A Grandfather's Tale, Chapter 7, THE LIVERPOOL FIRM

A GRANDFATHER'S TALE: LIVERPOOL SLAVE MERCHANT WILLIAM BOLDEN 1730-1800


Chapter Seven:  THE LIVERPOOL FIRM


The American War of Independence put Liverpool's "once extensive trade to Africa...at a stand". (1) In 1773 the number of Liverpool vessels cleared to Africa was 105. At the beginning of "the revolt of the North American Colonies" in 1775, the number of departing ships fell to 81. By 1779, at the height of the conflict, only 11 vessels "sailed from the Mersey to the Coast of Africa". It was not until the treaty of peace signed in 1783 that the slave trade began recovering to pre-war volumes, with 85 ships leaving Liverpool in that year. (2)

With embargoes on British goods and the activity of American privateers, it was not just the Guinea trade that was affected. Liverpool maritime trade in general was also reduced. During the years from 1775 to 1783, Sparling and Bolden's merchant trading to and from their branches in Virginia was virtually cut off. Exports and imports between Liverpool and Norfolk came to a halt. The partners were forced to look for alternative ways to use their capital and expertise.

Liverpool 'privateers'

Along with many of their peers, Sparling and Bolden began investing in "privateers". These were privately owned merchant ships with government licences, called "Letters of Marque", which authorised them to "cruise" for "prizes". In most cases these were ordinary trading vessels. They might capture other ships sailing under an "enemy flag", but in practice only if they were not outgunned and were not placing themselves or their cargo at too great a risk.

It was a case of 'like' capturing 'like', very much an informal 'force' of British ships, who only attacked when the odds were clearly in their favour. Information gleaned from Gomer Williams' "List of the principal Liverpool privateers" suggests that Sparling and Bolden were more interested in the commercial trade side of these ventures, rather than the possibilities of pillage.

Bolden's shares in Charming Kitty (cruising 1779), Bellona (cruising 1778-80), Friendship (Liverpool to Jamaica 1779), and Comet (no date), were minor holdings. The lists of other owners varied from four to sixteen. Sparling's shares in Brilliant (cruising 1778), Mermaid (Liverpool to Antigua 1783), and Sparling (Liverpool to Jamaica 1777 and Liverpool to Philadelphia 1778), may have been more substantial. In Sparling's case the lists of co-owners ranged from one to five. As partners, Sparling and Bolden also owned outright the Betsey (Liverpool to New York 1779) and Sparling No. 2 ((Liverpool to New York 1780). (3)

The fortunes of Sparling and Bolden as "privateers" were mixed. The Betsey took a "prize" in 1779 (the French La Favorie of 200 tons) and the Mermaid took another in 1782. Both of these captures were sold in the name of "John Sparling and Co." However, the Betsey herself was taken on the way to New York later in 1779, as was the firm's 160 ton Sparling No. 2 in 1780. (4)

More pertinent, perhaps, for the merchant pair were the destinations recorded for six of these eleven voyages. Three were for the West Indies and three were for North America. The plantations in the Caribbean remained in the market for manufactured supplies from Britain, as Britain remained eager for the colonial produce of sugar, indigo, coffee and rice. And, it is worth noting, the fortunes of war in the Thirteen Colonies of mainland America also fluctuated, with New York and even Philadelphia remaining in British hands for much of it. Although, as shown by the losses of the Betsey and the second Sparling, these ports were often high risk destinations. 

In the majority of cases then, and as much as was sensibly possible in the political circumstances, Sparling and Bolden's emphasis appears to have been on "normal trading voyages". Their mercantile activities were subdued by the American conflict, but they were not entirely extinguished. (5)

Hostilities ceased with the 1783 Treaty of Peace and the profitable flow of British manufactures to North America immediately resumed. In fact, the recovery in trade was so rapid and complete that the United States was soon buying more from Britain than the Thirteen Colonies had done prior to independence.

