition. As a rule it was sour. In addition, a large boiler was placed on the table half filled with water, and into this two gallons of milk had been poured, and some handfuls of oatmeal added. Its contents were shared by the one hundred and thirty hungry lads. oats-porridgeSometimes oatmeal porridge replaced the contents of the boiler, and a teaspoonful of treacle was allowed as a great treat. Three times a week we had a limited amount of meat for dinner ; on other days, potatoes, black bread, and cheese. This cheese had grown so hard with age we nicknamed it ‘ wheel- barrow trundles’ ;  the third meal consisted of another slice of bread and of the ‘ trundle ‘ cheese. For a certain number of hours daily we were turned into agricultural labourers, working on a large farm belonging to our master.  We were a healthy set,” continues Sir Joshua, “ our constitutions hardened by outdoor life and labour. Some boys complained, some ran away, but none were ill, and only one death occurred during the six years I stayed there.”

The neighbouring orchards naturally suffered from the inroads of this healthy and hungry tribe. One instance of these exploits to show the spirit that animated the school. ” A magnificent crop of apples attracted the boys’ attention. They were in a neighbouring farmer’s orchard. The temptation was very great, so the robbery was planned and fully carried out. Being the prime mover in the affair and principal leader, I assumed the most dangerous post. Another boy and myself were still in the tree, throwing the fruit down to our accomplices, when the infuriated owner, who had been on the look-out, appeared amongst us. All fled save we two unfortunate delinquents up in the tree. The farmer leant his burly form against the trunk, but we refused, like Mrs. Bond’s ducks, to come down to be killed. Both parties held out for some time. At last terms were agreed upon between us. The farmer was to forgive the offence if I, from my retreat in the branches, pledged myself in the name of the whole school never to molest his property again.

Apple orchard at Brogdale Farm, used alongside top crops feature, Apples.

The promise was given, and the pledge accepted. We came down, returned to our schoolmates, and in presence of all assembled, the transaction was related and ratified. A law was passed that for the future property belonging to this farmer should always be respected. This edict would have been obeyed to the letter, but next morning the farmer came to the school and made his accusation before the master, picked out the two chief culprits, and demanded our punishment. A mitigation of the sentence was offered if we gave up our accomplices ; but this we refused to do, and we were flogged. The next day the farmer’s orchard was bare of fruit, and one of his finest trees lay full length upon the ground. The masters themselves looked leniently upon the act, as one of retributive justice consequent on a breach of contract.”

The pupils of the school contested matches in football, cricketing, and other games, with the townspeople, and in the majority of cases came off victorious. At all times Westmoreland has been noted for its wrestling, and to excel in this, as in other sports, was a point of honour with the school. When one of their number was declared by his master to be their best man in muscle and address, he would march into the town and throw down his gauntlet in presence of the inhabitants. This consisted in pulling the bell in the public market-place, and waiting there till a rival champion appeared.

The sound of the bell was perfectly understood by the townsfolk. It was a challenge to any antagonist who would offer himself for the best of three falls. The match was conducted in the most friendly manner, with perfect good humour, and the beaten lad went home to town or school to practise again, and when ready to toll the market -bell once more.

In 1807, young Joshua was rapidly mastering what advantages the school afforded, when the tidings reached him that his father was dead. It had been some time since the lad had seen him;  but when they had been last together a circumstance occurred which, though trifling, was destined to have an influence on his whole life, and be in a manner the key-note of all his future conduct. He writes : ” My father and I were walking down the Wavertree Road together, when we entered an orchard where the trees were laden with fruit. Taking up a stone, I threw it into a small ill-grown tree, bearing some wretched crabs, but it brought nothing down. My father stooped, picked up the stone, and threw it into another tree, the apples of which were very fine. Two or three fell at his feet. ‘My lad,’ he said to me, pointing to them, ‘ remember through life that an apple is as easily felled as a crab.’ This occurred the last day my father and I were together, but his simple words produced an impression upon me that was never forgotten.”

