CHAPTER III. – This is 1815. On Saturday 24th June, six days after the Battle of Waterloo Joshua Walmsley and Adeline Mulleneux got married at St. James’ church in Toxteth. He was twenty-one years old, she was nineteen. It’s not quite the romantic tale uncle Hugh tells us below. As can be seen from the marriage register, it was a conventional marriage, the banns would have been read aloud on three Sundays before the wedding ceremony, and not a rush straight to the church to find a vicar to marry them instantly. This is however a chapter that contains almost all the detail about any sort of personal life.
When Joshua Walmsley obtained the long-wished-for post, he had a stronger incentive to push his fortune than the remembrance of his father’s prognostics — the only woman he had ever loved had promised to become his wife. We can dwell but lightly on the details of this story of a love that began in childhood, and endured to the last day of a long and eventful life.
” When I was seven years old,” he says, ” I met at a dancing-school Adeline Mulleneux, aged six. She was the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant. I remember we noticed each other the first day of my arrival. Soon after I was allowed to escort her home from the dancing-school, and very proud I felt to be her protector. We played together in the old court, and we loved each other. A story is still told how a portrait of Adeline, as a baby, was shown to me. It represented her sitting in her mother’s lap, grasping three enormous cherries in her tiny fingers.“Do you like it?’ asked Mrs, Mulleneux. After gazing solemnly at it for a long time, it is related that I answered: ‘Yes, but I like herself much better.’ The family bantered little Adeline on the conquest she had made ; but we were soon separated, for the state of my father’s affairs obliged him to send his children into the country. Years elapsed, and we met again at Mr. Knowles’ school Adeline Mulleneux, who was now eighteen, came there to take drawing lessons, and as I was the principal teacher, we met. Once more we became intimate, and once more we loved each other. When I took my seat on the high stool in Mr. Carter’s office, with a salary of forty pounds [present-day value about £35,000], and a prospect of seventy [present-day value about £75,000] in four years, she had promised to become my wife when I should be in somewhat more prosperous circumstances.”
” I now took a modest lodging at Edge Hill, and resolved to live upon one shilling a day [That works out to £18,5s. per year which would have a present-day value about £16,500]. Bread and milk for breakfast, a penny roll and a basin of soup were my daily bill of fare. My duties were those that fall to apprentices in a large establishment — the post- office, petty cash, and the copying of letters. I thought the time must still be very far off when I could walk into Mr. Mulleneux’s house and ask the rich merchant to give me his daughter. But I had her promise and knew it was steadfast enough to stand any test, and for my part, above all other prizes, my mind was set to win this one.”
Here then we find the young man in possession of the long-coveted berth in a merchant’s office. The old days with their irksome duties have passed away, leaving only wholesome traces of their hard discipline. His new duties were subordinate, and could train him to be only an ordinary clerk, and in this routine he might have remained for years, but he determined to make himself of special value to his employers. His natural energy spurred him on ; and then there was, too, that secret incentive, that goal which he kept ever in view, and which, sooner than he thought, was to crown the runner with victory. Thus he tells how he set about acquiring a knowledge of grain, which was the qualification of most value in the office of Messrs. Carter and Piers : —
” Old Peter Evans was their warehouseman. He was a practical man of the old school, and liked to see a lad eager to learn, and when I questioned him about samples of grain he answered readily. Peter was willing to teach me all he knew. Twice a week before breakfast, and long before my appointed hour for work, he and I used to meet and go together to the stores and ships. The old man would take samples and show them to me. The number and variety of grain at first bewildered me. It seemed a hopeless task trying to learn to distinguish them all. But perseverance conquered in the end. Peter now began to take pride in a pupil who was mastering the mysteries and intricacies of grain. He grew ingenious in devices to puzzle me, till at last I was a match for all his resources. Then he would take a handful of every sort of grain and pulse — English, Irish, Scotch, foreign — and spreading them before me, ask the quality, weight, and condition of each ; of what county, province, and country they were, with such observations as the case required. All the while he watched me from under his shaggy eyebrows, and would give a satisfied growl when the answer proved correct.”
” Peter prided himself on possessing a knowledge of grain beyond anyone in Liverpool, and I was on the way of becoming as great an adept as himself. No one knew of these early meetings in the stores and ships, and my employers wondered at my sharpness. Customers also soon discovered my proficiency, and sometimes consulted me in preference to old Peter.”
” Scarcely had I been a year in Mr. Carter’s service when the traveller and salesman, Mr. Robinson, a very able man, gave notice, on his entering into partnership with one of the leading merchants of Liverpool. This was a serious loss, and Mr. Carter, puzzled how to fill up the vacancy, consulted his retiring salesman. Mr. Robinson pointed me out as the man best fitted to fill the post. Accordingly it was offered to me, but no mention was made of an increase of salary, although my predecessor’s had been a large one. Morally speaking, however, the rise was a great one, and I closed with the offer at once.”
The year 1815 was a memorable one for England and Liverpool. Peace with America was restored. On a brilliant spring morning in April, the British flag flying at her mainmast, the American at her mizen peak, the Mild sailed up the Mersey — the first American vessel, come on a peaceful enterprise, that had entered the port for nearly three years. Some months later came news of Waterloo and of Bonaparte’s final downfall. But the year was to be marked for the young man by an event, more important to himself personally than the vast changes which were gradually being effected.
Mr. [Hugh] Mulleneux refused to sanction his daughter’s engagement. The wealthy merchant had more ambitious views for his child than a marriage with a poor clerk with no apparent prospects ; but the lovers were not to be deterred by such considerations. They were willing to wait, but determined to be faithful to one another. According to the ordinary course of events, there could hardly be a more unrealisable romance than was theirs. Any jury of wise men would have given a unanimous verdict against the marriage. A poor clerk, with a salary of fifty pounds per annum, and a prospect of seventy pounds, whose compulsory economy amounted to extreme privation, offering himself to a lady of position and expectations, with no other plea than that she loved him.Family prejudices and family prudence had to yield to it, nevertheless, and it was not the modest lover who precipitated the crisis. They met one day and spoke to each other in presence of Mr. Mulleneux. That afternoon, Mr. Walmsley received a note bidding him attend next morning at the office of Mr. Mulleneux’s eldest son[also called Hugh]. Never did a day of more perplexing foreboding break upon the course of true love, for the note was couched in terms that showed some decision was pending.
The account of that interview and its result we give in Mr. Walmsley’s words :
” I went at the appointed hour with a beating heart : what new turn of affairs did this meeting bode? In a corner of the room Adeline sat, brightening the dingy office to me. Young Mulleneux’s expression was very stern as he looked at me, and, pointing to his sister, said :
‘ Are you prepared to marry this lady?’
