Liverpool: Charities

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Liverpool: Charities', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 55-57. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]


The earliest Liverpool charities, apart from the grammar school, (fn. 1) were the almshouses. (fn. 2) In 1684 twelve almshouses were built by David Poole near the bottom of Dale Street; in 1692 Dr. Silvester Richmond founded a small group of almshouses for sailors' widows in Shaw's Brow; in 1706 Richard Warbrick established another small group, also for sailors' widows, in Hanover Street. Successive small gifts during the 18th century, amounting in all to over £2,500, increased the endowment. In 1786 the almshouses were consolidated and removed to their present site in Arrad Street (Hope Street). They are administered in part by the corporation, in part by the rector, in part by trustees.

In 1708 the Bluecoat Hospital was founded by the Rev. R. Styth, one of the rectors, and by Bryan Blundell, master mariner, as a day school for fifty poor boys, on a site granted by the corporation in School Lane. (fn. 3) Blundell, by liberal gifts and assiduous collection, raised sufficient funds for the erection of a permanent building where they could be housed. The graceful and dignified building, still standing, was begun in 1714 and completed in 1718. The number of inmates has been successively increased; there are now 250 boys and 100 girls. In 1905 the school was removed to a spacious and handsome new building on open ground in Wavertree. The Bluecoat Hospital ranks as the premier charity of the city, and has always received the warm support of Liverpool merchants.

One hundred and twenty-eight distinct charitable institutions now in existence are enumerated by the Charity Organization Society. (fn. 4) They cannot all be enumerated, and it will be convenient to group them.

i. Medical Charities.—The Royal Infirmary, which is the second oldest medical charity in the north of England, was instituted in 1745. Its first building was on the site of St. George's Hall, and was opened in 1749. In 1824 it was removed to Pembroke Place, and it was again rebuilt in 1890. From 1792 to 1879 a lunatic asylum was connected with it; it also maintained a lock hospital; and in 1860 it instituted, under the guidance of William Rathbone, (fn. 5) a nurses' home which formed the basis of the first English experiment in district nursing. In 1834 a medical school was established at the infirmary; it has since developed into the medical faculty of the university. The other general hospitals are the Northern, instituted in 1834, rebuilt by aid of a grant from the David Lewis fund in 1896–7, whence it is now known as the David Lewis Northern Hospital; the Royal Southern Hospital, instituted in 1814 and rebuilt in 1872, which provides clinical teaching for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; and the Stanley Hospital, established in 1867. These three hospitals, together with some of the special hospitals, unite to form the United Hospitals Clinical School in connexion with the medical faculty of the university. There is also a homeopathic hospital, opened in 1887. In 1778 a dispensary was opened in John Street, (fn. 6) eight years after the opening of the first English dispensary in London. There are now three dispensaries, for the north, south, and east of the city. The special hospitals, in the order of their foundation, are:—the Ladies' Charity (founded in 1796; Lying-in Hospital opened 1841); the Eye and Ear Infirmary (fn. 7) (Eye 1820, Ear 1839); the St. George's Skin Hospital (1842); the Children's Infirmary (instituted in 1851, rebuilt in 1905–7); the Dental Hospital (1860); the Cancer Hospital (1862); the Consumption Hospital (1863, rebuilt 1904), to which is attached a fine sanatorium in Delamere Forest, founded in 1901; the Liverpool Convalescent Institution at Woolton (1873); the Hospital for Women (1883); the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, Nose, and Ear (1884); the Home for Epileptics (1887); the County Hospital for Children; the Home for Female Incurables; and the Vergmont Institution for Female Inebriates. To the same group belongs the District Nursing Association, in Prince's Road, founded by Mr. William Rathbone in 1862, the first of its kind in England. The income of these charities from endowments and subscriptions amounted in 1906 to more than £80,000. But in addition to these voluntary hospitals the corporation maintains six hospitals for infectious diseases, with 881 beds; and the select vestry not only maintains a workhouse infirmary, but also, in conjunction with the Toxteth and West Derby Guardians, a consumption hospital at Heswall on the Dee. The total number of beds available in all the Liverpool hospitals is over 4,000.

