Edward Rushton, Blind Eye-witness

As Liverpool continues to celebrate Edward Rushton (1756-1814) “Liverpool’s most radical son” with the bicentennial conference, Edward Rushton and Romantic Liverpool, some notable contemporary works are on display in Special Collections and Archives, alongside the two newest works on Rushton, published by Liverpool University Press: a new edition of the Collected Writings of Edward Rushton, prepared by Paul Baines of the Department of English, University of Liverpool, and a critical study of Rushton, Talking Revolution, by Franca Dellarosa of the Università degli Studi di Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, Italy.

rushton122 November 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Edward Rushton (1756-1814). Born in Liverpool and apprenticed as a sea-boy at the age of 11, Rushton contracted a devastating eye infection on a slave ship and returned, blind, to Liverpool to live on a small allowance from his father, a vintner and dealer in spirits. At various times he ran a pub (in Crooked Lane), a newspaper, and finally and most successfully a bookshop (in Paradise Street).

With the help of various assistants he read as extensively as he could and began writing poems in about 1780, publishing them in newspapers. He thus came to the attention of the small group of intellectuals and radicals in Liverpool centred on the figure of William Roscoe. In 1787 the West-Indian Eclogues appeared as a separate publication, and many of his marine ballads (notably The Neglected Tar) were sung in taverns, at theatres, and in the streets.

Rushton was a staunch support of radical causes including the French revolution and American Independence (though he continued to berate both countries for their involvement in imperialism and slavery). He protested against the use of press-gangs, British violence in Ireland, the Russian domination of Poland, and any neglect of the poor by the rich. He also wrote charity songs for the Blind School and other humanitarian institutions. Many of his poems appeared in chapbooks or as single-sheet items; some were finely printed by the Liverpool-based printer and poet John M’Creery, who also printed his Poems of 1806.

At around the same time Rushton was operated on, five times, by the Manchester eye-surgeon Benjamin Gibson, who managed to restore some sight in one of Rushton’s eyes, allowing him to see his wife and children for the first time. Rushton was well-known in the radical and intellectual societies of Liverpool. He had a wide range of political connections in Belfast and Manchester, and was much reprinted in America. He suffered from gout – the subject of some of his more comic poems – and his death in November 1814 appears to have been brought on by a proprietary gout medicine. He was buried in St Johns’ Cemetery, Liverpool, and in 1824 his son (also Edward, later a Liverpool magistrate) and the Unitarian minister William Shepherd, edited a further volume of his Poems, and Other Writings.

Copies of Rushton’s work and other material from Special Collections and Archives can be seen at the Victoria Gallery & Museum as part of the city-wide Unsung exhibition.




Edward Rushton


From Sat 1 Nov 2014 until 10 May 2015, Liverpool is celebrating the bicentenary of Edward Rushton (1756-1814) “Liverpool’s most radical son”. Contemporary volumes of Rushton’s poems, letters and other writings from Special Collections and Archives are on loan to exhibitions at the International Slavery Museum (opens Fri 7 Nov) and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, as part of Unsung, a city-wide project celebrating the bicentenary, activism and legacy of Edward Rushton. Funded by the Heritage Lottery and led by DaDaFest as part of DaDaFest International 2014.

The Rathbones and the First World War

The Rathbones of Liverpool were a family of non-conformist merchants and ship owners, whose sense of high social consciousness led to a fine tradition of philanthropy and public service.  Their family home was Greenbank House, on the Toxteth Park estate, from the late 18th century until 1944, when it was donated to the University for student accommodation.  The Rathbone Papers in the University of Liverpool’s Special Collections and Archives are the records of several generations of the Rathbone family, incorporating papers relating to their works of social and political reform, their business ventures, and their family life, dating from the late 18th to the late 20th centuries.  For a family with such wide reaching concerns and interests it is not surprising their archive provides a fascinating insight into the impact of the First World War, on both those who fought and those who remained on the home front.

Image form Rathbone papers RPXXV.7.208 Red Cross nurses

RPXXV.7.208: Red Cross nurses (Elena Rathbone on left, second row from front).