The question was meant for a clincher. The thought of my poverty rushed full upon me ; but there was no sign of fear in Adeline’s face.
‘ Yes,’ I answered boldly.
” But when, sir ? ‘ asked my interlocutor derisively.
‘ At once,’ I replied quietly.
“ Perhaps I had better send for a coach ? ‘ said young Mr. Mulleneux ironically.
‘ We can walk,’ I answered undauntedly, going up to my betrothed. There was no faltering in the hand she laid upon my arm. To St. James’ Church we accordingly walked ; but none of the necessary preliminaries had been gone through, and the clergyman refused to perform the ceremony. We made an appointment to be at church the next morning at half-past ten.
Matters having reached this pass, Mr. Mulleneux made no further opposition. ‘ Let them marry,’ he said, ‘ but I will never see them again.’
At half-past ten next morning we met at the altar. The ceremony was performed. Adeline Mulleneux and I plighted our troths to each other. Then we parted ; I to return to my work, my wife to go to the house of friends, but not to her home.
” On my entering the office, Mr. Carter’s greeting showed he knew the reason of my late arrival. ‘Are you aware of the cost of living ? ‘ he asked me with a grim smile. I knew the cost well ; and, although I was supremely happy, I was not without misgivings.”
CHAPTER II. – This chapter covers 1809 to 1814. It is also the final mention of Josh’s sister, in the sentence “His sister was a teacher in that town.”[Liverpool]. All in all, she is only mentioned in three sentences in the entire book, and never named.
Two years before, in company with Mr. Ainslabie, young Walmsley had visited Liverpool. “I found my native town much altered,” he says. ” Dale Street had been widened ; a new, and what seemed to me a very stately edifice — the Exchange — had been built, and the Athenaeum, in Church Street, replaced the old news-room in Bates’ Hotel, at the lower end of Lord Street. The pipes from the waterworks of Bootle did duty for the water-carts going from door to door, as I remembered them in my childhood. Although there were trees in Church Street, a windmill on the top of Duke Street, hedgerows and lawns beyond Rodney Street, which was then an outskirt of the town, pasture-land where Cornwallis Street is now, and though it was open country beyond Lime Street, yet Liverpool seemed to me a magnificent city. Its principal streets — Lord Street, Church Street, and Bold Street — were then un-flagged, the only footway they could boast of being composed of pebbles stuck on end. At night the town was lit by oil-lamps, few and far between, that flickered and blew out when the wind was high. It was guarded by a police composed of sixty old men, known as the ‘ old Charlies,’ so aged and feeble, that the inhabitants could only account for their filling the post by supposing that, when men were considered too decrepit for any other employment, they were elected guardians of the public safety.”
“The inhabitants of Liverpool at that time were ninety thousand, and seven thousand sailors in the port. Such was the Liverpool of that day. But even then there were vast docks — St. George’s Dock being the last in one direction and the Queen’s Dock in the other ; nor must I forget the ‘ Old Tower,’ used as a debtors’ prison. On the other side of the Mersey was Birkenhead, where the old Priory stood alone, fields stretching away all round it. That side of the river was almost terra incognito few, unless compelled to do so, caring to trust themselves in the small ferry- boats. It was war-time then, and I gazed with awe at the seventy-five guns looming black in their embrasures, mounted on the North Fort. I sometimes walked off towards Bootle, to see another smaller fort mounting some nine or ten guns. But above all I was never wearied watching the docks, the shipping, and the old guardship the Princess. The press-gang was so active it was unsafe for landsmen to be abroad after dark. Morning might find them on board the Princess, vainly endeavouring to soften the heart of the captain — the genial, hard-drinking old sailor — Sam Colquit.”
” There were constant fights going on between the sailors and the press-gang men. At times these riots were so serious that the volunteers had to be called out. Sailors homeward bound in merchantmen, to escape being caught, would go ashore on reaching the rock at the mouth of the Mersey, and make their way to Everton, or some adjacent village, for safety. Privateers sailed out daily, and occasionally returned followed by a captured prize. Often, too, the sound of guns might be heard on the river ; for the French trying to lay an embargo on the coast, merchant vessels had to sail under convoy, when some dashing frigate, taking charge, would fire into any obstinate skipper that refused to obey the pennant. This hubbub of adventure, warfare, and commerce contrasted strangely with the half-gipsy, half-sportsman life I led on Stanemoor. During that holiday, two years ago, I had sought for employment, but 1809 was a year of commercial panic. The Berlin decrees were telling on the trade of the port, with all the dire consequences Napoleon had foreseen. Prices were at famine height. While such a state of things existed, merchants had neither the desire nor the enterprise to take in new hands. My efforts to find employment had failed.”
Now, in 1811, with a meagre purse and scarcely a friend to look to, the young man was once more on his way to Liverpool. His sister was a teacher in that town, where also his father’s brother lived ; but the latter was poor and had a large family. Joshua Walmsley resolved not to seek out his relations until he had found a situation. Should mercantile occupation fail him, he would try his fortune out in the Indies : some merchants, whose names he remembered, had promised his father to find employment for him out there. Resolving these projects in his mind, he travelled on towards Liverpool and the future. ” I decided,” he says, “to go to a house in Manisty Lane, where I had lodged with Mr. Ainslabie. The people had been kind to me then, and I would seek them out now. And so when the coach drove into the place, and the narrow streets of my native town passed before me, my mind was made up, and I felt not altogether friendless in it. I gave the guard one shilling and sixpence, and had a shilling left. I was not mistaken, the good folks were poor ; but they welcomed me and listened to my story. I made a clean breast of it ; told all I had borne till I could bear it no longer, and said I had now come to seek my fortunes here. It was at once agreed that I should have a bed and my meals with them, and that I should pay them when I had found employment — time enough then. They gave me hope and courage, although there was no disguising it, these were bad times for Liverpool. The poor had no bread, and they told me peas, potatoes, and rice had been bought in large quantities by a committee of benevolent men, who sold them at reduced prices to the needy. The quartern [quarter of a pint] loaf was selling at one shilling and sixpence ; a paper was circulating, calling on the rich to use flour sparingly, to allow no pastry in their houses, and to use no bread that had not been baked twenty-four hours, also to give reduced rations of oats to their horses. Bacon that some time ago was fourpence a pound was now one shilling and twopence, and cheese had risen in proportion. These were hard times for the poor of Liverpool, but the dock trustees had raised a loan to employ as many hands as they could during the winter. The honest couple had in no way exaggerated the distress, and they were among the poor.”
” Next morning when I awoke I realised that now, indeed, life was beginning in earnest for me. Immediately after breakfast I set out on my quest The sight of the vast docks and the shipping somewhat reassured me. Surely there must be some humble berth that I could fill which might prove a stepping-stone to the future. Young, strong, active, fairly educated, resolved to give the best that was in me in exchange for a salary that would enable me to live, my hope of success seemed to me based on reasonable ground.”
