Rodney Street in Liverpool, England is noted for the number of doctors and its Georgian architecture. It is sometimes known as the "Harley Street of the North", this street provided homes for many of Liverpool's elite merchants, and the buildings still reflect that wealth.
The street is named in honour of Admiral Lord Rodney, triumphant defender of British interests in the West Indies from 1779 to 1782. Rodney Street was laid out by William Roscoe and others between about 1782 and 1801, and continued to be developed into the 1820s. The beginning of a Georgian residential development built to house the affluent away from the old town centre. The length, width, and straightness of Rodney Street were unprecedented in Liverpool. It was developed piecemeal up to the 1820s with pairs and short runs of substantial houses, mostly three-bay but some, like no. 62, with five bays.
Number 62 was commissioned by John Gladstone (1764-1851).
Born John Gladstones in Leith, Edinburgh, the son of a corn merchant, Gladstones left school at thirteen to serve as apprentice in a rope and sailcloth company before entering his father's business. A new partnership brought him to Liverpool, where in 1787. Their business was in American grain and tobacco, the goods on which Gladstone's fortune was founded.
In 1803 Gladstone began trading sugar and cotton in the West Indies; that year he purchased the Belmont estate in Demerara. Over the next quarter century, Gladstone increased his sugar estate holdings in Demerara and Jamaica; he never visited the islands that brought him such immense wealth. Not surprisingly, he was an ardent defender of the plantation system, and was from 1809 chairman of the Liverpool West Indian Association. In 1830 he published his 'Statement on the Present State of Slavery', which opposed total abolition whilst acknowledging the responsibilities of slave owners. After emancipation, Gladstone sold most of his West Indian property and invested in Bengal sugar instead.
Politically active in Liverpool, Gladstone's allegiances gradually changed from radical whig (a one-time supporter of the abolitionist William Roscoe) to tory (managing several of George Canning's election campaigns). Gladstone was an MP from 1818-27, representing three separate constituencies. He was knighted in 1846, and died in 1851 at Fasque, the Scottish estate he had bought in 1833. John Gladstone's political ambitions were realised through his son, William Ewart Gladstone, four times prime minister between 1868 and 1894.
William Gladstone was born on 29 December 1809, at the house in Rodney Street which was his home until the family moved in 1818. After attending a small school at Bootle near Liverpool run by an Evangelical connected with the family, William was sent to Eton. John Gladstone was determined to give his son the educational advantage he himself had lacked, and from a young age William was encouraged to follow a career in politics. During a distinguished career at Christ Church, Oxford, William expressed the desire to take holy orders, but this was discouraged. In 1832 William Gladstone was elected MP for Newark, a seat largely controlled by the tory Duke of Newcastle, with whom John Gladstone is said to have exerted influence. His maiden speech was delivered shortly before the final reading of the Slavery Abolition Bill in July 1833; Gladstone argued against full emancipation. In the wake of the Act, Gladstone became a spokesman for the West Indian interest, seeking higher reparation payments for plantation owners. The Gladstone family received over £90,000 in compensation for the slaves they lost. Gladstone did not defend the principal of slavery, though he later counselled against interceding with foreign powers engaged in its practice, and protected the products of slave labour in the name of free trade. In common with many Liverpool people, Gladstone was a supporter of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Gladstone's parliamentary career was one of exceptional distinction. Besides being a great orator, he was active, powerful, and successful in every branch of government; he was chancellor of the exchequer three times. His political allegiance changed gradually: in 1846 he became a Liberal-Conservative, and in 1859 joined the Liberal party; it was as a Liberal that he held the post of prime minister (1868-1874; 1880-5; 1886; 1892-4). A supporter of the Reform Bill and Catholic emancipation, Gladstone was passionately interested in the Irish question, campaigning for home rule. The defeat of the second Home Rule Bill in 1893 signalled Gladstone's retirement from the House of Commons, but the bill had far-reaching effects on Britain's constitution. From 1874 Gladstone lived at Hawarden Castle, the home of his wife's family, where he became known as an exemplar of the English country gentleman. It was here that he died in 1898.