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Liverpool Charities

Charitable work work began in the city more than 300 years ago. We can trace this back to the 17th Century and it is amazing how, over the years, the number of charitable institutions in Liverpool grew to aid the population.

Richmond Fair, Almshouse, c1910 ( © Streets Of Liverpool)

The earliest Liverpool charities, were the almshouses. In 1684 twelve almshouses were built by David Poole near the bottom of Dale Street; in 1692 Dr. Silvester Richmond founded a small group of almshouses for sailors' widows in Shaw's Brow,(William Brown Street) and in 1706 Richard Warbrick established another small group, also for sailors' widows, in Hanover Street. Successive small gifts during the 18th century, amounting in all to over £2,500, increased the endowment. In 1786 the almshouses were consolidated and removed to Arrad Street (Hope Street). They are administered in part by the corporation, in part by the rector, in part by trustees.

Site of Mount Pleasant Almshouses, Arrad Street, showing the workhouse where the Roman Catholic Cathedral now stands, Liverpool 1848

In 1708 the Bluecoat Hospital was founded by the Rev. R. Styth, one of the rectors, and by Bryan Blundell, master mariner, as a day school for fifty poor boys, on a site granted by the corporation in School Lane. Blundell, through gifts and collections, raised sufficient funds for the erection of a permanent building where they could be housed. The building, still standing, was begun in 1714 and completed in 1718. The number of inmates being 250 boys and 100 girls. In 1905 the school was removed to a spacious and handsome new building on open ground in Wavertree. The Bluecoat Hospital ranked as the premier charity of the city, and always received the warm support of Liverpool merchants.

Bluecoat Hospital Liverpool by Henry Travis 1843

The Royal Infirmary.1890.
The Royal Infirmary, which is the second oldest medical charity in the north of England, was instituted in 1745. Its first building was on the site of St. George's Hall, and was opened in 1749. It was removed to Pembroke Place, and it was again rebuilt in 1890. From 1792 to 1879 a lunatic asylum was connected with it.In 1860 it instituted, under the guidance of William Rathbone, a nurses' home which formed the basis of the first English experiment in district nursing. In 1834 a medical school was established at the infirmary and was developed into the medical faculty of the university. The other general hospitals being the Northern, instituted in 1834, rebuilt by aid of a grant from the David Lewis fund in 1896–7, from whence it was known as the David Lewis Northern Hospital; the Royal Southern Hospital, instituted in 1814 and rebuilt in 1872, which provides clinical teaching for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; and the Stanley Hospital, established in 1867. These three hospitals, together with some of the special hospitals, united to form the United Hospitals Clinical School in connexion with the medical faculty of the university. There was also a homeopathic hospital, opened in 1887. In 1778 a dispensary was opened in John Street, (now North John Street) eight years after the opening of the first English dispensary in London. There where then three dispensaries, for the north, south, and east of the city. The special hospitals, in the order of their foundation, where:—the Ladies' Charity (founded in 1796; Lying-in Hospital opened 1841); the Eye and Ear Infirmary (Eye 1820, Ear 1839); the St. George's Skin Hospital (1842); the Children's Infirmary (instituted in 1851, rebuilt in 1905–7); the Dental Hospital (1860); the Cancer Hospital (1862); the Consumption Hospital (1863, rebuilt 1904), to which is attached a fine sanatorium in Delamere Forest, founded in 1901; the Liverpool Convalescent Institution at Woolton (1873); the Hospital for Women (1883); the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, Nose, and Ear (1884); the Home for Epileptics (1887); the County Hospital for Children; the Home for Female Incurables; and the Vergmont Institution for Female Inebriates. To the same group belongs the District Nursing Association, in Prince's Road, founded by Mr. William Rathbone in 1862, the first of its kind in England. The income of these charities from endowments and subscriptions amounted in 1906 to more than £80,000. But in addition to these voluntary hospitals the corporation maintained six hospitals for infectious diseases, with 881 beds; and a workhouse infirmary, also, in conjunction with the Toxteth and West Derby Guardians, a consumption hospital at Heswall on the Dee. The total number of beds available in all the Liverpool hospitals is over 4,000.

Liverpool workhouse infirmary from the south, c.1925.

Chapel of the School of the Indigent Blind, 1829
For the blind, deaf, and dumb, there where:—The School for the Indigent Blind (founded 1791), the oldest institution of its kind, with 210 inmates, the School for the Deaf and Dumb (1825) with 110 pupils; the Catholic Blind Asylum (1841) with 199 inmates; the Workshops and Home Teaching Society for the Outdoor Blind (1859); the Adult Deaf and Dumb Benevolent Society (1864); and the Home for Blind Children (1874).

