- THE ATHENAEUM
- WEDDINGS & EVENTS
On the left, George Perry’s A new and accurate plan of the town and port of Leverpool (1769) is followed by Thomas Troughton’s Plan of Liverpool (1807) in a gilt frame. On the right is Michael Alexander Gage’s The trigonometrical plan of the town and port of Liverpool, c. 1834, engraved by Thomas Starling. These three town plans demonstrate the development of the town over a period of almost 70 years. The Perry map was framed and mounted at the Conservation Centre, Liverpool, for the Joseph Wright of Derby exhibition. This toured to the Yale Center for British Art, who generously met the cost of restoration and framing.
Approaching the office are two bas-relief roundels; the one on the left portrays William Huskisson MP (1770-1830), promoter of the Liverpool-Manchester railway who became its first fatality when George Stephenson’s Rocket ran him over at Parkside near Newton-le-Willows. The right-hand one portrays George Canning MP (1770-1827). Both he and Huskisson had Liverpool docks named for them; Canning served as Foreign Secretary under Lord Liverpool and later, briefly, as Prime Minister. In the showcase is a bust of Sir Charles Radcliffe (d. 1952) by Edward Carter-Preston (1885-1965), who executed many of the sculptures in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. Sir Charles made a major contribution to fund-raising for the cathedral’s construction. Nearby, a ceramic plaque by Julia Carter-Preston (his daughter) was made to celebrate the Club’s tercentenary in 1997 and marked the visit of H.R.H. the Duke of York on 29 June 1998. It portrays the Goddess Athena and was decorated using the sgraffito technique.
Proceeding through the office into the Monsarrat Room, named for the novelist Nicholas Monsarrat (1910-1979) whose literary archive and library was recently donated to the Athenaeum, we see on the left the new bookcase by Neil Wyn Jones commissioned to house the Monsarrat Library. Note the artefacts displayed in the central section: his cigar cutter, cigar case, hip flask and binoculars. The painting by Edward Halliday (1902-84) shows Nicholas Monsarrat and his sister Felicity sitting with the artist’s wife Dorothy (née Hatswell), the classicist and archaeologist, at their holiday retreat in Anglesey. Above the door is a pair of panoramas titled Liverpool from the Mersey drawn by Thomas Sulman, which date from around 1860.
By the steps leading to the staircase, a second graffito plaque by Julia Carter-Preston commemorates the centenary, in 2000, of the formation of the Liverpool Scottish Regiment and bears the motto “They win or die who wear the rose of Lancashire”.
In the foyer at the foot of the staircase stand a statue of the Goddess Athena, patroness of the Club, and a bronze sculpture of Perseus and Ariadne. The long-case clock is by George Green of Preston. On the far wall is an oil painting after Sir Joshua Reynolds of Sir Banastre Tarleton (1754-1833), soldier and MP. who was defeated by William Roscoe in the 1806 general election but was re-elected in 1807. He is shown in the uniform of a Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Dragoon Guards. Philip Nelson donated the painting to the club in 1915. On the opposite wall is a view of Lincoln Cathedral and Exchequer Gate by William G. Herdman, one of a number of Herdman drawings owned by the Club. It was donated by Major Herbert Lancelyn Green in 1937.
On the wall of the staircase, a sequence of Prime Ministerial portraits is displayed in chronological order. The first shows Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757-1844) who served as Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804 shortly after the Club was founded. The sequence may eventually end with Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) but at the time of writing a number of the portraits are in process of being re-framed; the final frame currently contains a group of Prime Ministers from the 1920s.
In the Cloakroom on the First Floor level, a Herdman drawing of Edinburgh Castle (1856) is displayed. Above the coat racks are a number of heraldic plaques. The two framed prints published by Samuel Lefevre were drawn by W. Dendy Sadler and engraved by James Dobie.
Above the fireplace on the left hand side of the room is a fine portrait of William Roscoe (1753-1831) by John Williamson. This, and several other oil paintings in this room, belong to the Walker Art Gallery which kindly loaned them to the Club.
To the right of the Roscoe portrait is an oil painting by Robert Edward Morrison (1851/2-1924/5) of the Liverpool architect Sir James A. Picton (1805-1889), who served on the City Council and laid the foundation stone of the Picton Reading Room in 1875. The rather mediocre portrait of King George III reflects the fact that he was on the throne at the time the Club was founded.
On each side of the fireplace there is a portrait bust in white marble of two early Proprietors. On the left, Thomas Stewart Traill (1781-1862), curator at the Liverpool Royal Institution, and our club’s President 1823-25; and on the right, Dr John Bostock (1773-1846), one of the original proprietors of Liverpool’s first botanic garden and a close friend of William Roscoe.
At the far right hand side of the room is a small collection of miscellaneous artefacts, including a Royal Worcester plaque of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin (1911-1999), presented by Mr & Mrs Cowan; a 1670 pewter quart measure tankard from the Axe Inn, Aldermanbury, from which Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) sent a set of pictures to William Roscoe; and a mantle clock by G. Eccles & Son, Liverpool purchased in 1930 with the help of a legacy from W. E. Gregson (President 1919-20).
