Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The American Civil War and Liverpool

Trans-Atlantic trade between Liverpool and the Southern cotton producing States was crucial to the cotton industry of the north-west of England, and with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the cotton trade experienced a period of uncertainty and instability.  The outbreak of the American Civil War followed the secession from the Union by the Southern cotton producing States that depended on slavery.  The growing anti-slavery position of the Northern States had made conflict with the South more apparent, the newly elected President Abraham Lincoln having firmly declared himself against the expansion of slavery, a view that was compounded in a speech he gave in New Haven, Connecticut in March 1860:

‘One of the reasons why I am opposed to Slavery is just here…I want every man to have the chance - and I believe a black man is entitled to it – in which he can better his condition – when he may look forward and hope to be a hired labourer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him!  That is the true system.[1]

With the foundation of the Confederate States of America in February 1861, hostilities followed, and in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln resulted in slaves being freed in Confederate States occupied by the Union.

The maintaining of networking and business contacts were essential to the cotton merchants and brokers of Liverpool, and during the war, despite the neutrality of Britain, some Liverpool merchants were willing to buy cotton that could be smuggled past the Union naval blockade that had been established during the early stages of the conflict.  An example of the intricate networking that developed during the Civil War in Liverpool can be seen with the activities of a Confederate naval officer and ‘secret serviceman’ who operated in the port called James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Confederate ‘banker’ named Charles Kuhn Prioleau, the Liverpool based shipping firm of Fraser and Trenholm and a number of Merseyside shipbuilding companies.

Bulloch Hall, Georgia, USA.

            James Dunwoody Bulloch had resided at Bulloch Hall, which was built by his father Major James Stephen Bulloch, a plantation owner and cotton producer. After establishing his base in Liverpool and cultivating his contacts, Bulloch began arranging in secret for the construction of commerce and blockade raiders, such as the CSS Alabama, which was built at the Birkenhead shipbuilders John Lairds, and the CSS Florida, which was constructed by the Liverpool shipbuilder William Cowley Miller.[2] Bulloch also purchased ships, such as the CSS Shenandoah, the purpose of which was as a commerce raider, particularly focussing on Whaling ships – a source of revenue for the Union.  The CSS Alabama became extremely successful; from the ship’s launch in July 1862 to her sinking by the USS Kearsarge in June 1864, the Alabama claimed over 60 prizes, her Captain Raphael Semmes also residing in Liverpool for a time.  Along with his younger brother Irvine Bulloch, who had been the youngest officer on the Alabama, James remained in Liverpool after the Civil War, both maintaining a relationship with their nephew and future President of the USA Theodore Roosevelt.

The society of Liverpool proved its support for the Confederacy when, in October 1864, the great Southern Bazaar was held at St. Georges’ Hall to raise money for the Confederate wounded, and as a result around £20,000 was raised.  The woman behind the bazaar was none other than Mary Elizabeth Prioleau, the wife of Confederate ‘banker’ Charles Kuhn Prioleau, who originated from Charleston, South Carolina, and was a manager and partner of Fraser and Trenholm.  The offices of Bulloch and Fraser and Trenholm were located close to each other at Rumford Place, near to the Liverpool Docks.  Prioleau was supplying funds for the shipbuilding at Lairds, and after the war was over, Fraser and Trenholm became bankrupt and he left Liverpool to settle in London.[3]

Prioleau decorated his house at 19 Abercromby Square in Liverpool with an elaborate mixture of classical and Confederate symbolism, some of which, such as the fresco on the entrance porch ceiling (above) which displays the palmetto tree, being the State symbol for South Carolina, would be instantly recognisable to Confederate supporters.

The Lancashire Cotton Famine was as much a result of overproduction in the years prior to the American Civil War as the supply of raw cotton being cut off due to the Union blockade.  The cotton workers of mill towns such as Manchester became unemployed as a result, and a rioting took place in Stalybridge in 1863, spreading to Ashton, Hyde and Dukinfield.  Despite this hardship, cotton workers had met at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and had given support to Lincoln and the Union in the fight against slavery.  However, support was divided in certain Lancashire cotton producing towns, and some mills actually hoisted the Confederate flag on the day the Prince of Wales marries Princess Alexandra in 1863.

