Posts Tagged ‘local history’

Ian from the group is doing work on the old Liverpool workhouses leading up to the building of the new Royal Liverpool Hospital. On his travels he came across the plaque shown here on the wall of the old redbrick infirmary. “Tressell” was the pseudonym of Robert Noonan, who died a pauper in the hospital. Only after repeated efforts by his sister did his famous book find a publisher. Set in a fictional “Mugsborough” but based on Hastings and the painting and decorating jobs he worked in, the philanthropy of the ragged trousered refers to the generosity with which they give so much to the rich while remaining poor themselves. The Liverpool actor Ricky Tomlinson described it as a book that changed his life: he was given it while serving a prison sentence in the 1970s after taking part in a picket dispute on a building site. A play version of the novel was shown in Liverpool earlier this year, and Tomlinson talks about it here. Copies of the original text have been displayed in Liverpool’s Central Library, currently undergoing rebuilding. By the way, the name “Tressell” was chosen to resemble the trestles used by painters and decorators. You can read an extract from the novel below.


The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

by Robert Tressell



Money is the cause of poverty because it is the device by which those who are too lazy to work are enabled to rob the workers of the fruits of their labour.’


‘Prove it,’ said Crass.


Owen slowly folded up the piece of newspaper he had been reading and put it into his pocket.


‘All right,’ he replied. ‘I’ll show you how the Great Money Trick is worked.’ (more…)


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Pavements, there beneath our feet. Just pavements. But nothing’s ever simple!

The pavements show the effects of time, some of them cracking up under the strain; others  coming apart. What was once neat and all fitted together starts to come apart. Maybe pavements have a story to tell, a sort of parable about how time is always working against our attempts to impose order. Incidentally, the word ‘pavement’ comes from the Latin pavere which means to ‘pound down’. We try to pound down the earth to fit our own design, but nature and time have a way of reclaiming things.

Pavements carry the ghosts of feet, of people long dead, the fleeting touch of shadows or rain that reflects the world above. Footprints caught in the cement of pavements: maybe in a thousand years an excited archaeologist from Mars will find one like we found footsteps on the beach up at Formby from thousands of years ago…

Leaves, apples, litter, all there and gone in an instant. A paving flag is like a picture frame of time.

And then there are the pavements people draw or write upon. Kids chalk drawings,, ‘arty’ stencil stuff, or the  drawings etched into the pavements on the new frontage of Lime Street Station done by artist Simon Faithfull to record a trip to Liverpoool in Nova Scotia, three thousand miles away.

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Pavements marked a path for thousands of feet over time. Very quickly when people no longer use them, they begin to disappear. Tracks that once meant something, were important, provided a way, become overgrown.


There’ll be a few more posts on pavements soon! We’re putting the finishing touches to a short video in which a group member reads a poem called Hell’s Pavements by John Masefield. It’s about a sailor who comes into Liverpool determined not to waste his money on women and drink. It ends with him sailing back to sea owning nothing but the clothes on his back. As if !

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A Job for Life

We were looking at the brilliant BBC History web pages (probably worth more than the television part of the licence as someone said), a real goldmine of interesting stuff, beautifully presented and easy to find your way around. Then we looked at the BBC Radio Merseyside History pages, again very interesting. In particular, we looked at an audio slide show about the Lewis’s Department Store that closed earlier this year. For most of us, the shop was part of our lives. Its passing feels like a more human historical event than the major “historical events”.

Lewis’s had their own flickr site where you can see some pictures relating to the store’s history.

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