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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Opposite the Philharmonic Hall stands the 1930s extension to the Blind School, next to the now empty Greek style building that once housed it (until recently the Trade Unions and Unemployed Resource Centre). Earlier the school had been at the site of the now demolished Odeon on London Road.  It is now the Royal School for the Blind, in Church Road, Wavertree. One of the schools’ founders, Edward Rushton, is a great Liverpool example of the the waves of radical reform that were beginning to sweep over Europe.

This is taken from the excellent  Nottingham Trent University, Labouring-Class Writers Project:


Rushton (1756 – 1814) was a poet, slavery abolitionist and co-founder of the first school for the blind in the country. Born in John Street, Liverpool, Edward was the son of Thomas Rushton, a victualler. Apprenticed to a Liverpool shipping company by the age of eleven, Edward was promoted to second mate around five years later after demonstrating outstanding courage in guiding a vessel – which the captain and crew were prepared to abandon during a storm out in the Mersey Estuary – back to port.

While on a slaver bound for Dominica in 1773, Rushton grew so appalled by the sadistic treatment of the captives he remonstrated with the captain to the point of being charged with mutiny. As the only member of the crew willing to tend to their suffering, Rushton contracted the highly contagious ophthalmia, which left him blind.

Rushton’s Aunt took him in shortly after his return – his father having now remarried a woman antagonised by Edward’s presence. The injustices Rushton observed at sea led to the publication of his first book-length work, The Dismembered Empire (1782), a denunciation of British rulers and merchants in the framework of the American War of Independence. Furthermore, in the same year as he published a poetry volume on the tragic neglect of Thomas Chatterton, his disgust at the slave trade was given further voice in The West Indian Eclogues (1787). A decade later he wrote to his former hero George Washington, pointing up the hypocrisy of retaining slaves while fighting for freedom: ‘In the name of justice what can induce you thus to tarnish your own well-earned celebrity and to impair the fair features of American liberty with so foul and indelible a blot’. A similar letter was dispatched to Thomas Paine, but neither he nor Washington tendered a reply. Nonetheless, Rushton’s bold reputation prompted Thomas Clarkson to credit his contribution to the abolitionist cause upon visiting Liverpool. (more…)

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Like many of the workhouses, Toxteth Workhouse became a hospital. In fact,  a small section of it is still operating as part of the city’s mental health services. There are also newly built facilities in the grounds for other health services but the majority is given over to a supermarket and carpark.

One of the themes we’ve been following is looking at workhouses, infirmaries, hospitals and the history of the health service in Liverpool.

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Here’s an extract from a great documentary made by the then young film maker, Nick Broomfield. It features residents of Kirkby talking about the awful conditions of their housing. We looked at it as part of a wider look at poverty, housing and health in Liverpool and the area. Going back to old documents about life in the workhouse, we went on to examine printed materials, look at old pictures, watch films, read books and listen to archived radio interviews.  Importantly, we looked not only at documentary stuff but also dramas dealing with working class life. We have an ongoing interest in the subjects raised by these issues, but we’re also looking at the changing history of the media themselves. How ‘ordinary’ people’s voices, lives and concerns are represented; who makes the representations; how they’re distributed. Over the coming posts we’ll publish, among other things, more links like this one from our youtube collection.

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