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Charles Pierre Melly

Charles Pierre Melly
Charles Pierre Melly is another of Liverpools famous sons, born in Tuebrook, Liverpool on 25 May 1829 he was  the son of  Andre Melly of Geneva and Ellen Maria Melly (nee Greg, whose family hailed from Wilmslow in Cheshire.

Tuebrook in those days was part of the countryside outside of the centre of Liverpool and Charles Melly was born in a small cottage 100 yards to the north of St. John the Baptist’s church on the corner of Ivy Lea. was educated at the Royal Institute School, Liverpool, and at Rugby, which he entered at the same time as his brother George. He maintained his family's Unitarian affiliation. On 9 October 1854 he married his cousin Louise Forget (1825–1899) at the Cathedral of St Pierre, Geneva, where they had both been christened. They made their home at his parents' house, Riversley, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, and had seven sons and a daughter.

Charles Melly became a partner in the family business, but was best known for his philanthropy. In 1852 he established a night school in Beaufort Street, Liverpool. He was involved in the Domestic Mission in north Liverpool, whose work including the running of ragged schools. He frequently visited children in the ragged schools, and annually arranged for teachers and children to be brought to Riversley by cart for an afternoon of games and prizes, and a picnic.

Having seen stone drinking-water fountains in Geneva, Melly felt that the people of Liverpool would benefit from free drinking water in public places. Since water was only piped into the homes of those who paid water rates, emigrants arriving at the port, and those working in the docks, had no access to water, and were driven to public houses. He paid for the installation of fountains, providing a continuous flow of water, day and night; the first, made of polished pink granite, was installed at Prince's Dock March 1854, the granite Fountain was erected at the south end of the Dock. And three months later the numbers drinking there in the course of a twelve hours period, were carefully counted, and found to be 2336 .By 1858, when he described his initiative at the Liverpool meeting of the Social Science Association, forty-three had been put in place in Liverpool; he lobbied other towns and cities to follow the example, and funded drinking fountains in Norwich, Plymouth, and Douglas, Isle of Man. His work earned him the nickname Fountain Melly.

The Liverpool Gymnasium, Myrtle Street

Melly next turned to providing free public facilities for physical exercise, creating outdoor gymnasia at Smithfield Road in 1858, and later at Wavertree, Toxteth, and Kirkdale. Although not himself a strong sportsman he saw the value of sport, and in 1862 collaborated with John Hulley in founding the Liverpool Athletic Club, which staged Olympic festivals between 1862 and 1867. Also with Hulley he oversaw fund-raising and the construction of a new gymnasium on Myrtle Street, Liverpool. Reputedly the best in Europe when it opened in November 1865, the gymnasium was the venue for the inaugural meeting of the National Olympian Association.

His niece Florence Melley the daughter of his brother George founded Florence Melly Community Primary School in the North of Liverpool. Florence dedicated her life to serving education in Liverpool

In 1866 Melly was elected, unopposed, as councillor for the Abercromby ward, and chaired the parks committee during the period when Sefton Park was laid out, commissioning the French designer M. André to design features such as the grottoes. The park was opened by Prince Arthur in 1872. Melly stood down from the council in 1873.

Described as a timid child, Charles Melly was recorded as having shunned public offices. From the mid-1870s, when he retired from the family business, he suffered mental health problems, and in October 1883 became an inmate of Coton Hill asylum, Stafford. While visiting Riversley accompanied by an attendant, he obtained a pistol and committed suicide there on 10 November 1888. He was interred in the family vault at the Ancient Chapel, Toxteth. A legacy of the Olympic festivals which he had helped to promote was their revival as the ‘Grecian Games’ held in Liverpool in 1892 and 1894, anticipating the first modern Olympic games in 1896. Several of the drinking fountains which he sponsored survive.


Elizabeth J. Stewart
G. Melly, Recollections of sixty years (1893)
Liverpool Records Office, correspondence.  
Liverpool, Rathbone papers
Letters to William Rathbone VI from George Melly
Liverpool Central Library Archives

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