On this day … 18 April 1888

The Preston Guardian reported the suicide, at his home in Liverpool, of Alfred Livesey, cheese exporter, when he was depressed and facing financial ruin. He was the youngest son of Joseph Livesey, the temperance campaigner, who had died four years earlier. Alfred’s death was reported widely in the region’s newspapers, as in the report below from the Lancaster Gazette, but he then disappeared from history.

So, when UCLan came to publish a series of articles on Livesey and his family a few years ago all that was known at the time was that ‘Alfred … remains an obscure figure, with a question unanswered as to why he, of all the brothers, left virtually no estate in his will’. The newspapers supply the answer, as in the Lancaster Gazette:

Suicide of a Liverpool Merchant. — Mr Alfred Livesey, a member of the firm of Messrs. Alfred Livesey and Co., provision merchants, Mathew-street, Liverpool, committed suicide on Saturday by cutting his throat. Deceased lived at 4. Regent-road, Great Crosby.

About two o’clock on Saturday he escorted his wife to the house of a friend, and, leaving her there, promised to return for her at five o’clock. He did not, however, at the appointed time make his appearance. Mrs Livesey returned home alone.

A servant subsequently found Mr Livesey lying on the floor of the hencote, bleeding from a wound in the throat. Dr. Paget pronounced him dead. The wound had evidently been inflicted with a razor, which was found by the side of deceased.

Mr Alfred Livesey was the youngest son of the late Joseph Livesey, of Preston. He was in business with his father and brother for many years, as cheese merchants, and a few years ago on giving up business in Preston, Mr Livesey commenced the American trade at Liverpool. It is reported that he has sustained heavy losses, and that he has for some time back been greatly depressed.

Sketch of the family of teetotal campaigner Joseph Livesey of Preston
Alfred would have been aged about five when this sketch was made. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG154196

Alfred was born in 1833, Joseph Livesey’s eighth son to survive infancy. Nothing can be learned about Alfred from Joseph’s autobiography, where he does not get a single mention. What is known, is that Alfred and his brother Newton joined the family cheese business as partners with their father, and the two brothers continued in business together after their father withdrew from the partnership in 1874.

In 1871 Alfred, then aged 37, and his wife, Hannah, were living at 9 Bushell Place, round the corner from his father’s home in Bank Parade, with their two young sons and two servants. By 1881, the couple had moved to Great Crosby.

Earlier in life he had kept pedigree dogs, winning prizes at local agricultural shows: ‘The bull terriers were good, but none could compare with the dog shown by Mr. Alfred Livesey, of Preston, and which dog took the first prize of its class at the Preston Guild.’ At other events he was called on to judge the dogs on show.

At the mayoral ball held at the Corn Exchange in 1877 Alfred and his wife were among the guests along with other members of the Livesey family.

His teetotal father would not be in attendance, since he resolutely refused to attend any occasion at which alcohol might be served, including the wedding receptions of his sons, as he explained in his autobiography:

For years together I have never attended a ‘party,’ though often invited, and when the mayors of the borough have sent me invitations to their ‘dinners’ or festive gatherings, I have always declined going. I had a strong objection to be found at any gathering where wine drinking was sure to be prominent, and where I could not with propriety protest against it.

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