For the blind, deaf, and dumb, there are:—The School for the Indigent Blind (founded 1791), the oldest institution of its kind, with 210 inmates, the School for the Deaf and Dumb (1825) with 110 pupils; the Catholic Blind Asylum (1841) with 199 inmates; the Workshops and Home Teaching Society for the Outdoor Blind (1859); the Adult Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society (1864); and the Home for Blind Children (1874).

ii. Homes, Orphanages, &c., for Children.—In addition to the Bluecoat Hospital, already described, the following institutions exist for the rescue of children:—Female Orphan Asylum (1840), Orphan Asylum for boys (1850), Infant Orphan Asylum (1858), each accommodating 150 inmates; the Sheltering Homes for Destitute Children (1872) annually train and send out to Canada 250 children; the Seamen's Orphan Institution, which is comparatively well endowed, maintains 350 children; the Indefatigable training ship (1865), with which is connected a sailing brigantine, prepares about 250 boys for the mercantile marine; the Lancashire Navy League Seatraining Home does similar work; the Children's Friend Society (1866) maintains a Boys' Home; the Newsboys' Home takes in sixty-five street boys; and there is a group of homes for training poor girls, chiefly for domestic service, including the Magdalen Institution (1855) for fifty girls; the Mission to Friendless Girls (1862); the Preventive Homes (1865) for forty-four girls; the Training Home for Girls (1894) for thirty-two girls; and the Bencke Home; while the Ladies' Association for the Care and Training of Girls maintains four distinct homes. There also exist a Children's Aid Society for clothing poor children attending elementary schools, and a Police-aided Clothing Association, which provides clothes for children engaged in street-trading (who are in Liverpool required to be registered) and with the aid of the police prevents parents from selling the clothes. The Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has been at work for a longer time than the National Society.

iii. Penitentiary Charities.—The Lancashire Female Refuge (1823) maintains a home for women coming out of prison, and is the oldest charity of its kind. The Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society does the same work on a more general plan. For fallen women there are the Female Penitentiary (1811), the Benevolent Institution and Rescue Home (1839), the Home of the Midnight Mission (1875), and the Home of the Liverpool Rescue Society (1890).

iv. Homes for the Aged.—These include the Widows' Home (1871); the Homes for Aged Mariners (1882), including a large central building founded by Mr. William Cliff, and seventeen detached cottages in the grounds in which married couples may live; and the Andrew Gibson Home for the widows of seamen (1905).

v. Pension Charities.—These are numerous. The Aged Merchant Seamen and Widows' Fund (1870) gave 166 small pensions in 1906; the Governesses Benevolent Institution (1849) distributes £900 per annum in pensions; the Seamen's Pension Fund was founded by Mr. T. H. Ismay in 1887 with a capital of £20,000, to which Mrs. Ismay later added £10,000 for seamen's widows; the Shipbrokers' Benevolent Society (1894) distributes annuities of not more than £30 to old employees; and the Merchant Guild administers ten distinct pension funds, chiefly for the relief of distressed persons of the middle and upper classes; it awarded 179 pensions in 1906, the largest being of £42.

vi. Of Miscellaneous Charities there are too many to be enumerated, but mention should be made of the Sailors' Home, founded in 1852, which provides cheap lodging and help for sailors when they are paid off. And it should be noted that its continuous existence, since in 1809 it was founded as the Society for Preventing Wanton Cruelty to Brute Animals, makes the local branch of the R.S.P.C.A. an older body than the national institution. The David Lewis Club and Hostel is an immense Rowton House with a very handsome club in relation with it.


  • 1. For the grammar school, see V.C.H. Lancs. ii, 593.
  • 2. See Digest of Lancs. Charities (House of Commons Papers, 1869). The annual income at that date was £2,037. This was mainly derived from the interest on the Molyneux foundation, which was wisely invested in lands in the township of Liverpool (the Rector's Fields, formerly part of the Moss Lake). When leases fall in the charity will be very rich.
  • 3. Trans. Hist. Soc., papers in vols. xi, xiii, xvi, xxxi.
  • 4. On charities, Liv. Charities (annual); Burdett, Hosp. and Charities; reports of the individual charities.
  • 5. Life of W. Rathbone.
  • 6. Now North John Street. It was in 1781 removed to Church Street.
  • 7. Originally Ophthalmic Infirmary. In 1820 was also founded the Liverpool Institute for Curing Diseases of the Eye, now defunct.