” That day I went to several warehouses, knocked at the doors of many offices. At some I was dismissed with a curt refusal, at others I was asked for references. I had none to give. This first day was a complete failure, without one glimpse of encouragement. From morning to night for several days I went from office to office, from warehouse to warehouse. In the evening, wearied after the fruitless day’s tramp, I lost hope, but with the morning it revived. There must be surely some berth, some work for me in this huge commercial world, and that berth and that work I would find. They must not be lost for lack of searching.”
” At last hope began outright to wane. The East Indian scheme proved a failure ; the merchants had forgotten their promises. The same answer met me everywhere. Times were bad and I had no references. On the tenth morning I heard of a vacant situation. It was not at a merchant’s office but at a pawnbroker’s.”
“Still, it was an opening, and might serve to keep the wolf from my door. By means of it I might at least obtain the needed references. I went, determined to take what I could find. The master was a Jew, he offered me scarce enough to sustain life, in exchange for which I was to give continuous labour from early morning till a late hour of the night, including in this the cleaning of the boots and shoes of the establishment. I could not stand this last clause, and broke off negotiations instantly. Then at last I lost heart.”
“That night I faced the truth ; my boots were worn out — my money spent — I was living on charity. It had almost broken my heart, returning weary and worn out night after night to have to tell my kind hostess the sad tale of my daily failure, but she had always bidden me to cheer up. This night I saw it could go on no longer, so I determined I would see my aunt and uncle next day.”
” They lived in Toxteth Park. He was a clerk in the post-office, and she a bright hard-working woman, helping her husband to bring up their six children by keeping a night-school. She received me kindly. It was not right, she said, I should be dependent upon strangers. If, after further efforts, I failed in procuring what I had so set my heart upon, she advised me to try a night-school. Till then she invited me to remain with them.”
” The thought of opening a night-school was galling to me. Teaching was weariness and a slavery. To return to it was returning to the bondage I had escaped from. It was death to all the dreams and hopes I had nurtured for two years, and an abandonment of all chance of fulfilling my father’s prophecy. After a few more desperate and bootless efforts to find a berth in a merchant’s office I set myself to carry out my aunt’s suggestion. I took two small rooms in Toxteth Park. I made it known in every house in the neighbourhood that I had opened a night-school for adults. My training at Kirkby Stephen had stood me in good stead. Soon my two rooms were filled so that they could hold no more. My reputation as teacher spread, and day work came besides. I taught writing and arithmetic in a gentleman’s school in Rodney Street. Still, my few spare hours were spent in seeking for that longed-for clerkship, no matter how modest it might be, in a merchant’s office. I was soon in what might be said to be flourishing pecuniary circumstances. I paid off my debts to my friends in Manisty Lane and to my aunt.”
War had broken out with America, and was involving the commercial world in chaos. Men who were rich in the morning were beggars by night, and vice versa ; a victory or a defeat determining the issues. As may be imagined, it was a period of intense excitement and widespread distress. In his new career, Mr. Walmsley had made the acquaintance of Mr. Knowles, a gentleman who kept one of the larger schools in Liverpool, a man of large connections and much experience of the world. His principal teacher having left him, Mr. Knowles offered the vacant post to the young master of the night- school.
To accept the offer seemed like riveting the chain of bondage. The very precariousness of his present mode of existence appeared to Mr. Walmsley a sort of pledge that it was not to last for ever. ” The idea was intolerable to me,” he says, ” that life should go on a prolonged weary repetition of Kirkby Stephen. The pay also was smaller than my own earnings. I hesitated. ‘ I shall use all my influence to procure you mercantile employment,’ said Mr. Knowles, knowing well the bait he was offering.”
”That moment the bargain was struck between us. Lower pay than what I earned by my night-school and daily lessons; but the hope that promise held out was better than money.I accepted. Eighteen months elapsed, during which Mr. Knowles gave no sign that he remembered his promise, and accordingly I remonstrated. In answer, he offered me a partnership in the school — partnership in this school meant four or five hundred a year. Two years ago, I had entered Liverpool with a slender knapsack on my back, with a well-nigh empty purse, and high hopes. It might be thought that these hopes were more than realised in this proposal. At twenty, to receive the offer of a post worth four hundred a year.For one moment only I hesitated, and then I respectfully but firmly declined the offer. Had I accepted, I knew my fate would have been sealed. A fate that would have been bondage to me.”
The singleness of purpose that had actuated the young man throughout this period of his life was sure to have its reward. In Mr. Knowles’ school were two boys of the name of Carter. Their father was a large grain merchant in Liverpool. Mr. Walmsley had gained the boys’ affection, and was occasionally invited down on a Sunday to their father’s country house in Wavertree; for Wavertree was then broad country, miles distant from any street of the town. The spring of 1814 had come — a spring that seemed to inaugurate an era of peace and revived commerce. Bonaparte had taken leave of his Old Guard in the court of the palace of Fontainebleau, and peace was signed between France and England. In that month of May, Liverpool began to participate in the trade with India, the monopoly of which had, since the time of Queen Elizabeth, belonged to the East India Company. The Kingsmill, on the 27th May, 1814, was the first ship that ever sailed from Liverpool to India. There was hope also now that our differences with America would speedily be settled. Bright days were coming at last.
In this improved condition of affairs an opportunity presented itself for Mr. Walmsley to make his wishes known to Mr. Carter. The grain merchant wanted a clerk. The salary was forty pounds to begin with, rising ten pounds annually, and the contract was to last four years. ” I had just refused four hundred a year,” he says, ” but here was an opening to the career I had so long coveted, and though the salary was so small, I offered myself to Mr. Carter, and was accepted. The contract was signed. For four years I was bound to serve Messrs. Carter and Piers, at the above-named salary. It was a modest sum. But what cared I ? Had I not fed upon rye bread and wheelbarrow cheese for weeks together, and slept on the wild moors, with a donkey-cart for shelter on rough nights? All I thought of was, that it allowed me to plant my foot upon the first rung of the ladder, and it would be no fault of mine if I did not reach the topmost. My father’s words rang in my ears, ‘Remember, lad, an apple is as easily felled as a crab,’ and his other prophecy as well, like that of Bow bells to Whittington ; ‘Jos will be mayor of Liverpool some day.’ On the 12th June, 1814, I turned my back upon Mr. Knowles’ school and my usher life for ever, and took my place on the high stool in Mr. Carter’s office.”