The father left no fortune, and thus at the respective ages of thirteen and twelve the brother and sister found themselves penniless on the world. They became teachers in the schools where they had been pupils. This exposed him to bitter mortifications, and many a lonely hour did the boy spend upon the moors brooding over his situation. One day as he mused in this melancholy mood, his father’s words flashed with sudden significance across his mind —  “Remember, lad, an apple is as easily felled as a crab.” At once his resolve was made ; life seemed suddenly to have an aim ; duty, however irksome, should be fulfilled, every spare hour should be devoted to self-culture. He would bear sneers and insults with what patience he could command, keeping ever in view the higher standard of life his father’s words were intended to convey. His determination was rigidly carried out, and it was not long ere the sneers and jests had to make way for respect and trust on the part of teachers and pupils.

Soon after, Mr. Ainslabie, the head master, entrusted him with the school accounts, and also assigned to him the task of making out the bills for the boys’ parents. This extra labour, although it brought with it no remuneration, gave him a practical knowledge which was of much value to him in after life. It brought him also into constant direct intercourse with the head master, and this in its turn led to a new phase in the lad’s existence, which tended still more to develop in him powers of self-denial and self- reliance. We shall let him tell the incident that led to this new epoch in his career.



” Once past the small town of Kirkby-Stephen, the country extended for miles in heather-covered moors. Thickly tenanted with grouse, they stretched wild and desolate for a great distance towards Bowes. Mr. Ainslabie shot over these moors, and one day took me with him to carry his spare gun. We had gone a weary way, and the sportsman had not yet had one successful shot. Mr. Ainslabie at last sent me to the other side of one of the tarns to flush grouse for him. A party of gentlemen, with guns, dogs, and keepers, were strolling over that part of the moor. One of them, perceiving me, stepped forward and asked me did I not know I was trespassing, and that I had no right to walk about carrying a gun ? Quite unembarrassed, I explained my position, said I had not fired a single shot, but was simply carrying my master’s gun. My interlocutor dismissed me with a caution, and showing me the boundary line bid me not trespass again, even though I should not fire a shot.

brace-of-grouseThe gentleman who thus addressed me was, strange to say, Lord Stanley, son of the kind old earl of my Knowsley school-days. However, it happened that before I reached the limit of the forbidden ground a grouse rose at my feet. The temptation was great; in an instant my finger was on the trigger. I fired, and to my delight and surprise the grouse fell. I heard a loud laugh behind me ; all my sportsman instincts were aroused. I resolved to try my luck again. Keen eyesight and unerring precision served my turn, and with my single gun I brought down three brace of grouse. Great was the astonishment of Mr. Ainslabie, who, waiting for me, had shot only one brace, when I appeared and laid the spoil at his feet ! ”

The vision of a new quarry now opened upon the master. The steady aim and cool nerve of this young fellow must be turned to account. Grouse and fish fetched good prices in the market, and a dead shot at Eden Hall would be a valuable acquisition. Forthwith young Walmsley was sent to the moors to turn his talent to account. They stretched far and wide towards the north, the sweeping shadows of the clouds alone varying the purple monotony of the heather, with here and there a black tarn full of fish that no one thought of disturbing. Thus Sir Joshua describes his life among the moors :

” My gun, ammunition, a bag wherein to bestow the game, a luncheon consisting of a slice of black bread and a piece of wheelbarrow trundle cheese, composed my equipment, and very soon the funds of Eden Hall so profited by my gun, that instead of the day being spent on the moor and the night in my bed in the dormitory, it came to pass I was sent of on excursions of a fortnight’s duration. A donkey cart was allotted to me to carry the ammunition and a considerable amount of black bread and trundle cheese. A companion, by name Francis, was also given me. This Francis was the “Smike “ of Eden Hall. He a tall athletic lad of respectable parentage, whose father, having placed him in the school, completely neglected him. After some time, from pupil he became the drudge of the establishment, performing all the repulsive work of the place It was a lucky day for poor Francis, that on which that Mr. Ainslabie found out my sporting capacities ; for to spend days and nights on the moors was release from captivity for our ‘Smike.’  His duty was to carry the gun and fishing-gear.

