This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 22/03/2017
RODNEY STREET (West side)
(Formerly listed as: RODNEY STREET, 58-72)
This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.
House, 1792-3, for John Gladstone. Probably designed by John Whiteside Casson. Red brick in Flemish Bond with burnt headers, stone dressings, slate roof.
Three storeys with rendered basement; eight bays. The last five bays form a symmetrical composition centred on a slightly projecting three-bay pedimented centre; blank oeil-de-boeuf window in pediment. Stone basement plat band over ground floor, first-floor sill band to three-bay centre and top cornice with blocking course. Sash windows, some with glazing bars. All windows above the basement have wedge lintels. Five steps to central round-headed entrance. Doorcase is an aedicule with foliated capitals to the attached columns and swag and urn decoration to the frieze, surmounted by a pediment. The first three bays are of one storey with a recessed rear section, the second floor of which has been rebuilt and has a parapet with balustraded sections.
Plain iron area railings curve from the entrance. Set into the wall, to left of the entrance, is a rectangular lead plaque with cable moulding inside a convex moulded frame. The inscription reads: 'GLADSTONE / FOUR TIMES / PRIME MINISTER / BORN IN THIS HOUSE / 29.TH DECEMBER 1809'.
HISTORY: The street is named in honour of Admiral Lord Rodney, triumphant defender of British interests in the West Indies from 1779 to 1782. Rodney Street was laid out by William Roscoe and others 1783-4, the beginning of a Georgian residential development built to house the affluent away from the old town centre. The length, width, and straightness of Rodney Street were unprecedented in Liverpool. It was developed piecemeal up to the 1820s with pairs and short runs of substantial houses, mostly three-bay but some, like no. 62, with five bays.
John Gladstone (1764-1851), who commissioned no. 62 (originally no. 1) in 1792, had moved to Liverpool in 1786. Born John Gladstones in Leith, Edinburgh, the son of a corn merchant, Gladstones left school at thirteen to serve as apprentice in a rope and sailcloth company before entering his father's business. A new partnership brought him to Liverpool, where in 1787 he became known as Gladstone. The business was in American grain and tobacco, the goods on which Gladstone's fortune was founded.
In 1803 Gladstone began trading sugar and cotton in the West Indies; that year he purchased the Belmont estate in Demerara. Over the next quarter century, Gladstone increased his sugar estate holdings in Demerara and Jamaica; he never visited the islands that brought him such immense wealth. Not surprisingly, he was an ardent defender of the plantation system, and was from 1809 chairman of the Liverpool West Indian Association. In 1830 he published his 'Statement on the Present State of Slavery', which opposed total abolition whilst acknowledging the responsibilities of slave owners. After emancipation, Gladstone sold most of his West Indian property and invested in Bengal sugar instead.
Politically active in Liverpool, Gladstone's allegiances gradually changed from radical whig (a one-time supporter of the abolitionist William Roscoe) to tory (managing several of George Canning's election campaigns). Gladstone was an MP from 1818-27, representing three separate constituencies. He was knighted in 1846, and died in 1851 at Fasque, the Scottish estate he had bought in 1833. John Gladstone's political ambitions were realised through his son, William Ewart Gladstone, four times prime minister between 1868 and 1894.
William Gladstone was born on 29 December 1809, at the house in Rodney Street which was his home until the family moved in 1818. After attending a small school at Bootle near Liverpool run by an Evangelical connected with the family, William was sent to Eton. John Gladstone was determined to give his son the educational advantage he himself had lacked, and from a young age William was encouraged to follow a career in politics. During a distinguished career at Christ Church, Oxford, William expressed the desire to take holy orders, but this was discouraged.
