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Recollections of a Busy Life

William Forwood

Book Overview: 

Liverpool in the second half of the 19th century was burgeoning with rich merchants and swollen with poor immigrants. It was known variously as the "New York of Europe" and the "Black Spot on the Mersey." Waist-deep in this mosaic we find William Bower Forwood making a busy life for himself, making his fortune in cotton trading (including running the American blockade of the Southern States) and then delving into public affairs. We see the civic leader, dedicated to the betterment of "the good old town and the trade thereof," and we see the statesman and tourist, dining with kings and wrestling with presidents. We see the effect that social environment has on a man's view of the world, with Sir William's casual categorization of the various races' assumed work habits, from the Caribbean 'Negro' to the Indian 'Coolie,' his breezy dismissal of the Jamaican rebellion, his confidence in the steady hand of the Mexican dictator and his pride in the English superiority of business sense and management. But we also see the profound effect that a man can have on the society around him, working tirelessly to build libraries, parks and gardens, public transport, housing for the poor and a great cathedral for Liverpool. Forwood records these memoirs for his family members, and anyone they care to share them with, "to inspire them to make some effort on behalf of our great and glorious city—to elevate its social and intellectual life, to adorn and beautify its public streets and places, to brighten the lives and homes of the people, to carry forward and onward the great temple we are building to the glory of God," at a time when such things mattered to people.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .After passing Marmaduke Street, Edge Hill, there were no houses in Edge Lane on the south side until Rake Lane was reached. Here were the residences of Sir John Bent, Mr. George Holt, and others. The north side of Edge Lane, from the Botanic Gardens up to Laurel Road, was fringed with villas, surrounded by large gardens containing many fine trees, and the houses in this part were large and handsome; many of them still remain. Among those who then resided in Edge Lane were James Ryley, William Holt, F. A. Clint, Simon Crosfield, Mr. Lowndes, and Dashper Glynn. Mr. Heywood lived in Edge Lane Hall, then considered a house of much importance, surrounded as it was by a pretty park.

The principal events which dwell in my memory as having taken place at this time are the Fancy Fair held in the Prince's Park, in aid of our local charities, a very brilliant affair; and the opening of the great exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park. It was a matter of grave consideration with my. . . Read More