Hugh Reynolds Rathbone (1862-1940) – a grain merchant who served as a member of the Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies during the First World War – collected notes and correspondence relating to Rathbones serving in the military, which are now held in the archive (RPXIX1.51-60).  His son, Richard Reynolds Rathbone, served in the 6th King’s Liverpool Rifles, and was considered lucky by his family to have been wounded in action and brought to a London hospital.  He later received the Military Cross for bravery.  Another, more famous, familial recipient of this prestigious award was the actor, Basil Rathbone, who was commended for “conspicuous daring and resource on patrol” after conducting daylight raids in 1918.  Basil’s younger brother, John, was killed in action in the same year.  Their cousin Gilbert Benson Bolton was similarly unfortunate.  A Lieutenant in the 8th North Staffordshire regiment, he was reported missing in November 1916 after the battle of Grandcourt.  Gilbert’s servant wrote to his mother Nina Rathbone Bolton describing how he became a “most popular officer & presented all the qualities of a true British soldier…I still hope that he may be alive & that the family may hear news of his safety”.  Nina herself was more realistic about the chances of a happy ending in her letter to Hugh of 9 February 1917, writing movingly that,

to me he was a kind of second daughter…one of his great qualities was cheerfulness & that is how I always saw him even during the last leave at home and going back… I have recently found a Louis Stevenson sentence which entirely applies “a good influence in life while he was still among us; he had a fresh laugh; it did you good to see him; & however sad he may have been at heart, he always bore a bold and cheerful countenance & took fortune’s worst as it were the showers of Spring.


Image of RPXXV.5.17 (6): Elena Richmond’s certificate from the Red Cross Society

RPXXV.5.17 (6): Elena Richmond’s certificate from the Red Cross Society

Other female members of the Rathbone clan took a more active role in the war. Lady Elena Richmond (née Rathbone, 1878-1964) exemplified the family’s tradition of social service, and was a supporter of District Nursing, as her father William VII and grandfather William VI had been.  The Rathbone archive contains correspondence relating to Elena’s war service with the Red Cross Society (RP XXV.5.17.1-33), as well as a service medal and certificates she received in recognition of the ‘valuable service rendered’ and in commemoration of her being inscribed upon the Red Cross Roll of Honourable Service.  Elena worked as part of the Enquiry Department for the Wounded and Missing, and after the war received a letter from the Red Cross outlining the scale of the work she had helped to accomplish.  From April 1915 until March 1919, the department had received 342,248 enquiries from relatives and friends, and produced 384,759 reports, a process which had entailed the interviewing of between four and five million soldiers.  As the case of Gilbert Benson Bolton illustrates, these reports did not often bring the recipient the news they were hoping for, but the Director of the Red Cross wrote,

It is abundantly evident from thousands of grateful letters…that our work has been thoroughly appreciated.  If you could see these letters, I’m sure you would realize that the work you have carried out…dull and wearisome as it must often have seemed, has not been in vain, for it enabled us in very many cases to alleviate terrible anxiety and substitute certainty for suspense.


Image: Portrait of Eleanor Rathbone (RPXIV.3.96)

Portrait of Eleanor Rathbone (RPXIV.3.96)

Elena’s aunt Eleanor Florence Rathbone (1872-1946) is often considered to be the true heir of her father, the social reformer and Liberal MP William Rathbone VI (1868-95). As the secretary of the Women’s Industrial Council in Liverpool before the war, she campaigned against low pay and poor conditions, and in 1909 she became the first women to be elected to the City Council.

Once war broke out, the social dislocation which resulted brought into focus the inadequacy of provisions for the dependents of soldiers and sailors, a situation Eleanor was already aware of through her social work as a home visitor for the Liverpool Central Relief Society, which often entailed working with the wives of dockers.  Eleanor’s cousin, Herbert Rathbone, was the Lord Mayor during this time, and turned to Eleanor to expand the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association; the Liberal government had approved ‘separation allowances’ for the families of volunteers but had organised no machinery with which to administer them.  Eleanor used her contacts to ensure advance payments in the hope that the War Office would honour them.  That not only did they do so, but in time formalised and centralised payments through the new Ministry of Pensions, was testament in large part to Eleanor’s organisation in Liverpool.

Even after central government had stepped in, the organisation carried on, and at the end of the war Eleanor helped create the Liverpool Personal Service Society to act as a model for this type of family-based social work.  Eleanor herself met a huge number of people through these channels, as she conducted a good deal of the practical work herself and often heard problem cases.

Throughout the war I had to investigate and report to the War Office…on practically every case in which a Liverpool soldier deserted his wife.

In 1917 Eleanor Rathbone established the Family Endowment Committee to look into the nature of this type of poverty.  Its report Equal Pay and the Family: a proposal for the National Endowment of Motherhood (1918) launched the campaign for family allowances.  Eleanor’s experiences in Liverpool in the First World War led directly to the introduction of these payments in the aftermath of the Second World War. What we today know as Child Benefit sprang from Eleanor’s desire to help those women who had endured the hardships of managing households on the irregular wages of the casual worker, only to be left vulnerable to widowhood or desertion in wartime.