CHAPTER I. 1794 until 1811. This first chapter contains some of the few, very few, details about Josh’s family. In part it covers Josh’s “ half-gipsy, half-sportsman life led on Stanemoor” [his words] up in Cumbria. It is so fantastical that it probably owes more to C19th romantic novels rather than real life. He was, without doubt, highly successful in business leaving an estate of £140,000 when he died in 1871 [a modern equivalent of just over £ 97m.] Whether he really managed to get there from a few shillings in his pocket in 1811, or was rather creating a rags to riches story is almost irrelevant.
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.
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. Sometimes 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.
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.
The 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. 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.’ “
This may seem a slightly curious place to start, but it’s as good as any to introduce Uncle Hugh’s book about his father. A great deal of the review is very fair indeed, and the Life of Sir Joshua raises almost as many questions as it provides answers. The first chapter which in part covers Josh’s “ half-gipsy, half-sportsman life led on Stanemoor” up in Cumbria is so fantastical that it probably owes more to C19th romantic novels rather than real life. He was, with no doubt, highly successful in business leaving an estate of £140,000 when he died in 1871 [a modern equivalent of just over £ 97m.] Whether he really managed to get there from a few shillings in his pocket in 1811, or was rather creating a rags to riches story is almost irrelevant. He had a curiously Zellig-like ability to be somewhere around some fairly extraordinary events throughout the C19th, and the luck or nous to invest very early on with the Stephensons. The book is a surprisingly good read, large sections of it are from Sir Josh’s notes and diaries, and it’s certainly massively better than at least one of Uncle Hugh’s other books “The Ruined Cities of Zululand”. I will be posting each chapter, in a series, to let the work speak for itself, and then try to discover more about the man himself.
AN ANTI-CORN-LAW LEAGUER.
The Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley.
By his Son, Hugh Mulleneux Walmsley,
London; Chapman and Hall. 1879.
No doubt, Mr. Walmsley has thought, and probably with truth, that the public would be impatient of personal details in the life of a man only known to them as a politician ; but then, he should have called his book, “The Political Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley.” The Paddington station-master might almost as well call a careful journal of all that happens at his station—royal entrances and exits, and the like, with which he is largely concerned—his life, as Mr. Walmsley call the book before us the life of his father. With the exception of his boyhood, we hear nothing of his private life, except a shooting episode. Two pages are thought sufficient in which to summarise the events of the four years which followed his retirement from public life. We hear nothing whatever of personal or family life, of his religious opinions, of his social relations or influence, of his tastes and pursuits at home, or of his holiday wanderings abroad. We hear nothing of his wife, after his marriage, till his death ; and nothing of children ; nor of friends, except such friends as were joined with him in public affairs. In fact, we gather that Sir Joshua’s whole soul was first in business, then in municipal work, and finally in helping to bring about those great political and fiscal reforms which were to benefit the country by putting the necessaries and comforts of life within easier reach of the people. But of Sir Joshua Walmsley himself we seem to have no picture, except as an ambitious and hard-working politician, who threw all his weight into the scale of the Liberal party.
His life—if we are to call it a life—will interest all politicians, especially Liverpool people, who remember the stirring years in the earlier part of the century, from 1826 to 1846, when municipal reform, the opening of the first railways, and the great measure of this century—the repeal of the Corn Laws—kept England—and particularly the North of England, whence emanated the Anti- Corn-Law League—in a state of excitement and action that was stimulating and spirit-stirring. In all this work Sir Joshua took a very active and useful, if not a very distinguished part, though we cannot remember him as a speaker. Bright and Cobden, indeed, or Cobden and Bright—for one was as great in lucid and logical exposition as the other was eminent for force and eloquence—threw all their fellow-workers into the shade; but Walmsley had a clear head, an iron constitution, and an invincible will, and was one of the most efficient members of the indomitable and victorious band of Anti-Corn Leaguers and Parliamentary reformers.
His early life was curious, and illustrates remarkably his tenacity of purpose. It is not perhaps altogether the most pleasing trait in his character that he seems to have been much impressed by the worldly wisdom of his father, and especially by an act and an aphorism of that father’s, and to have been largely influenced by them through life. The young Joshua had brought down a few crabs with a stone ; his father at once aimed instead, and with success, at some fine, sweet apples, and remarked to his son, “Remember, through life, my lad, that an apple is as easily felled as a crab.” On another occasion he had asserted confidently that “Jos will be Mayor of Liverpool some day,” and these words, he used to say, “rang in his ears.” His father died when his son and daughter were only thirteen and twelve; leaving them—owing to sad reverses— penniless ; they both became teachers in the schools where they had been pupils. Joshua’s engagement was at a school amongst the moors of Westmoreland, and his employer, the head master, being a good shot, united with the profession of school- master the curiously incongruous one of purveyor of game to the large towns. Joshua proved an infinitely better shot, however, than his employer, and in future led a hard but to him almost a fascinating life,—camping-out on the moors and driving home his cartload of game ; alternating this employment with that of making up his master’s books. But his ambition was not satisfied with a life so little likely to lead to anything better, and he returned to Liverpool, and sought—till he was penniless, and indebted to his kind landlady for subsistence—for a situation. One was found at last in a school, and he rose in the good graces of his employer ; but ambition was a very active force in Mr. Walmsley’s constitution, and he declined a partnership in the school, worth £400 a year, for a clerkship in a corn merchant’s office worth £40, bat which seemed to him to offer better chances of future wealth and influence. He rose rapidly, was offered a partnership in another house, and his marvellous knowledge of the grain-trade enabled him to make, lose, and remake a large fortune, and retire, according to our calculation—but there is a sad scarcity of orderly dates—at about fifty years of age. His affections seem to have been as tenacious as his purposes. He engaged himself, when a small boy at a dancing-school, to a little girl of seven, and he afterwards married her, and at the close of life attributed to her influence and. wisdom much of his varied success.
