Category: LIFT Locations

The Brownlow Hill Workhouse

The plaque is located on the side of the Hart Building (part of University of Liverpool), facing The Guild of Students.

The first parish workhouse in Liverpool was founded on the corner of College Lane and Hanover Street in 1732. Between 1769 and 1772 a new House of Industry was built at Brownlow Hill, designed to accommodate 600 inmates. By 1790 there were over 1,200 people in the institution.

Men and women were segregated within the workhouse, but there was accommodation for married couples. Inmates were expected to work 12-hour days in the institution, undertaking tasks such as oakum picking (teasing fibres from old ropes) and weaving. From the age of nine children in the workhouse were taught to weave, while also attending school, later becoming bound apprentices to a variety of trades. A chapel was built within the workhouse and there was also a detached building used as a fever hospital, in which female paupers served as nurses. After the Poor
Law Amendment Act 1834, the select vestry became responsible for the workhouse. This continued until 1922 when the vestry was disbanded and the workhouse became part of the West Derby Union.

During 1842-43 the workhouse was enlarged, becoming almost self-contained, housing its own bakery, kitchens and stables. It became one of the largest workhouses in England, with an official capacity of 3,000 inmates, but accommodating 5,000 at times. During this period, claims of declining standards within the workhouse were made, with allegations of prostitution and access between certain male and female wards. It was rumoured there were certain areas of the workhouse the governor was afraid to visit at night.

In September 1862 a fire at the workhouse destroyed one of the children’s dormitories, and the church, killing 21 children and two nurses. In 1865 trained nurses began providing care for those in the workhouse and infirmary.

Liverpool philanthropist William Rathbone (1819-1902) funded placements for 12 nurses who had been trained at the Nightingale School in London. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) recommended nurse Agnes Jones (1832- 1868) to him to act as a Superintendent for this pioneering work, who took on the job. Agnes was supported by 18 probationers and 54 female paupers; each paid a small sum. The successful scheme led to all workhouse infirmaries, throughout the country, being staffed by trained nurses.

The Brownlow Hill Workhouse closed in 1928. The site was put up for sale in 1930 and acquired by the Catholic Church as the site for its new cathedral. The buildings of the workhouse were demolished in 1931.

In 1847, the worst year of The Great Hunger, it is estimated that 296,000 Irish people arrived in Liverpool. They were supported by outdoor relief under the Poor Law and private charities. Indoor relief was supplied in places like the Brownlow Hill Workhouse, despite reluctance among the Irish migrants to enter as there was considerable shame attached to this. Nevertheless, need prevails and many were admitted; eventually the institution was unable to cope with demand. This led to most of those who had already fled The Irish Famine, having to resort to outdoor relief as their main source of support.

In February 1847 the select vestry reported outbreaks of typhus in the Brownlow Hill Workhouse. To avoid having fever wards in the building, parish officials opened temporary fever sheds in Brownlow Hill, adjoining the workhouse. Residents -fearful of contracting typhus- protested the use of the sheds. Typhus became known as the ‘Irish Fever’. During 1847 circa 6,000 Irish people were admitted to the workhouse; by March 1848 29% of the admissions to the Brownlow Hill Workhouse (sometimes known as ‘the Liverpool Workhouse’) were from Ireland, rising to nearly 50% a short while after.

On 16 April 1847 John and Catherine Brannon, and their three children, were admitted to the Brownlow Hill Workhouse – all died. On 13 May 1847 Roger and Catherine Flynn, and their six children, were admitted to the same workhouse, all suffering from typhus. By 28 July, seven members of the family had died. On 20 May 1847, four children from the McIntyre family were admitted. On 4 June Margaret (aged 10) died; on 14 June John (aged 7) died; on 17 June Bridget (aged 19) died and on 6 July Mary (aged 12) died.

The above information was taken from The Great Hunger Commemoration Service, 1997.

Pleasant Street School

Built in 1818, and extended in 1851, the main frontage to Pleasant Street -centrally placed sign between floors- reads “Pleasant Street Board School”. The original Pleasant Street Board School building was closed as a school in the 1980s. The primary school moved to a site across the road (L3 5TS), opening in 1999. The Old Board School building was later redeveloped into apartments.

In 1807 The Benevolent Society of St Patrick was instituted by influential bankers and merchants in Liverpool. The purpose of the foundation was to instruct children in reading, writing and arithmetic and for the clothing and apprenticing of poor children descended from Irish parents. The first school was in Bolton Street.

The new building, in Pleasant Street, was built in 1818 at a cost of £2,681. The average attendance (per year) at the school was 410 children. In 1831, the school was described in the House of Commons as a model school where Catholic and Protestant children were educated together.

By early 1840, the attendance had fallen to 150 and the school was threatened with closure. The Corporation offered to take over the school in 1839, but was refused. An emergency meeting of supporters (including William Roscoe, 1753-1831) was held in 1842. In 1843 William Rathbone (1787-1868) was appointed Chairman of the School Committee. The school was enlarged in 1851 with a new section for infants added. The children at the Pleasant Street Board School were separated by biological sexes -and taught on different floors- until 1852, when the school was re-organised into a mixed system.

It was noted in 1858 that corporal punishment had almost entirely been dispensed with at the school, without impacting on order or discipline among the pupils. The school’s records show the following subjects were taught at the school: social economy, the science of health, elements of chemistry, carpentry, tailoring, simple elements of booking, singing and drawing. Among the school laws it was stated that it was “very wrong to write on the walls, to climb upon the doors and to cut the wood”. The requirement for boys and girls to treat each other with proper respect and kindness is also noted. In 1866, the name of the school was changed to The Hibernian British School. In 1867 a representative from the school approached the vestry clerk to enquire whether the vestry would pay the fees of children whose parents receive parish relief. The vestry replied that it was bound to see that people did not starve and that it had its hands full without entering into a crusade against ignorance. The managers applied for the transfer of the school to the School Board in 1872, an undertaking completed in 1874.