Chinese New Year

Liverpool’s historic links with China have brought a number of beautiful examples of Chinese art into the University Library’s collections, including the painting of the peony shown here, with a fine calligraphic dedication to Professor and Mrs Roxby.

Chinese flower painting dedicated to Professor and Mrs Roxby

Chinese flower painting dedicated to Professor and Mrs Roxby

In the 19th century, the Rathbone family traded with China through their merchanting business, and the Rathbone papers contain fabric samples sent with correspondence from Rathbone’s Chinese branch houses. Two early 19th-century albums of Chinese paintings of ships and costumes, bound in red silk (SPEC MS.5.1, SPEC MS.3.3) were given to the University in 1941 by May Rathbone, a doctor, botanist and keen mountaineer, the aunt of Eleanor Rathbone.

SPEC MS.4.13 and SPEC MS.4.14, two similar albums of paintings, were given by Miss A. L. Bulley in 1953. Lois Bulley’s father, the Liverpool cotton merchant A. K. Bulley (1861-1942) had sponsored many plant-hunting expeditions to China to seek out Chinese mountain plants which could be established in Britain. He created Ness Gardens, which Lois Bulley presented to the University, to be kept as botanic gardens, in 1948.

SPEC MS.7.5, illustrated above, is from a larger album of paintings and calligraphy by Chinese artists presented by Kuo Yu-shou in 1945 to Professor and Mrs P.M. Roxby and given to the University in their memory after Professor Roxby’s death in 1947.  Percy M. Roxby was a Lecturer in the Geography Department from 1905, and Professor from 1917-1944, when he became the Chief Representative of  the British Council in China.

Advent and After: 5. Family and friends

image: Dec 5 1861 letter to Emily Lyle (envelope)

RP X.I.180 Dec 5 1861 letter to Emily Lyle (envelope)

Christmas is for many a time of family visits, and in the Victorian era this could mean dozens for dinner.
The archive of one Liverpool family, the Rathbones, documents their life throughout the nineteenth century, including glimpses of their Christmas preparations.On this day more than 150 years ago, December 5 1861, the family was welcoming a new member – a second fiancée for William Rathbone VI, local businessman, philanthropist and MP. His first wife Lucretia had died in 1859, shortly after the birth of their fifth child. Lucretia’s sister, Lizzie, kindly wrote to congratulate Emily Lyle on the engagement to her brother-in-law.

Dear Emily,

I must at once write to say how much pleased I am to find, you are to fill dear Lucretia’s place, I know of no one I should so much like to have again, as a sister as you. You cannot tell too, how thankful I am her children are once more to have a mother’s care.

Emily’s welcome to the family was repeated in a letter from her father-in-law, William Rathbone V, written on Boxing Day 1863, describing their Christmas dinner at Greenbank – for fifteen, including four grandchildren (the younger ones had their nursery tea earlier in the day). Since William V and his wife Elizabeth had five surviving children, and eighteen surviving grandchildren, the nursery must have been pretty full.And the family kept growing: William VI and Emily went on to have  six children of their own, five of whom survived infancy, including the future MP and social reformer,  Eleanor Rathbone. By 1874, when William and Emily’s last child, Francis, was born, the Greenbank Christmas dinner might  have been joined by 29 grandchildren!

William Rathbone VI

William Rathbone VI

Emily Rathbone (nee Lyle)

Emily Rathbone (nee Lyle)

Advent and After: 3. A Cracking Christmas

image of The Nutcracker from The Comical Storybook, JUV.567

The Nutcracker from The Comical Storybook, JUV.567

The inscription on the front page of The Comical Storybook reads,

From Pappa, with  much love, To May Rathbone; On attaining her fourth year:- 30th  November 1870.

This book was initially given as a gift from Theodore William Rathbone to his daughter on her birthday. In turn May Rathbone has since bequeathed it to our own Special Collections. With its ‘100 colored illustrations’ this beautifully bound book features five short stories, one of which is the festive ‘The Wondrous Tale of King Nutcracker and Poor Richard’. It is appropriate that May shared her birthday – 30 November – with St Andrew’s Day, as the Sunday following this marks the start of advent.