The Manchester 'connection'

Speed was a major priority for Sparling and Bolden, as trade links were re-established and markets restored. They had to get their American branches stocked up and selling before their competitors did. If they did not succeed in supplying their warehouse-stores promptly, the advantages of pre-war investment and location, and their managers' local intelligence in identifying goods in demand in post-war conditions, could just as quickly be lost. 

The port of Liverpool had considerable benefits for those interested in the fastest supply of manufactured goods from the industrialising heartlands of England to America. Principal among these was her, by now, extensive system of permanent wharves ('wet docks') and warehousing, and the interlocking network of inland waterways ('navigation canals') that connected these with the coal-mines, textile mills, metal foundries, and pottery kilns, of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

At the beginning of the War, Liverpool already had three wet docks capable of berthing ships and unloading cargoes directly onto the wharf-side -- the Old Dock (1715), the Salthouse Dock (1738), and St George's Dock (1762). In 1788 this capacity was increased by the opening of King's Dock, and later on, in 1796, with Queen's Dock. Complementing these facilities for all-weather cargo transfer for ocean going ships, which were built by the Trustees of the Liverpool Council, was the privately built Duke of Bridgewater's barge dock and associated warehouses. This was a long, narrow dock excavated between Salthouse and King's Docks for unloading the "Mersey flats" and the Duke's own canal barges from Manchester. Bridgewater had purchased this strip of strategically located land from the Council in 1768, with construction completed by 1773. (6)

The Duke of Bridgewater's commercial presence in Liverpool heralded a significant advance in transport efficiency for the northwest of England. Up until his construction of the Manchester Canal, inland carriage of freight relied on "improving" natural water-courses by deepening and straightening, with provision of locks and turning basins at terminal points. The port of Liverpool was already served by two of these "navigable" rivers. From 1732 the River Weaver Navigation had brought in salt on "Weaver flats" from Cheshire in the south. From 1734 the Mersey and Irwell Navigation brought textiles and other goods from Manchester in the east.

These innovations were important enough. Prior to these dates, salt and textiles had been carried on the backs of pack-horses, or in horse-pulled carts, from their source to the port. A reasonable estimate is that one pack-horse could carry 1/8 of a ton of goods and one horse hitched to a cart could haul 1/2 a ton. But one horse "towing" a flat or barge could move a load of up to 30 tons. This represented a massive increase in economic efficiency, with a correspondingly large drop in freight costs.

The excavation of purpose-built canals magnified this efficiency, by making the routes much shorter and more direct, and eliminating the seasonal and tidal fluctuations in water levels that dogged the natural streams. The combination of improved speed and reliability had a further dramatic effect on costs. When the "Duke's Cut" was opened for barge traffic in 1776, its immediate impact was to halve freight rates from Manchester. Over a relatively short period of forty years, Liverpool merchants and Manchester manufacturers had therefore experienced an extraordinary improvement in trading conditions; from "road carriage 40s. per ton", to "river navigation 12s. per ton", and now the very competitive "Duke's rate of 6s. per ton". (7)

In the next year Bridgewater's canal from Manchester was joined by Josiah Wedgewood's Trent and Mersey Canal from the Staffordshire potteries. The "Grand Trunk" not only opened up a direct route to the industrialising Midlands. It also provided competitive freight rates for the rock-salt miners of north Cheshire.

The direct benefit of the "Duke's Cut" and the "Great Trunk" to Sparling and Bolden's export business is obvious enough. Their trade to Virginia was founded on ballast cargoes of Cheshire salt, topped up with bales of Yorkshire woollens.  Surviving correspondence with their English suppliers indicates that attention to both timeliness of arrival, and price at the wharf, were critical to their decision-making during the post-war years.