Mr. Walmsley seems to have had a strong personal friendship. for three considerable men—whose friendship in return reflects honour upon him – George Stephenson, Richard Cobden, and Joseph Hume; and it is one of the book’s merits that we hear – almost as much of Hume and Cobden as of Sir Joshua himself. Of the great engineer, with whom Sir Joshua made a business journey to Spain, we have several interesting anecdotes. We select the following, which the present writer, who had the pleasure of knowing Stephenson, recognises as very characteristic :
“The travellers’ way now lay across France, and in this part of their journey occurred the two following incidents. We crossed on foot, says Sir Joshua, “the chain bridge suspended over the Dordonne. Let us go over it again,’ said Stephenson, when we had reached the other side. Accordingly, over it again we went, the ‘old man’ walking very slowly, with head bent down, as if he were listening to and pondering over every step he took. The bridge is unsafe ; it will give way at the first heavy trial it meets with,’ he said, decisively, at last. We had better warn the authorities, your name will carry weight,’ I replied. We went to the mayor, we were- politely received, and we related the object of our visit. The mayor shrugged his shoulders with polite incredulity ; he assured us that the engineer who had built the bridge was an able man. Stephenson urged his warning, supporting the interpreter’s words with gestures and rough diagrams drawn on the spot. Still the French official shrugged his shoulders, looked incredulous, and finally bowed us out. Only a few months later Stephenson’s warning came true. A regiment of soldiers crossed the bridge without breaking step, the faulty structure gave way, and scores of men in heavy marching order were hurled down into the eddies of the rapid river below, where. many were drowned, before means of rescue could reach them.Another day we passed by a French line in process of construction ; the navvies were digging and removing the soil in wheelbarrows. Stephenson remarked that they were doing their work slowly and untidily. Their posture is all wrong,’ he cried ; jumping out of the carriage, with the natural instinct that impelled him to be always giving or receiving instruction, he took up a spade, excavated the soil, and filled a wheelbarrow, in half the time it took any one of the men to do it. Then further to illustrate that in the posture of the body lies half the secret of its power, he laid hold of a hammer and mallet, and poising his figure, he threw it to an immense distance before him ; challenging by gestures the workmen, who had now gathered round him, and were curiously watching him, to do the same, but they one and all failed to equal the feat. The interpreter explained the lesson to the navvies, and told them who their teacher was. Ste-vim-son !’ the name went from mouth to mouth. The intelligent, appreciative Frenchmen gathered close around him, and broke into vociferous cheers, such as I thought could only proceed from British lungs, until the echoes rang around us on every side.”
And while we are speaking of Sir Joshua’s friends, we must quote an anecdote, which, his son tells us, he was fond of repeating, illustrative of Mr. Hume’s popularity amongst the “working-classes :”—
” A strike had been resolved upon by the London cabmen. The night was wet and miserable. On leaving the scene of our labours, we saw through the rain a reassuring assemblage of four-wheelers and hansoms. No sooner, however, did we hail the cabs, than with a loud halloo the drivers impelled them in various directions. Hume and I were walking arm-in-arm. ‘We’ll give old Joe a lift,’ shouted three or four retreating cabbies drawing up their horses. They actually fought for the privilege of giving him a lift ; and since I was walking with him, I was allowed to get in, and so shared the advantage of his popularity.”
Before leaving Sir Joshua’s friends and acquaintance, we must record his spirited account and sagacious opinions of a party of patriots with whom it was his chance to spend an evening, and of whom, at that time, all England was speaking. The quotation is part of a narrative in Sir Joshua’s own words :—
“One morning, in February, 1854,” he narrates, “a gentleman was introduced into my study. On looking at his card, I found it was Mr. Saunders, the United States Consul. We had never met before. He intimated to me that his object in calling was to invite me to meet Mr. Buchanan, the American Minister, and some political friends. It was against my rule to accept invitations of a political or party character. I asked Mr. Saunders who the guests would be ; the list was as follows :—Mazzini, Garibaldi, Louis Kossuth, Walsh, Pulski, Ledru Rollin, Count Woxcell, and Orsini. I could not resist this catalogue of fiery names and accepted the invitation. At 25 Weymouth Street, Portland Square, the singular gathering took place. Mazzini sat at our host’s right hand. His appearance was very impressive and characteristic. His eyes, burning in his wasted countenance, his high, narrow forehead, spoke of a mind lofty and pure, but wanting in variety and flexibility. His whole appearance indicated a man of few ideas, but these ideas sublime and true. It was a never-to-be-forgotten sight, this group of patriots assembled together,—the simple, manly, honest face of Garibaldi, the attenuated features of Woxcell, the grave and handsome countenance of Kossuth, the beautiful young head of Orsini. The dinner was genuinely American in the abundance and costliness of its service. The wit, the humour, the vivacity of the conversation, were delightful, but so long as servants were present I knew the talk was superficial. When the cloth was removed and the servants had left the room, the doors were closed. I noticed they were double doors. Then a toast was given; it was to ‘Humanity.’ Mazzini was the first to speak. His austere eloquence, lit with flashes of enthusiasm, profoundly impressed me. It was like listening to the utterances of the old Hebrew prophets. He sketched the dark part of humanity, trodden down by kings and priests. Then came the struggles of the people for liberty. He saw streaks of the dawn in the present. In the future lay the glorious day of a regenerated humanity, free, self-respecting, -on whose banner the word Duty’ was inscribed. It was from his beloved Italy that he looked for this new revolution to come. Each one of the party, after him, rose and addressed the gathering. And the theme of every speaker was his country’s sufferings in the past and present, and his aspirations for it in the future. All spoke ‘freely, as men who had cast off restraint, and who were convinced of the accomplishment in the future of their object. In discussing their country’s wrongs, they frankly discussed the means by which they proposed to redeem and deliver her. From these means I should over shrink. But at such a moment, the reasoning power of the Listeners was carried away on this torrent of fiery zeal, impassioned patriotism, and persuasive eloquence. As patriot after patriot spoke, each seemed to press on to a higher and ever higher view of the subject in hand. After Mazzini, Kossuth addressed us in a speech full of power; but his eloquence was more flowery than Mazzini’s, and left less impression upon me. He was too much of a poet to guide up the dangerous height to which he had climbed. His friend Pulski was more of a man of business, and ever proved himself a sound patriot. Of all that night’s discourses, Garibaldi’s simple and straight- forward words moved me most. Ho seemed to take the wisest view of the coarse to be pursued, and to bring to the service of the subject the greatest amount of practical knowledge. His address, more unpretentious, was, to my mind, more convincing than the others. Orsini looked like a man inspired by, and resolved upon, his purpose. He spoke with much seeming sorrow of the necessity for deeds which be himself was prepared to accomplish. I shall never forget how young and handsome he looked that night, and I am persuaded that the wisest course Napoleon could have pursued would have been to have pardoned him. Of Ledru. Rollin I did not conceive a high idea. The impression he made upon me was that of a disappointed politician, rather than that of a patriot. Count Woxcell represented Poland. An exile for many years, he was so poor as often to lack the necessaries of life, yet he never complained. That night he had .evidently risen from a bed of sickness. His fine features contrasted with the exhaustion and feebleness of his frame ; death was stamped on his countenance; but his mind was bright with hopes of his country’s redemption. As he spoke of Poland’s sufferings, tears flowed down his pale cheeks.”