An oil painting of the former headmaster of the Royal Institution School, Rev. J.B. Monk, who served in that capacity from 1819 to 1828, commemorates the close involvement of William Roscoe in the foundation of that institution. There are several small busts of Roscoe, including a heavy bronze bust above the fireplace modelled by Benjamin Edward Spence (1822-1866) and cast for Edward Flower of Liverpool. A marble bust of Roscoe protected by a glass dome is located directly above the bookcase that holds part of his fine library.
At the end of the room hangs a portrait of the Librarian of Cardinal Jules Mazarin’s Library, Gabriel Naudé (1600-1653) who was a strong advocate of public access. Beneath it stands a mantel clock presented by Kenneth Cook in 1928. At the other end, above the strong room door, is a portrait of Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) by Mrs Seddon after Sir Joshua Reynolds, presented by Sir James Poole and Robert Gladstone. The handsome set of committee chairs are by Gillow of Lancaster.
At the opposite side of the entrance door is a display of silhouettes of various Liverpool worthies: John Blackburne MP, John Bourne, Ven. Archdeacon Brooks, Dr R. Buddicom, Rev. Augustus Campbell, Sir John Gladstone, Rev. John Johnson and William Lawson. Though fine examples of the craft, they were not actually made by Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767). A small German clock with rotating pendulum is marked on the rear Jahresuhrenfabrik, referring to the fact that it only needs winding once a year. A view by Thomas Kay of the façade of the original Lime Street railway station is one of several prints donated by Proprietor Robert Gladstone.
The three narrative murals by Edward Halliday (1902-1984) dominate the room. A separate information leaflet is available describing these in detail. The contest between Athena and Poseidon for the patronship of Athens is located above the fireplace. The scene is the Acropolis, where the protagonists compete to see who can provide the greater gift to the City of Athens. Athena produces an olive tree, while Poseidon creates a spring of water. The story of Marsyas describes the contest between Marsyas and Phoebus Apollo to determine who is the better flautist, the loser to be flayed alive! An equally sticky fate awaits Arachne, the heroine of the third mural Athena and Arachne, who is turned into a spider after failing to win a tapestry-weaving competition with Athena and hanging herself in remorse. The three paintings were commissioned by Sir Benjamin Johnson, President 1928-29 and one of them features a small self-portrait of the artist.
Several portraits grace this room, but perhaps the most interesting painting is a view of the original Athenaeum Library on the left-hand wall beyond the entrance to the stacks. Painted by Samuel J.M. Brown in 1926, just before the old Athenaeum building was abandoned, it was presented by Godfrey W. Mathews. An original circular table survives in the present library. Nearby is a portrait of Bertram B. Benas (1880-1968) by Charles W. Oliver, author of The fundamentals of figure drawing. Benas was a barrister, historian and noted Zionist who became a Proprietor in 1899 and served as President in 1938-39. The portrait of George R. Norris (President 1945) is also by Charles W. Oliver.
A silhouette of Frederick G. Blair, Librarian from 1923 to 1957, was made by E. Shirley-Jones. A small unsigned portrait of Rev. Abraham Hume, Canon of Liverpool was presented by J. Paul Rylands in 1906. George Thomas Shaw, Librarian from 1889 to 1909, went on to become the chief librarian at Liverpool Public Libraries, 1909-1929; our Hon. Librarians have more often tended to move in the opposite direction. The portrait of an early Proprietor, Thomas Porter, by Alexander Mosses (1793-1837) was presented by his son T. Collies Porter in 1828. This is my favourite portrait.
Several items of furniture are of Monsarrat provenance; they include the desk over by the sheaf catalogue, and the lectern (actually a proofing table) by the map cabinet.
The two globes by the fireplace are by different makers. The 18 inch terrestrial globe dates from the late 19th century and was made by George Philip & Son. The much earlier celestial globe was made by J. & W. Carey and is based on the star atlas compiled by Rev. F. Wollaston around the year 1790. On the wall, a view of the original Athenaeum building drawn by the Liverpool printer Thomas Troughton is dedicated to George Case.
In the Librarian’s office a curious framed certificate dating from around 1600 attests to the fact that the corpse of the late Joseph Benson “was not put in, wrapt or wound up, in any shirt, shift, shoot or shroud, made or mingled with flax, silk, hair, gold or silver”, presumably because they had been wrongly accused of contravening a law prohibiting the use of such extravagant materials as burial shrouds.
There is the original design of a seal designed by Edward Carter-Preston, the Liverpool sculptor and medallist. A selection of topographic and architectural prints by William Gawin Herdman (1805-82) and his son William Herdman are displayed grouped by various themes, e.g. churches, the waterfront, Castle Street and the Everton district. The Wine Servery has an atmospheric view of the docks. In the main Dining Room there is one original oil painting of a sailing vessel; and a wall clock made by G. Eccles & Son of Liverpool.