For example, regarding price, the firm sent an order for "Woollens from Yorkshire" to "Messrs. William Sagar and Co. of Colne", dated 6 April 1791. Their covering letter included specific instructions for delivery: "...have them laid down free of carriage at Manchester, from which place the freight per the Canal is very trifling." (8)

In regard to promptness of delivery, another letter dated 17 August 1790 complains of delay for an order from Ridsdales and Johnson of Wakefield. The letter advises the suppliers that their bale of woollens had "come here only yesterday by the Old Quay Navigation [another name for the Mersey and Irwell river system] and not by the Duke's Canal as we requested".(9) 

Sparling and Bolden were equally conscious of cost and punctuality when it came to getting their freight out of the port. On 22 June 1789 they wrote to James Kershaw of Halifax that they had not received a bale of woollens they had ordered and the ship was ready to sail. The urgency of this matter was compounded by the change to their business noted in the previous chapter on slaving.

After the War the firm adopted a strict policy of 'freighting' their goods to Virginia, of sending cargo as consignors rather than carriers.They deliberately detached their enterprise from the complicated business of owning the ships in which their merchandise was transported to and from America. It was simpler to contract out the function and risk of ship-owning to others, although this was at the cost of greater control over the fate of their shipments.

In the instance of Kershaw's missing bale, Sparling and Bolden could hardly hold up the sailing of the vessel, because the captain was not under their orders. He could sail at a time of his own or his owner's choosing, with or without the tardy woollens. As it turned out, the offending bale "had been lying in the Duke's warehouse at Manchester near ten days without a direction", its lack of clear labeling another black mark for Mr Kershaw! (10) 

The end of monopolies

As noted, Sparling and Bolden consciously abandoned the responsibilities of ship owning, possibly after the loss of the Blundell in 1774, but certainly after the American war ended in 1784. They explained the shift in policy in commercial terms when writing to their Virginian manager John Lawrence on 13 May 1789: "...we are of the opinion most vessels now are bad concerns, very few maintaining themselves in the freight trade, and that in general it's better to freight ships than have any of our own". (11)

And indeed there was a fundamental economic rationalism that underscored this view. American independence had altered the merchants' 'terms of trade'. Sparling and Bolden were no longer in receipt of the numerous government subsidies that had worked to ensure that British colonial trade was a 'closed shop'. The legislated monopolies that they had enjoyed in the pre-war environment no longer applied.

Mercantilism and colonialism had previously operated as commercial twins. Each depended on the financial scaffolding erected by King and Parliament in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Government's aim was to channel trade goods through English ports so they could maximise the extraction of duties and taxes to the benefit of internal revenue. Inducements to merchants who operated from harbours in Britain made this process economical for the Crown. It also made the 'protected' businesses of those merchants, who were now in some respects the Government's tax collectors, extremely profitable.

A good example of this government 'largesse' was the Bounty Act of 1704, "An Act for encouraging the Importation of Naval Stores from America", which provided a freight subsidy of 4 Pounds per  ton for tar and pitch and 3 Pounds per ton for rosin and turpentine. (12) However, the major contribution to Sparling and Bolden's pre-war ship-owning profits was probably due to the various Navigation Acts that were enacted and consolidated from 1651 onwards. These insisted that most colonial commodities were carried in British "bottoms" (or hulls), with British rigging and British crews. Raw materials and exotic produce that couldn't be naturally sourced in Britain, such as sugar and tobacco, were classified as "enumerated" goods. This produce in particular could only be moved from colonies in British ships going to British ports.

Such incentives became void for the transatlantic run to much of mainland America once the Revolution had succeeded. So too did the preferential marketing arrangements for Virginian tobacco that the Liverpool merchants had enjoyed prior to Independence. American tobacco was now transported and sold by Americans, who shipped it in their own vessels directly to European ports in Holland and Germany (where the stronger flavoured Orinico variety was most in demand). The former practice of passing through English ports and paying English duties merely added to cost.

The removal of the props and struts of Imperial legislation also had an effect on the partners' attitude to credit, up to now an essential part of their colonial trading. Without freight subsidies or marketing monopolies, the firm was no longer interested accepting naval stores and tobacco in direct exchange for their manufactured goods from Britain. To use their own unique phrasing, the frequent over-supply of these commodities was too often a "drug" on prices received at the English end.