We dragged the tarns by night, and when a goodly cargo of grouse had been shot Francis would harness the donkey to the cart, and taking charge of game and fish, would deliver all to the head master.rye-bread-and-cheese We got no share of the booty, but if our provisions were exhausted, Francis would receive a fresh supply of black bread and trundle cheese, with which he would rejoin me at our headquarters on the moor. It was usually by the side of a stream or by one of the tarns that we encamped. The donkey unharnessed found his own provisions during the daytime, while at night he would be tethered near. If the weather was fine we slept in the open, if wet or windy we turned the donkey-cart and slept under its friendly shelter. By sunrise we were afoot again, and after a bath in the stream, and a breakfast of black bread and cheese hard as flint, on to our hunter’s life again. Each meal consisted of the same unvarying fare washed down with water. Scrupulously, as if the master’s eye had counted every bird and fish, we sent home all the game we killed. Between each campaign I returned to the school-room, studied, taught, and had charge of the bills.”

We suspect that this Spartan life in the wild moorland did more to fit young Walmsley for the future that lay before him than could any school or college of the time. When the two lads that shared it together met in later years, one was a knight and a member of parliament, the other   – the humble Smike -a prosperous magistrate.

In the spring of 1811, a misunderstanding between young Walmsley and his master’s brother brought this chapter of his career to a close. The lad longed for a wider field of action than the Eden Hall School opened the prospect of, yet he would have waited longer ere taking the decisive step had not this quarrel occurred.

“One morning, in the spring of 1811, carrying all my worldly goods — they were not a heavy load — I bade farewell to Eden Hall. I travelled by carrier as far as Kendal, then took an outside seat on the conveyance that at Warrington met the Liverpool coach. After I had paid my fare but a few shillings remained in my pocket. Yet my heart beat high with hope as I turned my face towards the scene of my future labours ; and all the way I seemed to hear my father’s words :   ‘Jos will be mayor of Liverpool some day.’  “

Sir Josh is a great great great great grandfather

The Hon Mrs Charles Russell (1867–1959).

Hon. Mrs Charles Russell, by John Singer Sargent 1908


This painting is an autograph copy of the original painting entitled “The Honorable Mrs Charles Russell”, painted by Sargent  in 1900, and is now in a Californian private collection. This copy was painted in 1908, and is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum  in Madrid.

The main reason for starting to work out who she was,  came from Frank Purssell and Lily Kuyper’s wedding in June 1896. In the guests listed are Mr and Mrs Charles Russell, sandwiched between ” Mr. Everard Green,…. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Russell,…. Mr. Bradshaw Isherwood,”. 

Everard Green was the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant in the College of Heralds 1893; and the Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries 1897. A convert to the Church, and one of the Catholic great and the good. Mr Bradshaw Isherwood was the uncle of Christopher Isherwood, the novelist and playwright. He was the elder brother and inherited the family estate at Marple Hall, near Stockport, eventually leaving the estate to Christopher. Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood married into the Bagshawes in about 1910 becoming the rather absurd Henry Bradshaw-Isherwood-Bradshawe on marriage.

So who were Mr and Mrs Charles Russell?  They were guests at a grand society wedding, and a grand Catholic wedding at that. So working on that basis, and using our old friend the Catholic Who’s Who, the only realistic candidates are the Hon. Charles Russell (8 July 1863 – 27 March 1928) and his wife Adah Adeline Walmsley Russell, neé Adah Adeline Walmsley Williams (1867–1959).  Charles Russell was a solicitor and local politician, and the second son of Charles Russell, Baron Russell of Killowen. His father received his peerage shortly before becoming Lord Chief Justice in 1894.

In 1896, Charles was still Mr Charles Russell, even if he was the Hon. Charles Russell from 1894, once his father had received his peerage. He was the second son, and third child of ten brothers and sisters. Rather neatly, five boys and five girls; at least three of the boys were lawyers, and Charles’s younger brother Frank became a Law Lord following in the footsteps of their father who was Lord Chief Justice, and he, in turn, was followed by his (Frank’s) son Charles who was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1975. All three took the same title of Baron Russell of Killowen.