William Ewart Gladstone, despite his liberalism, had shocked his fellow politicians on his views on the American Civil War and the issue of slavery.  Gladstone, whose elder brother Robertson was a high ranking Freemason and politician in Liverpool, and whose father had kept slaves on his West Indies plantation, gave a speech in Newcastle in October 1862, were he had effectively recognised the Confederacy:

‘We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davies and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made, what is more than either, they have made a nation…’[4]

Gladstone’s reference to the Confederacy ‘making a navy’ was certainly uncanny regarding that his home town of Liverpool was central to the ship building activities of Confederate agent James Dunwoody Bulloch at this time.  Gladstone’s Newcastle speech certainly stirred feelings across the British political spectrum, leading the Liberal spokesman John Bright to comment ‘he has no word of sympathy for the four million bondsmen of the South’.[5]  Though he was against slavery, Gladstone ultimately disapproved of the Civil War to bring about its end.[6]

The offices of Fraser and Trenholm at Rumford Place, as they are today.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

© Dr David Harrison 2016

[1] Abraham Lincoln, ‘From a Speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6th, 1860’, in Mario M. Cuomo and Harold Holzer, (ed.), Lincoln on Democracy; His own words, with essays by America’s foremost Civil War historians, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), p.176-177.
[2] John Hussey, Cruisers, Cotton and Confederates, Liverpool Waterfront in the days of the Confederacy, (Birkenhead: Countrywise, 2009), pp.17-19.
[3] See the Fraser and Trenholm Archive, The Liverpool Maritime Museum.  The archive includes original letters from Prioleau to key figures in the Confederacy, discussing loans and blockade running vessels.
[4] Peter J. Parish, ‘Gladstone and America’ in Peter J. Jagger (ed.,), Gladstone, (Hambledon Continuum, 1998), pp.85-105, on p.97.
[5] Ibid., p.99.  See also Philip Magnus, Gladstone A Biography, (New York, E.P Dutton & Co., 1954), p.154.
[6] Peter J. Parish, ‘Gladstone and America’ in Peter J. Jagger (ed.,), Gladstone, (Hambledon Continuum, 1998), pp.85-105, on p.99

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

St Oswald’s Church, Winwick, Cheshire

St Oswald’s Church in Winwick, Cheshire, is an ancient church that was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and despite having extensive rebuilding in the 19th century by Pugin in the Gothic revival style, the church still retains many medieval features that date from the 13th and 14th centuries.

The church was dedicated to St Oswald; an early seventh century Northumbrian king who, according to Bede, fought against an alliance led by Cadwallon the king of Gwynedd and the Mercian king Penda. These two kings had formed an allegiance to halt the expansion of Northumbria, but Oswald had defeated Cadwallon at the battle of Heavenfield near Hexham in 632 AD. Oswald had erected a cross before the battle and, according to tradition, had won the battle with God's blessing.
However, in AD 642, Oswald entered into battle again with Penda and lost, and according to legend Oswald’s body was dismembered. The location of this battle – called the Battle of Maserfield - has been debated for centuries, the location given either as near Winwick (Makerfield) or in Oswestry, which is in Shropshire near the border of Wales, and would have been close to the kingdom of Mercia. Oswald was thereafter considered a saint, and a tale recounted by Reginald of Durham tells of a bird picking up Oswald’s dismembered arm, taking it to a tree, which gave the tree long life, and when the bird dropped the arm on the ground, a spring emerged from the earth. There is a Holy Well attributed to Oswald near Winwick, though there is also a Holy Well at Oswestry. A cult surrounding Oswald grew and was particularly promoted by king Æthelstan in the early tenth century.

Winwick Church has a number of artefacts such as the arms of a tenth century cross that reveal an image of Oswald being held upside down and dismembered by two men on one ‘cross-arm’ panel and what could be a monk carrying two pales of water from a Holy Well on the other. The church also has many medieval stonemason’s marks and carvings, including the pig that is carved on the outside of the tower. The feast day for St Oswald is the 5th of August, and the Well was traditionally cleared on this day.

The tenth century cross arms on display in the church. The cross was probably vandalised by Cromwell's army who were stationed at the church in 1648, and this section was discovered reused as a grave slab.

The side panel of the cross arm depicts Oswald upside down, being held by two Mercians. Oswald was dismembered after the battle in AD 642. This style of depiction told the story of his Martyrdom.

The other panel depicts what is interpreted as a Monk carrying two pales of water from a Holy Well.

A medieval carving of a Bishop at the bottom of a pillar in the church.

A coat of arms displaying the legend of the Eagle and Child.

A medieval stonemason's mark from the church.

Another stonemason's mark in the church - in the style of a crude square and compass.