George Sparling at their Suffolk store repeatedly aroused the ire of his Liverpool principals, because he took so long to grasp this important adjustment to the firm's business model. In a letter dated 27 September 1788 he was advised, "No sale for tobacco scarcely at any price and tar is so plenty...that after paying freight &c. of these articles from America the net prices are very trifling...it will seldom or ever answer for you to ship any of your produce by way of making a remittance". (13) 

Again, on 9 March 1789, George was told, "You will find by our last [sale] what a very great drug tar was here and we see not the least prospect of its being otherwise soon...Never ship a hogshead of tobacco to this country on your own account except its the very best quality, or the price with you a vast deal lower than it has ever been since the late war". (14) The instruction was clear. Do not send tobacco "on your on account", that is "Never", unless specifically requested by the Liverpool partners, (the only exceptions to this rule being if it was of exceptional quality, or exceptionally cheap).

What head office wanted was a quick turnaround on their trading funds, with prompt payment for goods in the form of Bills of Exchange. In their letter of 6 November 1788 they informed George Sparling that Bills returned 30 to 40 per cent more in money terms than cargoes of tar, turpentine or tobacco. In a letter dated 26 February 1789, John Lawrence at Norfolk was told that a Bill was 60 per cent better than payment in tar. Both managers were left in no doubt that the faster return on paper Bills far exceeded any potential profit that may be made on bulk produce from the plantations. (15) 

It is probably reasonable, though, to surmise that the strictly financial impetus of profit and loss was not all that drove Sparling and Bolden towards a simpler form of payment. It is fair to say that psychological reasons also had their part. The evidence of their correspondence in this 'mature' phase of their merchant business suggests that the Liverpool partners were stubbornly against extending credit to Virginians, under any circumstances. Their steadfast opposition to further 'accommodation' had its origins in their difficulty in recovering moneys they believed they were still owed from before the War.

Recovering 'colonial' debts

In seeking repayment for unpaid accounts from their pre-war position, Sparling and Bolden were in good company. When British merchants pressured their government to intervene on their behalf to the United States, they compiled a comprehensive log of claims. 

According to the list compiled in 1791, the northern 'maritime colonies' owed the British a little under 300,000 Pounds in individual and privately incurred debts. The southern 'plantation' colonies owed considerably more, with North Carolina at 379,344 Pounds, Maryland 517,455 Pounds, and South Carolina 687,953 Pounds. And at the top of the debt mountain, owing more than all the other states combined, was Virginia with personal and commercial debt obligations of 2,305,408 Pounds. (16) 

The situation was aggravated in the years following the Peace. Pent-up demand for industrial goods from Britain resulted in an import binge by the Americans. Large trade deficits, of 2,930,122 Pounds in 1784 and 1,414,427 in 1785, were inevitably funded by further debt. (17) 

Pre-War debt was a political matter for most Virginians. It was the "great question of whether or not the Revolution had relieved planters of their debtor obligations to British merchants?" State of Virginia laws prohibiting the recovery of British debts technically expired in 1783, but legislative attempts to repeal their effect were repeatedly rebuffed by the Assembly and the Senate (twice in 1784, once in 1785, and again in 1787). The Virginia Planter successfully evaded repayment, not only "with the consent of his own legislature", but after the Supreme Court decision of Jones Vs Walker in 1791, with"the consent of his own courts" as well. (18) 

It was not until an appeal was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1796 that the legal position favoured the nation's creditors. The Federal Bench finally ruled that the treaty of 1783 bound Virginians to pay their bona-fide debts from 1776. In the meantime, full twenty years had passed.