In the run up to Christmas we can imagine the Rathbone children having this story read to them, May alongside her younger sister Lucy, although sadly Lucy (1869-1872) would only live to see one more Christmas after this. ‘The Wondrous Tale of King Nutcracker and Poor Richard’ is written in verse and epitomises a Victorian Christmas, detailing all things delightful to children,

Fruits, and sweets, and playthings rare; Guns and  drums, and picture-books… Hail, Christmas-tide, thou glorious tide!

image of The Nutcracker from The Comical Storybook, JUV.567

The Nutcracker from The Comical Storybook, JUV.567

This story is loosely based on ‘The Nutcracker and Mouse King’ written by Hoffman and published some fifty years earlier in 1816. It is this latter tale which was later adapted and now famed as Tchaikovsky’s ballet. This story differs however, with its jovial tone pervaded by references to poor Richard, reminding readers and children to remember others at Christmas time.

When mirth and joy around you  flow / Oh give a thought to others woe!

Visitors to Liverpool in Advent may have missed the English National Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker, but there is still The Nutcracker Trail to enjoy.

Lorna Goudie, Graduate Library Assistant

Movember Mondays: 4

Our fourth and final Movember Monday introduces a style there might still be time to grow – the pencil moustache. Modelled here by a stylish couple from the Cunard archive, alongside the most popular moustaches from this month’s previous weekly posts.

Read more on Movember moustaches and support the University’s Wolfson Centre and Library staff teams.

Photograph of Cunard couple

Couple enjoying Cunard hospitality, photograph from the Cunard Archive


Photograph of Liverpool University Dental School students

Liverpool University Dental School students, Moustache of the Week: 3

Heinrich von Wlislocki, Gypsy Lore Society, Moustache of the Week: 2



Principal Rendall of University College Liverpool, Moustache of the Week: 1


Explore Your Archive! – Part Two


The 16th November saw the launch of the Explore Your Archive campaign. Our participation in this campaign began with a look at our University Archive and now continues, showcasing additional archival collections of a diverse and interesting nature. These collections encompass a range of personal, political and literary papers of notable individuals, an extensive Science Fiction collection, and material relating to the shipping trade.

The Rathbones of Liverpool are renowned for having occupied many important roles within society. A merchant family, the Rathbones were also philanthropists, social reformers, and patrons of the arts. The family and business papers of this accomplished family are widespread in their content and span many generations. Particular treasures include the puzzle letter from the papers of May Rathbone, and a photographic postcard featuring Eleanor Rathbone and her involvement with the suffragette movement.

Lord David Owen as Hamlet: D709/3/21/2/19 © Nicholas Garland

We also hold the political papers of Lord David Owen, Chancellor of the University of Liverpool from 1996-2009. These papers span his political career, covering his time as Chancellor and his position as the co-founder and subsequent leader of the Social Democratic Party. Although this material naturally includes correspondence, reports and campaign literature, there are also some quirky items within his papers. The puppet show ‘Spitting Image’ parodied Lord Owen in the 1980s; posters of which can be found within the archive alongside satirical cartoons by Nicholas Garland. In addition to the David Owen papers we hold the political papers of John Bruce Glasier and his wife Katharine St John Conway, founder members of the Independent Labour Party.

The papers of the Liverpool poets; Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri are also held within our archives. The three individuals worked closely together throughout their literary careers, publishing an anthology together entitled The Mersey Sound. Special Collections and Archives also holds other literary collections spanning the 15th-21st centuries, including some poems by Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and D. H. Lawrence.

McGough with Adrian Henri and Brian Patten in a bar: McGough/12/2 © Marc Marnie








We also have ‘Europe’s largest catalogued collection of SF material.’ This is comprised of the manuscripts and personal papers of writers such as Olaf Stapleton, John Brunner and John Wyndham, making it a popular archive for researchers and fans alike. Wyndham, famous for the novel The Day of the Triffids, valued his privacy and instructed that his personal papers be destroyed. However, some 350 war-time letters to his partner Grace Wilson have survived, making them a particularly special asset to our collection.

Fox-hound: D42/PR2/1/46/F1

The Cunard Steam Ship Co. Ltd Archive contains administrative papers including minute books, registers, letter books and public relations material. Although much of this material is business related, there are surprising and heart-warming discoveries to be made within this archive. One photograph tells the story of a fox-hound who escaped from a motor-bus conveying his pack to the Cunard liner ‘Caronia’ for shipment to America. The image shows him following his capture, safely installed on board.

In addition to the Cunard archive, further material relating to the shipping trade can be found in the Eric Hardwicke Rideout papers that are also held within our archives. These papers include Rideout’s research notes on the port of Liverpool and items relating to the customs houses and tobacco trade. Both archival collections acknowledge Liverpool’s heritage as a thriving port, famous for its docks and shipping trade.