Another stonemason's mark in the church.

A stonemason's mark on a stone that is now located in the church gateway. It has probably been removed from the church during refurbishment.

St Oswald depicted in the central section of the east window.

The Victorian hymn board.

The ceiling of Pugin's extension of the church.

Wooden carving of St Oswald.

The columns of the church.

Wooden panelled ceiling of part of the church and the top section showing some of the monuments.

St Oswald's Well, Hermitage Green, near Winwick.

View of St Oswald's Church, Winwick.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison

© Dr David Harrison 2016

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Sankey Canal; The first canal

The Sankey Canal was constructed in 1757 and was the first industrial canal to be constructed in England. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1755 'for making navigable the River or Brook called Sankey Brook', which is why the canal is sometimes overlooked, as the Act was to make the Sankey Brook - which runs alongside the canal - 'navigable'. However, a canal was constructed, the work financed by Liverpool merchants such as Nicholas Ashton. It was constructed to transport coal from the coalfields of St Helens, Parr and Haydock, to Liverpool, the canal first entering the River Mersey at Sankey Bridges, but later being extended to Fiddler's Ferry after a second Act of Parliament was obtained in 1762. Another extension to Widnes was opened in 1833.

The surveyor for the canal was Henry Berry, a Liverpool Dock Engineer who had worked under Thomas Steers, Steers having constructed Liverpool's first dock in 1715. The canal was designed for Mersey Flats - a sailing craft common to the River Mersey and surrounding waterways. A series of swing bridges were designed to accommodate the Mersey Flats, with locks being designed at various stages of the canal and a dry dock and boat yard at Winwick Quay. Heavy industry soon developed along the canal; along with the coal mines there was an alkali works, Sankey Sugar works, glass works in St Helens and a pottery in Bewsey, all utilising the canal. In 1830, the first railway from Liverpool to Manchester crossed the canal at Newton Common with the Sankey Viaduct constructed by George Stephenson, the viaduct and canal being a monument to the industrial age.

The decline of the canal in the twentieth century saw various branches north of the Sugar Works fall into disrepair, and with the end of the sugar traffic, the canal finally closed in 1963. It soon silted up and various swing bridges were replaced with more permanent bridges due to the development of local road systems. Stretches of the canal were infilled in the 1970s, but by 1985, a Sankey Canal Restoration Society was formed and there are plans to restore the canal. Parts of the canal at Fiddler's Ferry and Spike Island are used as a marina, and there are still many industrial archaeological features to be seen along the canal, which is now part of the Sankey Valley Park.

The Sankey Canal at St. Helens. The Glass Works can be seen on the right hand side.

The Glass Museum at St. Helens, just by the canal.

New Double Lock in St. Helens.

A derelict house by the canal in St. Helens. It may have been a bridge house.

The Ship Inn, St. Helens, one of the many pubs that is located along the canal.

Old Double Lock, St. Helens.

The Sankey Viaduct.

Bradley Lock, near Newton le Willows.

The remains of a wharf side wall at the top of Bradley Lock.

A surviving swing bridge at Newton le Willows, just below Bradley Lock.

The remains of Winwick Lock.

What used to be The Ship at Winwick Quay, a pub situated by the side of the canal.

The boat repair yard at Winwick Quay, the building dates to 1841.

Winwick Quay in the early 1970s before the canal was infilled. The boat repair yard is in the background to the right. (Warrington Borough Council)

Sunset at Fiddler's Ferry yacht haven.

The lock at Fiddler's Ferry. The canal enters the River Mersey.

Where the canal meets the Mersey. There is a boat repair yard and Yacht club at Fiddler's Ferry. Silt can be seen collecting to the right of the lock wall. The Mersey is still tidal here so boats have to wait until high tide to enter the river.

The Polly - a Manx Knobby built in the early 1900s, can still be seen at Fiddlers Ferry. This type of local boat was common to the Liverpool Bay area.

The lock at Spike Island in Widnes, the end of the canal. The canal also enters the River Mersey here.

The remains of a Mersey Flat on the banks of the Mersey, Spike Island.

The remains of another vessel at Spike Island. 

A print showing the Sankey Viaduct from Newton Common Lock, c.1830s.

All photos taken with permission by Dr David Harrison.
The map of the Sankey Canal taken from http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/sankey/sankey.htm


The website for the Sankey Canal Restoration Society is well worth a visit: http://www.sankeycanal.co.uk/