The protracted protests of prominent planter interests infuriated the Liverpool partners. In January 1788, five years after the peace, Sparling and Bolden wrote to John Lawrence:
We hope to hear your Assembly have repealed the Law relative to the Nonpayment of Debts due and Owing from the Inhabitants of your State to British subjects, otherwise all Credit and Confidences whatsoever betwixt Britain and Virginia will cease, as no person here will in future give any Credit or trust their property to a Country who[se] inhabitants cannot be compelled by the Laws to pay their just debts. (19)
In August 1793, ten years after the peace, they wrote again to John Lawrence:
We find your Federal Court in June last determined unanimously that the inhabitants of your state should pay the old debts due from them to British subjects, but that the matter of interest thereon was left undecided until the Court in October next...[We] hope you'll lose no time in endeavouring to recover everything possible to be got, as don't see any person whatever has the least right to further indulgence, for its very clear no one would ever pay a farthing of the old debts without being compelled by law to do it. (20) 
The heated tones of their communications to Lawrence reflect Sparling and Bolden's high level of frustration. Their sentiments also imply a certain degree of moral failing on the part of the Virginian planters. There is an underlying accusation in their letters that the Americans were in breach of an internationally accepted standard of business ethics. This was a breach so fundamental in practice as to threaten the continuance of commerce.

Indeed, they thought, such deliberate disregard of the principles of property and contract threatened the very possibility of civilised society. To the Liverpool partners, the Virginian history of refusal to repay pre-revolutionary debts, "shows pretty plainly that the laws of the [new] country are a mere mockery, and neither honour or honesty [is] to be found amongst the inhabitants thereof in general and more particularly in your state". (21) 

The long term consequences of this were suitably dire, for "such kind of proceedings must ere long put an end to all law and government whatever in the country they are carried on, and dangerous civil commotions follow of course, especially when the executive power is too weak to enforce proper obedience to laws, which last we think appears to be the case at present with the American government". (22) 

While Sparling and Bolden were lecturing Lawrence on the importance of honour and honesty in a lawful society, they were personally more motivated by the primacy of another principle; that of economic self-interest. In the real world, political considerations worked hand in hand with commercial success, and Liverpool was no exception. The 'public life' of John Sparling reaped many rewards for the merchant firm.

Liverpool's 'political' economy

In 1768, shortly after his return from Virginia to permanent residency in Liverpool, Sparling was selected by the members of the Common Council to join their self-appointed ranks. In 1770 Sparling served his first term as Mayor. In 1785 he was made High Sheriff of Lancashire. In 1790 he served his final term as Mayor.

A signature element of his 20 year career at the top of Liverpool politics was his role as "the projector of the Queen's Dock, which he disposed of to the Dock Trustees in 1783". In other words, for a great deal of the time he was 'serving' as Town Councillor he was actively promoting his private scheme for a fifth wet dock in the port. At the beginning he proposed to fund it at his own expense, but when he realised this was beyond his means, he sold the concept, its planning designs, existing works, and the long term leases for the land on which it was to be constructed, back to the Council from whom he had negotiated it all in the first place. (The Dock Trustees were a sub-committee of existing Common Councillors). (23)

Sparling purchased his interest in the land along the Mersey Bank and to the south of Salthouse Dock in 1770. His ambitious plan to build another set of docks began there. However, the sole physical evidence of his development when he sold it was an embankment built out into the River Mersey, which had cost him 1,450 Pounds. In 1783 the land was purchased back by the Town Corporation, "as the site of the intended Queen's Dock for 6,750 Pounds, a phenomenal price even taking into account the costs of embankment". Of particular note here is that William Bolden was paid another 4,000 Pounds for similarly suitable ground for dock-building when he sold his part of the land in 1787. (24) 

The 'coincidence' of windfall profit-taking on prime port land, which was originally owned and controlled by the Council before it became 'invested' with the speculators' 'idea' of development, is breath-taking. Sparling's valuable association with the 'closed' mercantile membership of Liverpool's ruling body produced large dividends for both partners.

