On this day … 22 May 1869

The Preston Guardian carried a notice of the death, at Green Bank, Bowness, of Jane Livesey, aged 73, the wife of the Preston temperance campaigner Joseph Livesey. Green Bank was the splendid mansion Livesey had built for himself and his wife as a second home, a Lakeland retreat.

Livesey (pictured) had bought the estate, on which he built two properties, along with other houses in the neighbourhood which he rented out, shortly after the railway reached Windermere in 1847. At the time, his Preston home was a farm at Holme Slack, he later moved to Bank Parade.

The arrival of the railway had opened up the Winderemere area to the mill owners and merchants of Lancashire, who built their summer homes there.

Joseph Livesey

The developments brought nimbyish protests from the poet William Wordsworth, who intensely disliked this influx of merchants and their new homes along the shores of Windermere.

He would have included Livesey among their number, for despite Livesey’s frequent mentions of his modest lifestyle in his writings (and his advocacy of frugal living to the mill workers of Preston), he was a very wealthy businessman. As well as his summer retreat in Lakes, he enjoyed long visits to spas for the good of his health.

His neighbour at Green Bank was General John Brownrigg Ballasis. General Ballasis’ property, Biskey Lodge, was somewhat smaller than Livesey’s (see map). Another member of the Livesey family, son Howard, also chose a country house in the district, in his case on the other side of Windermere at Sawrey.

Map showing Joseph Livesey's home in Bowness in 1851

At the time of Mrs Livesey’s death, both she and her husband had been ill for some time. For treatment for their illnesses, they would have relied on hydrotherapy, a Victorian quack remedy that the Liveseys put great trust in.

In fact, one of the attractions of Bowness for Livesey was the presence there of a Dr Pasely who practised a form of hydrotherapy, which he termed hydropathy that involved the application of water both internally and externally. This was the therapy on which Livesey became fixated and which took him to various spas around the country and abroad, including a visit of nine weeks to Germany. When the Windermere Hydropathic Company was formed Livesey was one of the shareholders.

Joseph Livesey's drinking fountain in Bowness

While staying in Bowness, Livesey did not forget his commitment to teetotalism, providing a temperance hall for the village and an ornate drinking fountain designed by his son James, an engineer, down by the Bowness pier (pictured):

At Bowness Bay, near the landing of the Windermere steamers, I erected a beautiful fountain which is supplied with excellent water from the grounds of Messrs. Crossley, of Halifax. There is a nice fountain on Douglas pier erected by my eldest son [William, who had a holiday home on the Isle of Man]. I name these that others, possessing means, may be induced to do the same; and if temperance men were sufficiently alive to the advantages of water fountains there would not be a town or a village, or any public grounds or buildings without them.

Livesey’s Lakeland Retreat

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