So, Charles Russell was a successful lawyer in 1896, eventually receiving a baronetcy in 1916 when he became Sir Charles Russell. We’ll come back to him in another post

The next paragraph from the description of the picture on the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection website was slightly startling  “Adah Adeline Russell, neé Adah Williams, was the granddaughter of Sir Joshua Walmsley, one of the founders of the London Daily News. In 1889 she married Sir Charles Russell, a union that produced a single daughter. Her husband was a solicitor, best known today as instructor for Lord Carson during the trial in which Carson successfully defended the marquis of Queensbury against the charges of libel brought by Oscar Wilde. The acquittal led to the writer’s own criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and early death in 1900, the year Mrs. Russell was painted.”

The Oscar Wilde bit’s interesting, but from my point of view the Joshua Walmsley bit was one of those weird coincidences that explode every so often. Is this the same Sir Joshua Walmsley we’ve come across before?

It is  the same person,  so we have, rather bizarrely, stumbled across a portrait of a first cousin [five times removed] whilst trying to work out who’s who at a great, great uncle’s wedding. Even better, and in an attempt to discover more about a one hundred and twenty year old wedding, we have the pleasing symmetry of this only being made possible by another wedding, sixty years later.

It worthwhile leaving the rest of the description from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection regarding the portrait, though I’m not entirely sure that I agree with all the phrasing………….

“John Singer Sargent first painted Mrs Charles Russell in 1900, exhibiting the portrait (San Francisco, California, Private Collection), among his eight entries at the Royal Academy the following year. He was at the apex of his career as a portrait painter, but would soon turn away from the profession, tiring of painting images of the fatuous elite. His portrait of Mrs. Russell, however, the critics quickly noticed, was a singularly haunting, introspective image, a portrait that provoke a number of unanswered questions. “What he tells us of this pathetic face is very interesting and very sad,” wrote one reviewer, while another observed that “the face is of extraordinary character, infinite pathos, and a masterpiece of painting […] the face haunts us, with its sad eyes and intellectual distress. Who shall read the secret so surely set there?” “

Little is known of the enigmatic sitter. Mrs. Russell, neé Adah Williams, was the granddaughter of Sir Joshua Walmsley, one of the founders of the London Daily News. In 1889 she married Sir Charles Russell, a union that produced a single daughter. Her husband was a solicitor, best known today as instructor for Lord Carson during the trial in which Carson successfully defended the marquis of Queensbury against the charges of libel brought by Oscar Wilde. The acquittal led to the writer’s own criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and early death in 1900, the year Mrs. Russell was painted.

Describing the painting in 1925, William Howe Downs wrote of the “nervous face, the long, slim neck, and the sensitive hands” as well as the sad eyes and mouth. The tense, nervous quality found in Mrs. Russell, recent scholarship has pointed out, is a salient feature in many of Sargent’s portraits. The perceptive critic, Royal Cortissoz, writing in 1924, considered it the very aspect that made Sargent “modern” and that it identified him with the spirit of his time. Each century, Cortissoz felt, had a prevailing impulse. While the mood of the 18th was “cerebral,” “nervous” was the quality of the 19th. “What Sargent has had to portray has been a restless race,” he wrote, “the conclusively representative Sargent in this matter of modernity is the alert ‘Mrs. Boit’ or the tense ‘Mrs. Charles Russell.”

Two drawings are known to exist which relate to the painting, one in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the other, in The Harvard University Art Museums. They capture the gesture of the sitter, but in each, the poignancy of Mrs. Russell’s features is only suggested. In the drawings, however, most noticeably in the Boston version, the hands assume a greater importance and reveal in a nervous fluttering of fingers, the apprehensive tenseness of Mrs. Russell.

The Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza 1908 replica of Mrs Charles Russell, painted at the very time Sargent abandoned his career as a portraitist, remains as puzzling as the sitter. No mention of it seem to have appeared in the Sargent literature. More vivaciously executed than the 1900 portrait, it nevertheless duplicates, almost stroke by stroke, Sargent’s handling in the earlier version. Only the lamp, which still remains in the artist’s family, is indicated in a more cursory manner. The signature, which has been questioned as unusual for the artist, is now placed below the ledge of the table rather than at the bottom left of the canvas-hardly typical in the work of a copyist. While few replicas of Sargent’s portraits exist, the artist twice painted Baron Russell of Killowen, Mrs. Russell’s father-in-law, in 1899 and a replica in 1900. The one clue to the painting’s significance, the inscription “Alice Copley, Boston” on the back of the canvas, has so far proven unproductive. “