King's Dock, the other wharving proposal to receive parliamentary authorisation in an Act of 1758, went on to be completed in 1788 at a cost of 25,000 Pounds. Queen's Dock, on the other hand, was eventually completed in 1796 at a cost of 35,000 Pounds. It is improbable that the 10,000 Pound difference between the construction costs of the two similar sized projects was due to price-inflation over the intervening period. It is more credible to believe the Queen's Dock 'inflation' was a direct result of 'buying out' Sparling and Bolden, before the excavation and walling of the Queen's Dock had even started.

Land development in the rapidly expanding port town was an obvious opportunity for a Councillor with access to the operations of its survey and lease offices. In 1770 "Messrs. Sparling and Company purchased 4.68 acres of a former market garden from Thomas Critchlow" and by "1772 they had laid out and paved Sparling Street". This rectangular block of land ran out from the east side of Salthouse (or South) Dock and was well situated for residential development. Construction of cheap, condensed housing, suitable for renting out to dockside workers, is supposed to have returned 150% on Sparling's investment over 15 years. (25) However it is not clear what, if any, involvement William Bolden had in this particular project.

The main factor influencing the design of Liverpool's housing, and the most commonly used excuse for its crowded character, was the maritime nature of the town's economy.
Liverpool's labouring classes...depended almost solely on trade -- the handling, storage and distribution of goods...wage levels of these common labourers or 'lumpers' were...subject to business fluctuations...vagaries of trade, wars, and prevailing winds...the booms and slumps...of Liverpool were measured in days and weeks...forcing housing at the lowest rents..." (26) 
In short, the port's casual labour or 'piece-rate' employment system 'demanded' cheap housing. The workers could afford nothing more.

Slum landlords

Liverpool was notorious for the density of its housing. In 1773 Mr. Enfield noted that "The inhabitants of Liverpool live more closely crowded together than in most towns...Its whole area is not so large as Birmingham or Manchester yet it has a greater number of inhabitants than either of them". In 1784 Dr. Moss commented on the "builders who erect most of the new houses on their own accounts upon speculation for sale and who have no other view than such as one strictly economic and directly profitable". (27) 

Between 13 October 1789 and 13 January 1790 a census of Liverpool was undertaken by Mr. Simmons on a street by street basis. His results, "Names of the Streets and Lanes &c. within the liberties of Liverpool, with the numbers of persons in each", was published as a guide in Gore's 1790 Liverpool Directory. "Simmon's enumeration" gave a total population of 55,732 at that time (although Dr. Currie suggested in his report of 1804 "that 4%, or 2,229, should have been added to allow for mariners at sea", which would increase the total to 57,961). (28) 

The historical value of Simmon's work is that it provides a breakdown of the numbers of people living in each type of accommodation, a social perspective. At the beginning of 1790, 2,000 of Liverpool's population were in charitable institutions such as the Workhouse, the Infirmary, the Bluecoat and the Seamen's Hospitals. Another 6,540 'lived' in 1,728 cellars, literally excavated underground rooms. Approximately 8,000 occupied 1,608 "back-to-back" or "court" houses, tiny three floored tenements built around narrow courtyards. The balance of 40,000 inhabited 6,450 "front houses" of two or three storeys which faced directly onto streets. (29) 

It is difficult to establish whether the contemporary moves towards particularly high-density housing were copied by Sparling and Bolden. Some measure of the extent of their speculation in land, and the standard of housing they built, can be read from two maps of the period prepared by Charles Eyes. His first "Plan of the Town and Township of Liverpool from an actual survey" was published in 1785, his second, an updated version, in 1795. These detailed maps are especially useful for their inclusion of the names of the leaseholders of Corporation land, and their distinction between built-in land and vacant ground. (30) 

In 1785 the Sparling Street land is depicted as two continuous lines of street-frontage housing, but with the land at the rear free of structures (one rear area is labelled "Roperies"). In 1795 the picture remains unchanged on one side of the street (the "Roperies" remained), but on the north side the land at the rear had been subdivided by two lanes and built-in. This further development possibly took place after Sparling's involvement in the land had ceased, but it illustrates the prevailing trend to 'confiscate' backyards and convert them into congested "court" and "cellar" dwellings.