The school continued to operate as a multi- denominational school throughout the following decades, including two classes from The Hebrew School (Hope Place) in the 1950s, using spare rooms in the building while waiting for their new building in Childwall to be completed. It was documented in 1960, that since the school moved to Pleasant Street in 1818, about 18 million attendance ticks had been entered in the school’s register.

The Pleasant Street Board School building was closed as a school in the 1980s and the primary school moved to a site across the road (L3 5TS), opening in 1999. It was redeveloped into apartments, circa 2008.

The Benevolent Society of St Patrick was an influential group of people. From the society’s first school in Bolton Street to its new building in Pleasant Street 1818, it is likely that children of Irish migrants -and later those that fled The Irish Famine- would have been educated at the school. In his book Catholic in Liverpool, Thomas Burke notes that in 1821

“St. Patrick’s feast occurred on a Saturday that year […] the heart of Catholic and Irish Liverpool was touched in its tenderest part, and a great procession was the result. Those were the days of great faith. Consequently[,] the day was opened by the Irish Society attending Mass at St. Mary’s, a compliment to the parent church as well as a thanksgiving to God, and then reforming, the procession wended its way to St. Anthony’s, where the second half of the procession had also heard Mass at an early hour.

“Led by several carriages in which were seated the rector of St. Nicholas, Father Penswick, Father Dennet, of Aughton, and the preacher at the ceremony, Father Kirwan, St. Michan’s, Dublin, the monstre procession moved off on its long march to Park Place. Then followed the Irish Societies, wearing their regalia, bearing banners and flags, and accompanied by numerous brass and fife bands, including the Hibernian Society, Benevolent Hibernian Society, Hibernian Mechanical Society, Benevolent Society of St. Patrick, Amicable Society of St. Patrick, Free and Independent Brothers, Industrious Universal Society and the Society of St. Patrick. […] Behind these organisations which comprised fifteen thousand men, marched the school children from the schools of Copperas Hill and the Hibernian School in Pleasant Street”.

This not only name checks the society and the school, but locates their network within many of the communities and sites witnessed within the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail. That 15,000 people were able to march for St Patrick’s Day, in Liverpool in 1821, also shows that an Irish population was already evident 25-years before The Irish Famine.

Jesse Twemlow was the Headmaster at Pleasant Street for 28-years, until his retirement in 1902. In one school document it was noted that Mr Twemlow was sometimes exasperated by pupil teachers, one of whom he described as ‘not only lazy and careless, but very dull and stupid (and) should choose some other calling’. He was -particularly concerned by the apparent pupil teachers’ lack of control in the classroom.

The Liverpool Irish Famine memorial

Located in the gardens at St Luke’s Church, situated on the corner Leece and Berry Streets; enter the gardens from the Leece Street entry, L1 2TR. NB: This is a key site, but does not bear a suited Irish Famine plaque (at the time of writing), therefore is not labelled with a plaque site marker.

St Luke’s Church, designed by John Foster and his son, was built between 1811 and 1832. During the May 1941 Blitz, the Church was hit by a bomb, caught fire and collapsed inwards, leaving only its stonework standing. Known locally as ‘The Bombed-Out Church’, St Luke’s remains as a memorial to those who lost their lives during World War II. It is a Grade II listed building and a registered war memorial.

Within its gardens stands the Liverpool Irish Famine memorial, a bronze and granite sculpture, commemorating the thousands of migrants who arrived in Liverpool having left Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s.

The sculpture, designed by Éamonn O’Doherty -a noted Irish artist- was commissioned by the Liverpool Great Famine Commemoration Committee and unveiled by Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, in November 1998. Other works by O’Doherty include the James Connolly Memorial (Dublin), the Anna Livia (Dublin), the Tree of Gold (Dublin) and The Great Hunger Memorial (Westchester, New York).

The sculpture comprises a four-metre granite standing stone with a bronze cross on its front. It is inscribed in Gaeilge (Irish) and English with the words “Coínnich cuimhne ar an Gorta Mór 1845-52/Remember the Great Irish Famine 1845-52”. A cracked bowl is positioned in front of the standing stone on a plinth to represent the fracturing of Irish culture caused by The Irish Famine. Plaques flanking the monument, one in Gaeilge and one in English, tell the story of the Famine. The English plaque is transcribed above, in The Famine Memorial and the Trail chapter (page 7).

The monument remembers the thousands of men, women and children who left Ireland between 1849 and 1852 to escape hunger and economic hardship; seeking to build new lives in Britain, the USA, Canada or Australia. Many of the migrants who docked in Liverpool remained in the city, living in overcrowded tenements and courts, with great numbers dying from disease and neglect. Despite the unimaginable hardships that Irish people faced, their story is also one of survival, resilience and determination. These families and their descendants made a significant contribution to the city, with a legacy that permeates all aspects of Liverpool’s cultural, economic and political life.

“This memorial will do more than signal our recollection of past tragedy. It will serve too as a reminder of that courage and hard work of generations of Irish people… (and) will remind us that hunger and famine persist throughout the world and we still face the moral imperative to welcome and to offer shelter to those who have lost everything…” – Mary McAleese, 24 November 1998, spoken at the unveiling of Liverpool’s Irish Famine memorial.