Those who know what were the views of Mr. Hume and Mr. Cobden know pretty nearly Sir Joshua Walmsley’s. He looked, evidently, in his Parliamentary career, as Member for Leicester, to their guidance, but was not wanting in independence and originality. He did not for instance, heartily concur in Cobden’s enthusiasm for non-intervention, though it is curious to note that he bought an interest in the Daily News, at Mr. Cobden’s suggestion, for the purpose of pressing this theory, for which, Mr. Cobden thought, the country was getting ripe. What would he say now? Mr. Hume was eager for Parliamentary and Mr. Cobden for financial reform, and Sir Joshua seems to have shared the eagerness of both, but in a more moderate degree ; his readiness and energy were remarkable, and as in the struggle to repeal the Corn Laws, so in the subsequent efforts for financial and representative reform, Hume and Cobden, and the many other noble workers of that party, were vigorously and effectively backed by Walmsley’s business powers and knowledge, and by his wonderful faculty for success. But perhaps the great work of his life was the fierce and successful, but most laborious, attack he made on the dens of vice in his native town of Liverpool – of which he was afterwards mayor – accompanied by his reorganisation of the police, and succeeded by his earnest and successful efforts in favour of the education of the poor, which, in his view, alone went to the root of the matter, and on which he relied for the future freedom of his town from that army of beggars, paupers, and evil-doers which ignorance alone can generate and nourish, and education alone can ultimately stamp out.
The above text was found on p.17, 10th January 1880 in “The Spectator”
On the 26th February, 1871, Alderman Richard Sheil passed away at the ripe age of eighty years. For fifty years he had been a prominent figure in every Catholic movement. Born in Dublin, in 1790, he was a member of the same family which gave to Ireland the brilliant writer and M.P., Richard Lalor Sheil. After spending many years of his life in Hayti, Mr. Sheil came to Liverpool, and carried on large business with great success. No Catholic movement was complete without his presence, whilst his interest in public matters was so intense that the Tory Corporation paid him the compliment of naming one of its public parks with his surname. One of the first three Catholic councillors, the first Catholic alderman, he had the unique honour of being the first to re-enter the Council and again become the only Catholic alderman. Dark complexioned, he looked like a Spanish monk, and his merchant friends used to say of him that he had missed his vocation. His warm Irish temperament and mellifluous brogue made him a host of friends in all parties which he with kindly wisdom turned to account for the benefit of his co-religionists. Indeed, had he so desired even a Conservative majority would have elected him to the honourable position of the Chief Magistracy. To do honour to his memory, and as an acknowledgement of his signal services to the Church, the Vicar-General sang the Requiem Mass in the absence through illness of the Bishop. His mortal remains were interred in Anfield Cemetery.
This is from the Catholic History Of Liverpool, by Thomas Burke; Liverpool : C. Tinling & Co., Ltd., Printers, 53, Victoria Street.1910
The Westminster Review says of the 1841 election, “the annals of parliamentary warfare contained no page more stained with the foulness of corruption and falsehood than that which relates the history of the general election in the year 1841”.
At the general election in 1841, the candidates for the two Liverpool seats were Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell, the sitting Tory M.P.’s, and Sir Joshua Walmsley, and Lord Palmerston standing as Whigs/Liberals. Why on earth Palmerston was standing in Liverpool when he had no connexion to it is a slight mystery, – still an arrogant, bombastic, opportunistic, womanising Foreign Secretary is hardly unknown in British political life. Sir Josh’s own version of the election follows shortly. The short piece below is from the Tory supporting Spectator.
LIVERPOOL. Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell visited their supporters for the first time on Friday, and have personally addressed the electors. There was a large meeting at the Amphitheatre on Monday. Lord Sandon avowed himself ” such a Free-trader as Mr. Huskisson “; and endeavoured to show that Mr. Huskisson was such a Free-trader as Lord Sandon. He asked the electors what claim Lord Palmerston had upon them, when he had to accompany deputations from the town to complain of the Foreign Secretary’s inattention and neglect of the commercial interests of the country ?
The Spectator 26 June 1841, Page 6
Each of the Tories had a majority of over a thousand votes.
William Huskisson (1770-1830) had been one of the M.P.’s for Liverpool between 1823 and his death in 1830. Amongst other ministerial roles, he had been President of the Board of Trade; he was regarded as one of the few men who could reconcile Tory merchants to a free trade policy; hence Lord Sandon’s comments, in what was a very mercantile city. Huskisson is now rather better known as the world’s first railway passenger casualty when he was run over and fatally wounded by George Stephenson’s Rocket, at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway. We’ll come to Sir Josh’s own version of this as well.
Viscount Sandon (1798 – 1882),was the Tory M.P. for Liverpool between 1831 and 1847 when he succeeded his father as Earl of Harrowby.
Sir Cresswell Cresswell, (1794 – 1863), was born Cresswell Easterby. He took the surname Cresswell in 1807 when his wife inherited much of the Cresswell family money. His mother was also a Cresswell. He had a reputation as a “violent Tory”. He was elected as one of the Tory M.P.’s for Liverpool in 1837, and again in 1841. He resigned his parliamentary seat in 1842 when he was made a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
AGITATION DINNER.-The Radicals of Liverpool dine Daniel O’Connell, M.P., Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P., at the Corn Exchange, Liverpool, on Wednesday next. The tickets are one guinea each.[Present day value – £ 1,172] The trio are to arrive by the mail-packet from Dublin on Wednesday morning, and an attempt is about to be made by the Irish Catholics to get up a procession from the pier where they land into the town; and for this purpose all the Hibernian clubs are to turn out with their flags and instruments of music. The place of dining will hold about 1,000 persons. This occasion will be Dan’s first public appearance in Liverpool, and the novelty of such a species of agitation may in consequence draw together a large mob. (The Times 25th January 1836)
This rather short cutting from the Times has a very pleasing circularity. A whole strand of the story runs through Liverpool at various times, and this one almost certainly brings together two different bits of the family. Mr. Sheil, M. P., and Mr. Wise, M.P. are Richard Lalor Shiel and Thomas Wyse, who were two of the leading founders of the Catholic Association along with Daniel O’Connell. Both were at school with Patrick Grehan II at Stonyhurst, in Lancashire. Tom Wyse was married to Princess Letizia Bonaparte [Napoléon’s niece] The marriage was fairly rocky, and in May 1828 they agreed to a separation.
Letizia threw herself into the Serpentine in Hyde Park in a suicide attempt [probably from the newly built bridge] and was rescued by Captain Studholme John Hodgson who became her lover. They had three children together, who all used the surname Bonaparte-Wyse rather than their father’s surname.
Dan the man is the father-in-law of a cousin of a great aunt, and the other person who is highly likely to be at the dinner is Joshua Walmsley. There are a number of reasons to suppose this. He was a newly elected councillor, certainly wealthy enough to afford the cost of the dinner, politically ambitious, and as a grain merchant unlikely not to have wanted to be seen at a political event at the Corn Exchange
Joshua was a Reformer,[or Whig, or Radical, the terms were fairly interchangeable] councillor won 260 votes in Castle Street ward or just over 73% of the turnout. The ward returned three Whig, or Reformer, councillors. The polling place was at the two windows of the King’s Arms Hotel fronting Castle-street. He was re-elected unopposed in 1838, and became mayor in November 1839 – 1840 while the Reformers still had a majority on the council with 28 councillors , and 16 aldermen against 20 Tory councillors.