The 1785 map also shows that Sparling and Bolden had purchased two further blocks, or "fields", on the outskirts of the town. At this stage both lots are represented as undeveloped and without street subdivision.
In William Bolden's name was a field running due east from the then under construction Queen's Dock, between Wapping Quay and Flint Street. This appears to have been an entirely speculative venture by Bolden, counting on the future demand for warehousing and "manufacturies" on land adjacent to the new harbour. This supposition is supported by Eye's map for 1795, which shows it was still not built on by that date. Idle land was not such a bad idea in a building boom. It was a 'safe haven' for profits from riskier pursuits, a deposit box of wealth that effortlessly increased in value over time, riding on the back of the efforts of others busily building in the surrounding area.

It is interesting that immediately north, between Bolden's undeveloped part of Flint Street and the fully developed Sparling Street block, row after row of newly constructed street-facing houses were appearing. And behind all of those small brick terraces the land was being purposefully inbuilt with the infamously cramped court and cellar dwellings, Liverpool's 'new' slums.

The 1785 map shows this process underway in streets named Crosbie, Blundell, and other familiar slave merchant names. The 1795 map shows this process virtually completed, with bricks and mortar packed solid from pavement to pavement. If Bolden had wished for a greater return on his investment, he had only follow the example of his neighbours. The precedent was certainly there.

Eye's 1785 map identifies another "field" owned by the partners, this one in John Sparling's name. On the corner of Lime Kiln Lane and Copperas Hill Road, it was bounded on its norther side by a rope-walk and situated near to the Liverpool Infirmary (Asylum and Hospital). Economic activity in this area was associated with construction (the limestone quarry and kilns) and metal smelting (the copper works). It therefore also offered opportunities for cheap residential building to house workers at lower rents.

Although undeveloped in 1785, by the time of the second map's release it had been subdivided into four by three short streets crossing its length. The 1795 map indicates approximately half of the available land (one and a half streets) had been built on. Eye's map suggests that these sections had been completely built in with street facing and back-to-back housing, according to the current fashion for extracting the most rent.

However, Simmon's census for 1790 does not indicate the presence of any court dwellings constructed at that address. He does note the existence of six or seven inhabited cellars, but that is all. (31) It may be that in this instance the street subdivisions were too close together to allow for 'infilling'. The resulting lack of space possibly led to two rows of "front houses" being built to abut one another, in effect "back to back", but without the intervening court tenements that were characteristic of much of Liverpool's housing boom.

What is clear is that William Bolden and John Sparling were among a number of slave merchants in the early 1770s who interpreted the political tensions in the Thirteen Colonies as signs of an imminent recession in their customary trading. These like-minded slavers turn to speculating in land. Their interests fell mainly on the 900 odd acres to the south and east of the Old Pool, land that since the previous century had been owned by Liverpool's Council. As the town limits expanded through the last quarter of the eighteenth century, these merchants redirected their profits from slave-trading into 'purchasing' long term land leases (frequently two to three "lives" plus two to three years),before turning their remaining funds into meeting the rising demand for working-class 'housing'. (32)

For example, Edward Mason and Cornelius Bourne were co-investors in six of Sparling and Bolden's slave voyages. In 1773 they too diverted their commercial interests, buying the long leases of two fields totaling five acres from William Goodwin for 1,540 Pounds. They agreed with the Common Council to build houses on it and make a street 12 yards wide. In their case they spent the next 20 years in erecting 15 substantial houses fronting Greater George Street. (33)

While the details varied slightly, the common elements were all there. The entity that tied everyone together was their landlord, the same Liverpool Council. As long as the developer was prepared to make a street for access, preferably paved or 'cobbled' with stone, the Council was not interested in what type of building was proposed. They did not insist on any standards other than access for entry of persons and removal of waste. Nothing was stipulated regarding provision of water or heating, quality of construction (often a single line of bricks), or the numbers of people who could be charged rent per square.

