Posts Tagged ‘co-operative movement’

Some pretty shocking context to the times of  Redburn and the birth of the Co-Operative movement.


(1) Dr. William Duncan, Report on the Sanitary Condition of Liverpool (1839)

In the streets inhabited by the working classes, I believe that the great majority are without sewers, and that where they do exist they are of a very imperfect kind unless where the ground has a natural inclination, therefore the surface water and fluid refuse of every kind stagnate in the street, and add, especially in hot weather, their pestilential influence to that of the more solid filth. With regard to the courts, I doubt whether there is a single court in Liverpool which communicates with the street by an underground drain, the only means afforded for carrying off the fluid dirt being a narrow, open, shallow gutter, which sometimes exists, but even this is very generally choked up with stagnant filth.

(2) Edwin Chadwick, The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population (1842)

Of the deaths which occurred amongst the labouring classes in Liverpool, it appears that no less than 62% of the total number were deaths under five years of age. Even amongst those entered as shopkeepers and tradesmen, no less than 50% died before they attained that period.

Average Age of Death


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Detail from Holyoake Hall, Liverpool

We have looked at how a word can carry many meanings to different people. Or how the story of a city can be not only a tale of two cities but of many cities all existing together in the same place, at the same time. Chance wanderings can discover different aspects of a concept or a place. Take the word Unity for example. The detail above is from Holyoake Hall which was built as a Co-operative store in 1914. The co-operative movement’s history, beginning in Rochdale in 1844. That movement has its own history which would see how a group of working men set up a way of sharing profits (dividends) by controlling the retail of food and vital items. Further back, we’d see how Robert Owen’s experiment with New Lanark tried to soften the poverty and hunger of working people. In the next post here we’ll see some figures showing how desperate the times were for ordinary working people. A sign, a building can be the starting point to go deeper and deeper into history.

Holyoake Hall

The Hall here, where Allerton Road joins Smithdown, is only yards from Penny Lane. It’s now apartments, but after it ceased trading as a shop it became a venue for dancing and music. The Beatles played here on the 15th and 22nd July 1962.

Among the new high rise apartments and offices in the waterfront development is a different sort of Unity, the Unity Tower in Rumford Streetwhich symbolises the thrust of finance and success:

The Rumford Unity Tower

In Hope Place stands the Unity Theatre. These days it has well deserved reputation for putting on innovative and varied productions, and encouraging new initiatives. Merseyside Moviola, the early precursor to FACT began showing 16 mm. films there. The original concept of the theatre, when it was Merseyside Left Theatre, becoming  Merseyside Unity Theatre in the 1930s, related to the national workers’ theatre movement which produced radical political plays and is noted for its anti-nazi emphasis.

Unity Theatre

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