Joseph Livesey (Social Reformer)

Born 1794, Died 1884. Livesey was the son of a cloth manufacturer who contracted work out to local weavers. Livesey’s parents died of tuberculosis when he was seven, resulting in his grandfather and uncle taking on the factory and caring for him. They were unsuccessful in running the business and it was wound up within four years. With Livesey’s grandfather passing away shortly afterwards, he was left to take on domestic duties as well as business duties. His hardships continued until he married Jane Williams in 1815 and abandoned weaving for cheese selling.

Livesey became keenly involved in local public life, politics, and philanthropy. He especially identified with the temperance movement and promoted complete abstinence from alcohol throughout his life. As a temperance advocate, Livesey recorded the Preston Temperance Society meeting in 1833 in which the word ‘teetotal” is said to have been born. During a speech made by Richard Turner, who had a speech impediment, he remarked that partial abstinence from intoxicating liquors would not do; they must insist upon tee-tee-tee total abstinence.

From 1831 to 1833 Livesey published England’s first temperance publication ‘The Moral Reformer’. In 1834 it became the ‘Preston Temperance Advocate’, priced at a penny. This publication then ran for four years before he transferred it to the British Temperance Association, where it became the ‘British Temperance Advocate’.

Committed to educational projects, Livesey was one of the most important founders of the Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge (later known as the University of Central Lancashire). In 1828 he invited interested parties to a private meeting at 11 Cannon Street where the attendees formed a provisional committee. This committee called for the inauguration of the Preston Institute for the Diffusion of Knowledge on 7 October 1828 at the Corn Exchange. With 24 people present, the first council of the institution was formed, helping shape the city and its university into what it is today.

See where Livesey’s temperance movement drew up the first pledge on the Blue Plaque Trail.

(Ref: Visit Preston)