Sister Mary of St Wilfrid 1846 -1927


Church Row, Hampstead

 Mary Adela Lescher, [Sister Mary of St Wilfrid] (1846–1927),known as Adela in the family, was born at 17 Church Row, Hampstead. She was the second of  five children of Joseph Sidney Lescher (1803–1893), and Sarah Harwood(1812 – 1856).  Joseph Sidney was a partner of the wholesale chemists Evans, Lescher, and Evans. His father William Lescher (1768 – 1817), had emigrated from Alsace, France, in 1778, before the French Revolution. Family tradition holds that “Lescher of Kertzfeld” received his patent of nobility in the reign of Louis XIII, in the middle of the C17th. The Leschers were Roman Catholics. His wife, Sarah Harwood , Mary’s mother, was the daughter of a West India merchant in Bristol and a member of a staunch Baptist family, but she converted to Catholicism two years after her marriage. The eldest brother, Frank Harwood Lescher is Patrick Grehan III’s son-in-law; Adela was a year older than Wilfrid (1847–1916), who was ordained a Dominican priest in 1864. Mary’s only sister Abigail, died in 1844 at the age of five. The youngest brother was Herman (1849 – 1897) who died of flu in 1897, aged just forty-eight.

Adela was educated by governesses at home, and in France, where the family had gone for health reasons, until her mother’s death in 1856; after which she was sent to the Benedictine school at Winchester, Hampshire (later at East Bergholt in Suffolk), where she had an aunt, Caroline Lescher (1802 – 1868) known as Dame Mary Frances,O.S.B.; in a slightly curious twist another cousin of Adela’s, her first cousin Agnes, [daughter of William Joseph Lescher (1799 – 1865) and another of Caroline Lescher’s nieces was Lady Abbess at Bergholt from 1888 until 1904, and know as Dame Mary Gertrude. She attended the Dominican school at Stone for a short time. She left boarding-school in 1864 and continued her studies in languages, music, and literature at home under her brother’s former tutor.

Mary had two older cousins, Frances Lescher (Sister Mary of St Philip), who was the principal of Notre Dame Teacher Training College at Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, and Ann Lescher (Sister Mary of St Michael), who was also a sister in the Institute of Notre Dame, as well as their youngest sister Agnes (Dame Mary Gertrude).   In May 1869 she entered the mother house of the Notre Dame order, dedicated “to teach the poor in the most neglected places”, at Namur, Belgium, and took the name Sister Mary of St Wilfrid. She returned to England in September 1871 as a professed sister to teach in the Notre Dame boarding-school at Clapham, London. After a bout of rheumatic fever she convalesced at Mount Pleasant and was then appointed to the college staff there to lecture in botany, English, and music. In 1886 she became mistress of the boarders, instructed the senior girls, and taught psychology. In 1892 she was appointed superior of Everton Valley Convent, Liverpool, which ran a convent day school, several elementary schools, and a pupil-teacher centre where boarders were prepared for entry into the Mount Pleasant Training College.

In April 1893 Archbishop Eyre of Glasgow invited the Sisters of Notre Dame to establish a Roman Catholic teacher training college in Scotland which would relieve female students from the need of travelling to Liverpool or London for training. A site was chosen at Dowanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, near the university, which had just opened its classes to women. The college was officially established in December 1893 with Sister Mary of St Wilfrid as its first principal, assisted by four sisters. The first female Roman Catholic teachers to receive their training in Scotland began their course of study in January 1895. Sister Mary of St Wilfrid took an active part in the training of the students and through her singleness of purpose made the venture a success.