This was the first election to Liverpool Town Council, held on Boxing Day 1835. It was conducted under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The Act reformed local government replacing corporations which were largely run by un-elected freemen, by councils elected by ratepayers.
After the election of Councillors on 26 December 1835 and the Aldermanic election in January 1836, the composition of the council was 44 Reformer councillors, and 15 aldermen, and 4 Tory councillors and 1 alderman. At the meeting of the Council in January 1836, sixteen Aldermen were elected by the Council, eight for a term of six years and eight for a term of three years. 15 whigs and 1 Tory.
Joshua Walmsley was elected Mayor of Liverpool in 1839, and was knighted on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage in 1840.
From “My Life in Two Hemispheres” by Charles Gavan Duffy,Chapter 19 (Book 3, Chapter 3). Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1903), was an Irish nationalist and politician in Victoria, Australia; ending up as State Premier. He was born on 12 April 1816 in Monaghan, Ireland, son of John Duffy, shopkeeper, and his wife Ann, daughter of Patrick Gavan of Latnamard. Reading and dreaming over his few books, he grew up during the struggle for Catholic emancipation and his nationalism was kindled by stories of [the Irish “rebellion”] in 1798. He boasted that he was the ‘first Catholic emancipated in Ireland’ as most of his schooling was at the local Presbyterian academy. The following was written in November 1852
” Sir Joshua Walmsley, a former mayor of Liverpool, who had become spokesman of a Parliamentary group of Reformers, resting on a political society outside, appears a good deal in the diary of this date, but as nothing came of his coquetting with the Irish party one specimen will suffice:—
“Excused myself for Sunday to Walmsley (he had invited me to meet a number of his political friends at dinner, but I was engaged to Richard Swift and a muster of our own men). As he wanted to talk we dined soon after tête-à-tête at Bellamy’s. All popular questions, he thought, including the Irish Land Question, ought to be postponed till an extension of the franchise was obtained; then, and then only, would everything be possible. I told him that nobody familiar with the condition of Ireland would consent to a fresh postponement of the Land Question on any pretence. He thought Cobden and Bright might be induced to lead the franchise movement if it became wide enough to promise a speedy success. I said I would be glad to see the franchise become the English question of the day, and it would get substantial Irish help. In Ireland the franchise had dwindled away till genuine popular representation had almost disappeared. We wanted an extension urgently, but the farmer wanted the right to live on his own land so much more that it was idle to speak of the questions together. He talked of Cobden with affection. He was a truly generous man, he said. His American investments had not turned out well, but he was always ready to put his hand in his pocket for a public purpose. A fund was raised to sustain Kossuth, and Cobden gave £50 a year, while many other conspicuous Liberals, including Bright, would not give a penny. I spoke, of Hazlitt, Cobbett, Leigh Hunt, Hone, and the martyrs and confessors of Radicalism, but modern Radicalism does not apparently keep a calendar. He knew more of Edward Whitty, Linton, and The Orchestra of the Leader, but his esteem is moderate for any one who does not regard an extension of the suffrage as a specific for human woes. I asked him about Roebuck. Roebuck, he said, was privateering, and could no longer be counted on by any popular section. He loved no party, and no party loved him. My own observation confirms this description. I had some talk with him lately in the Library, and he seemed embittered and disappointed beyond any one I had ever encountered; his face had an expression that was scarcely human. I compared it mentally to the aspect of an angry dog—venomous and dangerous. He used to be called the most conceited man in Parliament, but his unkempt hair, stooping figure, and flabby look give him the appearance of a ruin.”
From The Statistical journal and record of useful knowledge, Vol. 1 October 1837
The following paper was read by Mr Joshua Walmsley in the statistical section of the British Association at Liverpool on Friday the 15th of September.
“ Those who have interested themselves in the general proceedings of this Association will remember, that, at its last meeting, held in Bristol a paper on Statistical Desiderata was read by a distinguished member of this section, wherein several censures were passed upon ‘ A report upon the state of crime in Liverpool ‘ then recently printed by order of the Council of the borough That gentleman having subsequently visited Liverpool, I rejoiced in the opportunity it afforded me of showing him the data on which the conclusions were founded. He admitted that he misapprehended the report, for instead of allowing, as he thought, an average income of 470 l. a year [£23, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 26,240] to each criminal, it did not allow quite 80l.[£4, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 4,467]; and when the profligacy and necessary expenditure of a confirmed thief or a dissolute woman’s life are considered,80 l. a year is not an excessive temptation to a life of crime and sin. In fact it implies most forcibly that, in a pecuniary sense, the mass of them lead (which is the truth) a life of misery.
The report gave, as the result of rigid inquiry, a criminal population to this town of 4,200 females and 4,520 males, 2,270 of the latter being professed thieves, and the remainder occasional thieves, living by a combination of labour and plunder; and the whole was set down at upwards of 700,000 l. [£35,000, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 39,000,000.] This does at first sight appear incredible; but an investigation, pursued with much labour, and not unattended with obloquy, convinced me the statement contained no exaggeration.
A more recent inquiry, carried on by better means, afforded by a more experienced police force, not only confirms these details, but leaves an impression that the number of criminals was underrated. In an inquiry of this kind an approximation to accuracy is all that can be expected, and all I purpose to do is to furnish the society with the most accurate data which is accessible.
I hold in my hand two or three returns, about the correctness of which there can be no doubt. They contain the number of persons brought before the magistrates, and the number committed; they also give the age of the juvenile felons. In the year 1835, there were taken into custody 13,506 persons, of whom 2,138 were committed. In 1836, there were taken into custody 16,890, of whom 3,343 were committed. Up to the 13th of the present month, the number taken into custody in eight months was 12,709, of whom 2,849 were committed. From July, 1835, to July, 1836, the number of juvenile thieves, under 18 years of age, apprehended was 924, of whom 378 were committed. From July, 1836, up to the present day the number of juvenile thieves taken into custody was 2,339, of whom 1,096 were committed. There were in custody, during the same period, upwards of 1,500 well known adult thieves.
In our report juvenile thieves were set down at 1,270, it now seems that the number was very greatly underrated, for the most expert officer does not pretend to say that one half were taken into custody.
In the returns made by the old watchmen, the number of houses of ill fame was set down at 300; but this return referred only to the notorious ones. A full and complete return has since been made and the real number is 655, exclusive of private houses in which girls of the town reside. In all the houses of ill fame females reside, and allowing an average of four to each house, the number residing in such places only would be 2,620.