In Mason and Bourne's case the decision was for "substantial houses". For Sparling and Bolden it was as many side-by-side street-facing "small houses" as they could fit on. Either way, the Council was content.


NOTES
(1) Liverpool General Advertiser, 29 September 1775, cited in NJ Radburn, 2009, 'William Davenport, the Slave Trade, and Merchant Enterprise in Eighteenth Century Liverpool', MA Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, p. 27
(2) Gomer Williams, 1897, History of the Liverpool Privateers and Letters of Marque, With an Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade, London, William Heinemann, p. 555
(3) MM Schofield, 1964, 'The Virginia Trade of the Firm of Sparling and Bolden of Liverpool, 1788-99', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Vol. 116, pp. 128-9
(4) As above
(5) As above, pp. 132-3, 141
(6) Richard Brooke, 1853, Liverpool as it was During the Last Quarter of the Eighteenth Century, Liverpool, J Mawdsley & Son, pp. 37, 95-101
(7) As above, p. 101
(8) MM Schofield 1964, p. 139
(9) As above, p. 140
(10) As above
(11) As above, p. 159
(12) BJ Nash, 2011, 'Economic History - Tar and Turpentine', Region Focus, 4th quarter, p. 47, <https://www.richmondfed.org>
(13) MM Schofield 1964, p. 146
(14) As above
(15) As above
(16) As above, p. 123, citing SF Beamis, Jay's Treaty, revised edition, Yale University Press, p. 140 (Appendix IV)
(17) As above, p. 144, citing EL Bogart & DL Kemmerer, 1948, Economic History of the American People, 2nd edition, New York, pp. 184-5
(18) WA Low, 1953, 'Merchant and Planter Relations in Post-Revolutionary Virginia, 1783-1789', The Virginian Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 61, No. 3, pp. 313-7
(19) Sheryllynne Haggerty, 2012, Merely for Money? Business Culture in the British Atlantic, 1750-1815, Liverpool University Press, p. 212 (Footnote)
(20) MM Schofield 1964, p. 126
(21) As above, Letter to John Lawrence dated 25 March 1794
(22) As above, Letter to John Lawrence dated 3 October 1794
(23) Gomer Williams 1897, p. 93
(24) Jane Longmore, 'Rural Retreats: Liverpool Slave Traders and their Country Houses', in M Dresser & A Ham (eds), Slavery and the British Country House, Swindon UK, English Heritage, p. 47 (footnote 27)
(25) As above
(26) IC Taylor, 1970, 'The court and cellar dwelling: the eighteenth-century origin of the Liverpool slum', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Vol. 122, pp. 71-2
(27) As above, pp. 70-1
(28) Frank Howley, 2008, Slavers, Traders and Privateers: Liverpool, the African Trade and Revolution, 1773-1808, Birkehead UK, Countywise Ltd, p. 173
(29) As above, p. 175
(30) 'A Plan of the Town & Township of Liverpool From an Actual Survey taken in the Year 1785 By Chas. Eyes', Engraver T Conder, Reproduced with Lewis' reprint of Gore's Liverpool Directory 1790, <bryarsandbryars.co.uk/product/eyes-plan-liverpool>
Charles Eyes, 1795, 'Plan of the Town and Township of Liverpool from an actual survey', Reprinted A Bowker, circa. 1877, <www.mapseeker.co.uk/majorbritishcities/liverpool>
(31) IC Taylor 1970, pp. 75-6 (figures 6 & 7)
(32) Jane Longmore, 2007, 'Cemented by the Blood of a Negro? The Impact of the Slave Trade on Eighteenth-Century Liverpool', in Richardson, Schwarz & Tibbles, 2011, Liverpool Transatlantic Slavery, Liverpool University Press, p. 235
(33) David Pope, 2007, 'The Wealth and Social Aspirations of Liverpool's Slave Merchants of the Second Half of the Eighteenth-Century', in Richardson, Schwarz & Tibbles, pp. 234-5









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