Burlington Street 1890

Temperance March c1895

There is a substantial number of contemporary accounts of life in nineteenth century Liverpool. Journalists such as Hugh Shimmin wrote extensively about slum life, usually sympathetically but invariably looking at drink as the underlying cause of poverty. Invariably, middle class response to the threat of the ‘underclass’ was to lobby for tighter controls on the sale of alcohol – with a growing number arguing for total abstinence. Signing the ‘pledge’ (not to drink) and supporting temperance organisations such as the Band of Hope attracted national support – even if, like most bandwagons, it eventually ran out of steam.

The first photograph, of Burlington Street, is one of a series taken by Liverpool photographer N. Stephen, a committed anti-drink campaigner, and used as lantern slides in temperance lectures. The second photograph, which looks as if it has been taken somewhere near Abercromby Square, shows what appears to be a well-heeled crowd about to start their procession. The distance between the two locations is only a couple of miles in distance – but light years in comfort, opportunity and life expectancy. A century on, one might ask ‘what has changed?’

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