This return is further confirmed by the fact, that, in the year preceding the inquiry, there were apprehended 1,000 females of a particular description. Mr Bacheldor, now the excellent governor of the borough gaol, was then the principal bridewell keeper; he gave it as his decided opinion, and no one was more competent to give one, that not one fourth of the females had been apprehended. In this opinion the heads of the police, deriving their knowledge from a different source coincided.
Another return has been placed before me, which, though not absolutely bearing on the subject, is not without interest. Of 419 individuals now in the gaol, 216 profess the religious creed of church Protestants, 174 are Roman Catholics, 8 are Methodists, 17 are Presbyterians, 2 are Unitarians, 1 Baptist, and 1 Independent; 41 can neither read nor write, 59 read imperfectly, 38 read well, 127 read and write imperfectly, and 56 read and write well.
I come now to the consideration of the annual sum necessary to the support of such a criminal population. In estimating this, the expenditure of persons living upon the wages of crime, as nearly as could be estimated, was taken as the basis. The amount expended by each individual will, of course, differ according to his or her position, as stated in the paper on the table, but the average for each is not more than 80 l. per annum; and when the lavish and profligate expenditure, in which the characters in question are known to indulge, is taken into consideration, the amount will scarcely appear to be overstated. It must be borne in mind, as the report particularly observes, that the greater portion of this sum is derived from strangers; of these, including sailors, the weekly influx and departure exceed 8,000, and a small rate levied on each will be found to form a considerable proportion of the whole estimated amount: in fact, the robberies committed by a certain class of depredators on the persons of those who, with an absence from the place where they are known, throw off moral restraint, are estimated by our chiefs of police at an average of 100l. nightly [£5, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 5,583]. The reported robberies of this nature on a single night have often been from 500l [£25, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 27,920] to 1,000l. [£50, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 55,830] It must be understood, also, that the whole of the amount is not supposed to be derived from theft, a large portion of it being unquestionably the produce of voluntary contributions from the profligate. It may here be remarked, that writers on statistics seem to have had little idea of the extent of property stolen by felons. Baron Dupin, on the authority of Mr Hibbert, states that previous to the establishment of the preventive system, 1-50th part of all the sugars and 1-40th part of the rum landed at the London Docks were stolen; the quantities of colonial produce stolen during the years 1799, 1800, and 1801, were valued at 1,214,500 l. [£60,725, or a modern-day equivalent of £ 56,820,000]. The exposed situation of the Liverpool Docks, and the detached localities of the warehouses, give the utmost facility to this description of robbery, which is still further encouraged by the existence of numerous receiving houses. The system observed in the discharge of vessels is another prop to this evil: the work is let out to men called lumpers, some of whom take it at low rates, calculating to increase the produce of their labour by plunder; they form a large body, and the matter should, and I trust will, have the attention of our merchants.
I have come forward at this time solely with the hope that the subject may be taken up by those able and willing to devise and carry into effect some means for the amelioration of the condition of so many of our fellow creatures. The surveillance of a vigilant police unquestionably lessens the opportunities for the commission of crime, and leads to the quick detection of the offenders; but humanity requires, that while we take measures to punish, we should use means to reclaim. We should recollect, that ‘oft the means to do ill deeds make ill deeds done.’ I am glad to see that so great an interest is now taken in criminal statistics. One of our worthy magistrates, a few days since, observed that people were wont to go in search of the picturesque, but that now they came in pursuit of crime. Like Sancho Panza’s hare, they start up where least expected; but the subject being disagreeable and repulsive, there is no danger, I apprehend, of this kind of research becoming mischievously fashionable.
Joshua Walmsley had been elected a one of three Whig/Reformer councillors for Castle Street ward in 1835. The elections to were held on Saturday 26 December 1835, and it was the first election to Liverpool Town Council. As this was the first election to the Council, all three seats for each of the sixteen wards were up for election. The candidate in each ward with the highest number of votes was elected for three years, the candidate with the second highest number of votes was elected for two years and the candidate with the third highest number of votes was elected for one year. All of the sixteen wards were contested. The Reformers had a total of 59 councillors, and aldermen, to 5 Tories, and remained in control of the Council until 1841, when the Tories took control by 44 to 22.
There are three parties in the field desirous of raising a memorial to the late Mr. Hume. In April last, a body of working men met and took steps towards raising funds : in September, there seems to have been a simultaneous but independent move by a section of the House of Peers; and a number of persons who held a meeting in Marylebone, over which Sir Benjamin Hall presided. Earl Fortescue and Lord Hatherton were instrumental in collecting the signatures of thirty Peers to a circular convening a meeting held a short time since in Willis’s Rooms ; and at an earlier date Sir Joshua Walmsley and others got together the signatures of 250 Members who express a desire that the monument erected should be one set up in the House of Commons. On Saturday last, representatives of all the parties met at Willis’s Rooms. Earl Fortescue occupied the chair. Earl Granville, Lord Panmure, Lord Hatherton, and the Duke of Somerset, represented the Peers; Sir Benjamin Hall, Sir Joshua Walmsley, Mr. William Ewart, Mr. Edward Ellice, Lord Robert Grosvenor, represented the Commons ; and Mr. Wall, the Secretary of the Working Men’s Association, represented that body. In the course of the proceedings, each party described the share it had respectively taken, and a common understanding was arrived at. It was resolved that Mr. Hume had a claim to a “lasting record of the gratitude of his countrymen” for forty years of disinterested services ; that a subscription should be opened for the erection of some public monument in his honour ; that no sum subscribed should exceed ten pounds; that a committee should be entrusted with the promotion of the subscription ; and that Sir Benjamin Hall, Colonel Sykes, and Mr. Roebuck, the trustees of the Working Men’s Association, should be the trustees of the Committee.
The above text was found on p.5, 23rd February 1856 in “The Spectator”
[Close by the St. James’s Theatre, on King Street, St James’s (almost opposite Christie’s) are “Willis’s Rooms,” a noble suite of assembly-rooms, formerly known as “Almack’s.” The building was erected by Mylne, for one Almack, a tavern-keeper, and was opened in 1765, with a ball, at which the Duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden,(a rather curious choice of words) was present. Almack, who was a Scotchman by birth, seems to have been a large adventurer in clubs, for he at first “farmed” the club afterwards known as “Brooks’s.” The large ball-room is about one hundred feet in length by forty feet in width, and is chastely decorated with columns and pilasters, classic medallions, and mirrors. The rooms are let for public meetings, dramatic readings, concerts, balls, and occasionally for dinners. Right and left, at the top of the grand staircase, and on either side of the vestibule of the ball-room, are two spacious apartments, used occasionally for large suppers or dinners.] from Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.