We hope that some of the items in our collection will inspire you to visit your local archives to discover the many stories and treasures it holds. Our current displays are situated within Special Collections and Archives on the ground floor of the Sydney Jones Library. http://www.exploreyourarchive.org/

Lorna Goudie

Graduate Library Assistant

Movember Mondays: 3

For the third Movember Monday, our images show luxuriant walrus-style moustaches, cultivated in the Dental School, and by some notable figures in local business and culture, including Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895) and John Paul Rylands (1846-1923).

Read more on Movember moustaches and support the University’s Wolfson Centre and Library staff teams.

Photograph of W.H. Gilmour, Richard Edwards and T. Mansell, dentists

University Archives A306/4/1/16: W.H. Gilmour, R. Edwards and T. Mansell


The three figures sporting fine moustaches and academic dress in this photograph from the University Archives include Liverpool-born W. H. Gilmour, the country’s first (and for many years only) Professor of Dentistry, and Dean of the Liverpool Dental Hospital, and his predecessor as Dean of the LDH, Richard Edwards.

Gilmour had given up a lucrative private practice to take up the inaugural Professorship. Read more about the Liverpool Dental School and search its archive online.

Photograph of Philip Henry Rathbone

Photo of P. H. Rathbone from B.G. Orchard, Liverpool's Legion of Honour (1893)


Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895), the youngest son of William Rathbone V, played an important part in Liverpool’s cultural life through his role on the Library, Museum and Arts Committee of Liverpool Town Council, and on the exhibitions committee at the Walker Art Gallery.

Renowned for his bohemian dress and artistic nature, he also “steadily and earnestly advocated whatever project tended to beautify or increase the healthiness of the city.”

Photograph of John Paul Rylands

Photo of John Paul Rylands from B.G. Orchard, Liverpool's Legion of Honour (1893)

John Paul Rylands (1846-1923), a Liverpool barrister, was the son of the University Library’s first major benefactor, Thomas Glazebrook Rylands, and inherited his father’s wide-ranging interests. He researched and wrote about archaeology, heraldry, genealogy – and book-plates.

Unlike his artistic fellow-citizen Philip Henry Rathbone, he was described as “just the sort of erudite, active, capable gentleman who seems out of place in contemporary Liverpool.”
We can now reveal the result of the Library staff poll for Moustache of the Week for Movember Mondays:2 was Heinrich von Wlislocki.

Who Does She Think She Is?

To celebrate the start of Look/13/Liverpool International Photography Festival, Special Collections & Archives has an exhibition of historic photographs of Liverpool women, under the title Who Does She Think She Is?

image copyright: Marc Provins

image copyright: Marc Provins

Case One: Josephine Butler – The Beauty and the Beer

Images of Josephine Butler (1828-1906), who lived in Liverpool from 1866-1882. Josephine was an educational and social reformer, and a fierce opponent of the double standards of sexual morality in the Victorian era. She shocked her audiences by the contrast between her striking feminine appearance and the subjects she addressed.

Josephine Butler was ambivalent about images of herself, but her image and name still have resonance in Liverpool:

    • in the Anglican Cathedral’s Noble Women Windows
    • in sculptures at the Walker Art Gallery
    • in a suitcase in John King’s 1998 ‘A Case History’ on Hope Street
    • on the label for Liverpool Organic Brewery’s Elderflower Ale!

Case Two: Rathbone family albums – Curtain calls

Victorian photograph albums belonging to the prosperous Rathbone family of Liverpool, renowned philanthropists, politicians and social reformers. The albums are designed to hold carte-de-visite (visiting card) prints of celebrities, and portraits of family and friends, and showcase the Rathbones’ connections in Liverpool society.

The National Media Museum has identified the changing studio props used in these commercial portraits decade-by-decade, following the latest fashions:

1860s – balustrade, column and curtain
1870s – rustic bridge and stile
1880s – hammock, swing and railway carriage
1890s – palm trees, cockatoos (usually stuffed specimens) and bicycles
1900s – the motor car

Case Three: Women at the University – Room at the Top

Photographs of women’s sporting and fundraising events at the University of Liverpool from the 1900s to the 1930s, alongside the 1933 resolution passed by Liverpool University Council requiring female members of staff to resign if they got married.

Early University portrait albums contain pictures of only three women, but 2013 has already seen a notable step forward with the appointment of the University’s first female Professor of Physics, Tara Shears.

images of Liverpool University women students

image copyright: Marc Provins

image copyright: Marc Provins