In addition to the Bluecoat Hospital, already described, the following institutions exist for the rescue of children:—Female Orphan Asylum (1840), Orphan Asylum for boys (1850), Infant Orphan Asylum (1858), each accommodating 150 inmates; the Sheltering Homes for Destitute Children (1872) who annually trained and send out to Canada 250 children; the Seamen's Orphan Institution provided for 350 children; the Indefatigable training ship (1865), with which was connected, prepared about 250 boys for the mercantile marine; the Lancashire Navy League Sea training Home did similar work; the Children's Friend Society (1866) maintained a Boys' Home; the Newsboys' Home which took in sixty-five street boys; and there was a group of homes for training poor girls, chiefly for domestic service, including the Magdalen Institution (1855) for fifty girls; the Mission to Friendless Girls (1862); the Preventive Homes (1865) for forty-four girls; the Training Home for Girls (1894) for thirty-two girls; and the Bencke Home; while the Ladies' Association for the Care and Training of Girls maintained four distinct homes.

LSPCC Islington Sqaure
There was also a Children's Aid Society for clothing poor children attending elementary schools, and a Police-aided Clothing Association, which provided clothes for children engaged in street-trading (who in Liverpool were required to be registered) and with the aid of the police prevents parents from selling the clothes. Following the creation of the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (LSPCC). Other towns and cities began to follow Liverpool’s example, leading in 1884 to the founding of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (London SPCC) by Lord Shaftesbury, Reverend Edward Rudolf and Reverend Benjamin Waugh. After five years of campaigning by the London SPCC, Parliament passed the first ever UK law to protect children from abuse and neglect in 1889. The London SPCC was renamed the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1889, because by then it had branches across Great Britain and Ireland.

The Lancashire Female Refuge (1823) maintained a home for women coming out of prison, and was the oldest charity of its kind. The Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society did the same work in a more general way. For fallen women there are the Female Penitentiary (1811), the Benevolent Institution and Rescue Home (1839), the Home of the Midnight Mission (1875), and the Home of the Liverpool Rescue Society (1890).

For the Aged. there was the Widows' Home (1871); the Homes for Aged Mariners (1882), including a large central building founded by Mr. William Cliff, and seventeen detached cottages in the grounds in which married couples may live; and the Andrew Gibson Home for the widows of seamen (1905).

In addition there were also Pension Charities. These were numerous. The Aged Merchant Seamen and Widows' Fund (1870) gave 166 small pensions in 1906; the Governesses Benevolent Institution (1849) distributed £900 per annum in pensions; the Seamen's Pension Fund was founded by Mr. T. H. Ismay in 1887 with a capital of £20,000, to which Mrs. Ismay later added £10,000 for seamen's widows; the Shipbrokers' Benevolent Society (1894) distributed annuities of not more than £30 to old employees; and the Merchant Guild administers ten distinct pension funds, chiefly for the relief of distressed persons of the middle and upper classes; it awarded 179 pensions in 1906, the largest being of £42.

Miscellaneous Charities also exited but there are too many to list, however we must mention the Sailors' Home, founded in 1852, which provided cheap lodging and help for sailors when they were paid off. In 1809  the Society for Preventing Wanton Cruelty to Brute Animals was founded making the local branch of the R.S.P.C.A. an older body than the national institution. The David Lewis Club and Hostel had the immense Rowton House with a very handsome club attached.

The city is renowned for its charitable works which continue right up until the present day, (links below) with charities such as Zoe's Place the local Baby Hospice, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Lord Mayor's Charity Appeal, which has helped raise over £1 million for local good causes. This is the charity of the first citizen of Liverpool. 

Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Anna Rothery


Councillor Rothery will be sponsoring four charities during her office as Lord Mayor. They are the Anthony Walker Foundation, Amadudu Women’s Refuge, Liverpool City Region Pride Foundation and Merseyside Somali Association.

She said: “I am hoping to raise a lot of money for my charities this year to raise the profile of the excellent work they do. There are so many worthy charities who all do outstanding work, I only wish I could sponsor them all.”

If you think you can help raise money for The Lord Mayor’s Charity please contact Liverpool Town Hall on 0151 233 4651 or email town.hall@liverpool.gov.uk or donate at liverpooltownhall.co.uk/lmca.

Image: Jason Roberts Photography



Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Records Office
British History National Archives
Trans. Hist. Soc., papers in vols. xi, xiii, xvi, xxxi.
Streets Of Liverpool

By Robert F Edwards
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