A major achievement of Notre Dame College was the development of practical science teaching and the revolutionizing of biology teaching. A ‘practising school’, which was to include both a secondary school and the first Montessori school in Glasgow, was opened next to the college in 1897 and new schools were opened in Dumbarton (together with a convent) in 1908 and Milngavie in 1912. A staunch member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Sister Mary of St Wilfrid encouraged all her students to join. As sister superior she was manager of the Notre Dame schools until May 1919, when Notre Dame Training College was transferred to the national scheme and came under the control of the national committee for the training of teachers. She retired as sister superior in 1919. She had been instrumental in founding a Notre Dame association for former students and the Glasgow University Catholic Women’s Association. She also set up a branch of the Scottish Needlework Guild to make garments for the poor and vestments for missions, and, after a stay in a nursing home in 1904, had set up the Association of Catholic Nurses of the Sick. Sister Mary of St Wilfrid died at Notre Dame Convent, Dowanhill, Glasgow, on 7 May 1927, and was buried on 11 May at Dalbeth cemetery.

[,] with additions.

Fr Philip O’Bryen 1861 – 1913

Philip O’Bryen is one of Ernest O’Bryen‘s older brothers. To be precise, he is four years older.

Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen

Philip, Celia, and Alfred OBryen

He was born 25th Jun 1861 in South Kensington, and died 7th Nov 1913. He is the third son of John Roche O’Bryen and Celia Grehan, one of their six children. He is a half brother of Mgr Henry O’Bryen, and Corinne and Basil O’Bryen by his father’s marriage to Eliza Henderson.

His obituary from the Tablet gives some clues.

The Tablet 15th November 1913


We regret to record the death of the Rev. Philip Augustus O’Bryen, rector of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Princes Park, Liverpool which occurred on Friday afternoon, November 7, with startling suddenness. His morning had been spent in active work in the parish. After saying an early Mass at 6.45, he heard confessions and took Holy Communion to eight sick people. Between breakfast and noon he visited the sick in the Consumption Hospital, and returned home about midday. Feeling unwell and in considerable pain, he took to his bed. A little before three he was visited by one of his curates; at three he was found dead, having succumbed to heart failure, arising from rheumatism, to which he had, been subject since an attack of rheumatic fever in his student days at Ushaw.

Father O’Bryen, who was a cousin of Archbishop Bagshawe, was born in Westminster in 1861. He received his early education under the Christian Brothers, at Clapham, and went in 1872 to Ushaw, where he remained eighteen years, four of which were occupied in teaching. He was a B.A. of London University. Ordained at the English Martyrs’, Preston, in 1889, by Bishop O’Reilly, he was immediately appointed Professor of Mathematics and Science at St. Edward’s College, Liverpool, where he remained until his appointment as assistant priest at the important mission of the Sacred Heart, Liverpool, in 1895. Towards the end of the following year he was placed over the Mission of St. Joseph, Skerton, near Lancaster. On his arrival he found only a school chapel, but through the generosity of the late Miss Margaret Coulston he was able to build the present magnificent church and presbytery. In 1902 he succeeded the Rev. Father Pyke, now of the English Martyrs’, Preston, at Mount Carmel, Liverpool, and applied the funds raised by his predecessor in connection with the silver jubilee of the mission to erect a roodscreen and effect other improvements. His first important work in his new sphere was the division of his parish, and he superintended the building of St. Malachy’s Church, the foundation stone of which was laid some ten years ago by Cardinal Logue.

Requiem Masses for the soul of the deceased priest were said in several Liverpool churches. On Sunday evening the remains were taken to the church, where a crowded congregation had assembled. A solemn dirge was recited on Monday evening. The funeral took place on Tuesday, when a High Mass of Requiem was sung at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the deacon being Father Newton (Eccles), and the subdeacon Father J. Fitzgerald. Dean Goethals and Father J. Broadhead (vice-president of Ushaw) were deacons at the throne, and Father H. Blanchard was master of ceremonies. The music of the Mass was sung by the clergy diocesan choir, under the direction of Father A. Walmsley (Great Crosby.) The relatives present were Mr. and Mrs. Alfred O’Bryen, Mr. R. O’Bryen and Mr. B. Smith. The clergy present included Canons Kennedy and Hennelly (Birkenhead), Prior Burge, 0.S.B., Dom Wilson, 0.S.B., and Dean O’Donoghue (Wigan). The sermon was preached by the Rev. Father J. Hughes, who spoke highly of the character and work of the deceased.

The remains were taken to London, and the interment took place at Fulham Catholic Cemetery on Wednesday.—R.I.P.