Liverpool City Council
Dec 23 2009
Liverpool is to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of William
Gladstone, four-time British Prime Minister, with a special exhibition
celebrating his life.
The FREE exhibition, to launch on Tuesday, December 29th – 200 years
exactly to the day of his birth – will be held at St George’s Hall
in Liverpool, less than a mile from his birthplace at 92 Rodney Street.
The three month long exhibition, which ends on March 27 2010, will
be situated in the Gladstone Gallery in the Grade 1 listed hall and
will feature items such as records, diaries and books from his career,
Gladstone merchandise such as pottery and ceramics, newspaper cuttings
of the day and a bust donated by John Moores University.
As part for the celebrations, launched by Liverpool’s Deputy Lord
Mayor, Councillor Hazel Williams, a series of talks will be held on
the day by local historians exploring the different stages of his
life from Gladstone’s childhood in Liverpool, his political career
to the world in which he operated.
Councillor Gary Millar, Executive Member for Enterprise and Tourism,
said: "William Gladstone was a true colossus of British politics,
his influence and beliefs can still be felt today and continue to
inspire many to take an interest in politics.
"Liverpool is fortunate and honoured to have him as a son and
I’m delighted the city is celebrating his fascinating life on this
landmark anniversary. St George’s Hall is a living history lesson of
the legacies of the Victorian age and with a room and statue dedicate
the Grand Old Man himself, I can’t think of a better venue for this
exhibition. I’m sure everyone who has an interest in the man and his
time will find this exhibition of great interest."
One of the outstanding statesmen of the 19th century, Gladstone was
instrumental in shaping modern-day democracy in Britain from reforming
voting rights and meritocracy in the army, to free education and
advocating Irish Home Rule.
An MP for more than 50 years, the son of a Scottish merchant also
served as Chancellor of the Exchequer where he passed a bill cutting
publishing duties paving the way for cheaper newspapers and more
Steve Binns, MBE, Community Historian of Liverpool City Council,
is one of the UK’s leading authorities on William Gladstone. He has
dedicated 30 years to studying his life, has read over 5,000 of his
letters and is attempting to transcribe his 12 volume personal diary –
the biggest book in the English language – into Braille.
Steve said: "Gladstone is my hero because of his journey from opposing
any change to championing the right of the people to be at the heart
of the government. He arguably invented modern politics from public
speaking and public campaigns to the secret ballot – all of which
was centred on the revolutionary idea of persuading people to vote
and to trust them to do so.
"His attitude to life is fascinating and in my opinion he is probably
Liverpool’s greatest son. He famously said he always backed the
masses against the classes and made so many comebacks that the remark
‘you could take Gladstone out of Liverpool but not Liverpool out of
Gladstone’ always proved accurate."
Cited by Winston Churchill, who also represented both the Liberal and
Conservative Party, as one of his greatest inspirations, Gladstone
was equally famous for his frosty relationship with Queen Victoria
and his political rivalry with Benjamin Disraeli, who like Gladstone
is also honoured with a statue at St George’s Hall.
In 1895, at the age of 85, Gladstone bequeathed Â£40,000 (equivalent to
approximately Â£3.31 million today) and much of his library to found St
Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Wales, the only residential library in
Britain. Despite his advanced age, he himself hauled most of his 32,000
books a quarter of a mile to their new home, using his wheelbarrow.
In 1896, in his last noteworthy speech, he denounced Armenian massacres
by Ottomans in a talk delivered at Liverpool to 7,000 people at the
now-gone Henglers Circus near West Derby Road.
Gladstone died on 19 May 1898 at Hawarden Castle, Hawarden, Flintshire
aged 88. His coffin was transported on the London Underground before
his state funeral at Westminster Abbey, at which the Prince of Wales
(the future Edward VII) and the Duke of York (the future George V)
acted as pallbearers.
There are a limited number of free tickets for the Gladstone talks
on 29 December at 1pm in the Concert Room. Tickets are available
from the reception of the Heritage Centre of St George’s Hall or by
phoning 0151 225 6909.