In 1832 William Gladstone was elected MP for Newark, a seat largely controlled by the tory Duke of Newcastle, with whom John Gladstone is said to have exerted influence. His maiden speech was delivered shortly before the final reading of the Slavery Abolition Bill in July 1833; Gladstone argued against full emancipation. In the wake of the Act, Gladstone became a spokesman for the West Indian interest, seeking higher reparation payments for plantation owners. The Gladstone family received over £90,000 in compensation for the slaves they lost. Gladstone did not defend the principal of slavery, though he later counselled against interceding with foreign powers engaged in its practice, and protected the products of slave labour in the name of free trade. In common with many Liverpool people, Gladstone was a supporter of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
Gladstone's parliamentary career was one of exceptional distinction. Besides being a great orator, he was active, powerful, and successful in every branch of government; he was chancellor of the exchequer three times. His political allegiance changed gradually: in 1846 he became a Liberal-Conservative, and in 1859 joined the Liberal party; it was as a Liberal that he held the post of prime minister (1868-1874; 1880-5; 1886; 1892-4). A supporter of the Reform Bill and Catholic emancipation, Gladstone was passionately interested in the Irish question, campaigning for home rule. The defeat of the second Home Rule Bill in 1893 signalled Gladstone's retirement from the House of Commons, but the bill had far-reaching effects on Britain's constitution. From 1874 Gladstone lived at Hawarden Castle, the home of his wife's family, where he became known as an exemplar of the English country gentleman. It was here that he died in 1898.
From 1818 to 1831 62 Rodney Street was home to John Cardwell, merchant, and his family. Cardwell's son Edward (1813-86), also became a politician, and he and Gladstone were for many years political allies. From 1847 to 1852 Cardwell represented Liverpool; thereafter he was MP for Oxford City. An advocate of free trade, his financial expertise was valued by William Gladstone. Cardwell served as Gladstone's secretary of state for war from 1868 to 1874. The greatest C19 reformer of the British army, Cardwell's most important legacy was the abolition of the system whereby many officers' commissions could be bought and sold. When Gladstone resigned in 1874, Cardwell was a strong candidate for the succession but, exhausted by his time at the War Office, he accepted a peerage instead, becoming Viscount Cardwell of Ellerbeck. He continued to be politically active, speaking out against slavery in the late 1870s.
As the birthplace of one of Britain's greatest prime ministers, 62 Rodney Street is of undoubted historic interest. But seen in relation to the history of the slave trade, particularly in Liverpool, its story acquires an extra dimension. Laid out by William Roscoe, who was to become Liverpool's most prominent abolitionist, Rodney Street was named in celebration of Britain's naval supremacy in the West Indies - Lord Rodney claimed that the greatness of the navy was fostered by apprenticeship in the slave trade. In 1788 Lord Rodney had given evidence to the parliamentary select committee appointed to examine the slave trade, saying that during many years in the West Indies he had seen no evidence that Africans were treated with brutality (he himself was master of a devoted black servant). Rodney Street was built to house Liverpool's prosperous merchants, the wealth of many of whom depended on slaves and the products of their labour; members of the Tobin and Houghton families were amongst those who established themselves on the street. John Gladstone was one of the richest of these merchants; his investment in West Indian plantations transformed the family's status, enabling Gladstone to pave the way for his son's political career. Once in government, William Gladstone, generally regarded as an advocate of social reform, exemplified the complacent attitude towards slavery which persisted in much of British society throughout the C19.
The street is remarkably well preserved, with over 70 listed Georgian houses, as well as 17 listed early C19 lamp posts.
J. Sharples, 'Liverpool (2004), 231; Dictionary of National Biography'
J. A. Picton, 'Memorials of Liverpool', 2 vols (1873, 1875) II, 244-7
Hugh Thomas, 'The Slave Trade' (1997)
L. Westgaph, 'Read the Signs: street names with a connection to the transatlantic slave trade and abolition in Liverpool', (booklet produced by English Heritage, 2007)
R. Pollard and N. Pevsner, 'Buildings of England, Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West' (2006)
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
62 Rodney Street is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Good example of a substantial late C18 merchant's town house in Liverpool, one of the earlier and more substantial in a remarkably well-preserved Georgian street
* Birthplace of William Ewart Gladstone, one of Britain's greatest prime ministers
* Numerous connections with the slave trade add to historical interest of building; the house was built for John Gladstone, father of the future prime minister, and West Indian plantation owner.