Alderman John Houlding – a useful career

Tuesday, March 18 – 1902
Death has removed one of the most prominent of Liverpool’s citizens in the person of Alderman John Houlding, J.P., and ex-Lord Mayor of the city, of Stanley House, Anfield-road, Stanley Park.

He had not been well for some time, and with the object of recruiting his health he recently journeyed to Cimiez. His condition, however, became such that early last week it was thought advisable to communicate with the relatives in Liverpool.

On receipt of this message, Mr. William Houlding (Alderman Houlding’s son) and Mrs. Knowles (his daughter) proceeded to France, and remained with their father until the end came at 7.15 yesterday morning.

When the news was received in Liverpool widespread regret was expressed, and flags were placed at half-mast at the Town Hall, Conservative Club, and many other public and private buildings.

Born at Everton in 1832, of humble parentage, Alderman Houlding, who received his education at the Liverpool College, commenced his career as an employee in the Custom House, but subsequently assisted his father who was a cowkeeper, by carrying out the milk cans.

Mr. Houlding, however, owing to the milk business declining in consequence of loss of stock from plague, had to seek other employment, and was engaged in the brewery of W. Clarkson, Soho-street.

Although he started here in a lowly why, by his industry and indomitable energy he quickly improved his status, gradually climbing the ladder until he became foreman and chief brewer.

In this capacity he obtained great expertness, and having saved sufficient he launched out on his own account as a licensed victualler.

By means of that untiring perseverance which at all times characterised his labours he was enabled to enter the brewing trade, and established the Tynemouth-street Brewery, Everton, which has become such a prosperous concern, and in connection with which are a number of “tied” houses.

During recent years the Alderman had practically retired from business, and he spent his leisure in travel, having visited amongst other places Constantinople, when he was decorated by the Sultan with the Order of the Imetas of First Class.

Despite the assiduity with which he devoted himself to business he found considerable time when quite a young man to give to public matters.

In politics a strong Conservative, he became a power in Everton on behalf of that party, and was for many years familiarly known as “King John of Everton”

It was on the 21st November, 1884, that he first entered the Liverpool City Council, and thus commenced a career of great usefulness on behalf of his native city. He was elected by the ratepayers of Everton and Kirkdale Ward, which the embraced in electorate of some 26,000 – a larger electorate than that of any municipality in the kingdom.

How popular he was with the people of those districts was evidenced by the fact that his majority on that occasion was 2,400; and this was still further demonstrated at a subsequent election, for his majority was then increased to 4,000.

Mr. Houlding continued to represent that ward until 1895, when, in the extension of the city, he was raised to the aldermanic bench.

From the time he entered the governing body of the city he gave special attention to matters directly affecting the wellbeing of the inhabitants, and more particularly the poorer people.

He never tired in his labours in connection with the improvement of sanitation and the provision of open spaces, and long he served the city as chairman of the Sanitary Sub-committee of the Health Committee or in connection with the Parks Committee, of which he was deputy chairman.

In regard to sanitary matters he studied them most closely, and one of the reforms which he largely assisted to bring into vogue was the improved method of dealing with the town refuse by means of detractors.

Frequently did he attend health conferences as a representative of the city; on one occasion, in 1897, he travelled as far as Moscow to attend a sanitary congress. Another assembly which he regularly attended was the Congress of the British Institute of Public Health, and in 1896, when the gathering was held in Glasgow, Alderman Houlding contributed an instructive paper on “The History of the Treatment and Disposal of City Refuse in Liverpool During the Last Fifty Years.”

In November, 1897, he was chosen and elected Lord Mayor of the city, although numerous protests were raised on the ground that he was a brewer. It was undoubtedly the ambition of his later life to rise to the dignity in his native city, as exhibited by a letter which he wrote just prior to his election, in which he expressed the wish to imitate the example of the old Lord Mayor of London – Dick Whittington – and when, in returning thanks after having been inverted with the chain of office, Alderman Houlding remarked that it was the proudest moment in his life.

He discharged the duties attaching to the position of chief magistrate with a zeal that was made his year in office most popular, in some respects notable.

At the time of his death Mr. Houlding was chairman of the Sanitary Sub-Committee of the Health Committees, and a member of the Health Committees; chairman of the Special Sub-Committee as to Burial Grounds; deputy chairman of the Parks Committee; a member of the Acquisition of Land for Open Spaces Sub-Committee; a representative of the Lancashire Asylum Board; and also on the council of University College.

Although not a frequent speaker in the City Council, his remarks were always of a practical character, and bore weight with the members generally.

In connection with the West Derby Giardians, to which body he was elected in 1873, and remained a member until his demise, he performed a most valuable work on behalf of the poor.

It was he who in no small measure was responsible for the establishment of the Fazakerley Cottage Homes for Children, which have proved so great a success.

The esteem in which he was held by his fellow-guardians was amply testified to by his being elected twice as chairman, a distinction not conferred on any other member, and his portrait adorns one of the walls of the boardroom at the offices, Brougham-terrace.

When it became known that Alderman Houlding’s name had been mentioned in connection with the Lord Mayoralty the guardians passed a resolution expressing unqualified satisfaction, and recording the opinion that such a distinction would be a most suitable recognition of the valuable services rendered by the alderman in the interests of the poor, both in connection with the guardians and in his efforts to feed thousands of destitute people at Christmas time.

This latter part of the resolution had reference to the work which Alderman Houlding performed in connection with the annual dinners given under the auspices of the City of Liverpool Aged Poor Dinner and Relief Fund.

For many years he had acted as chairman of the fund, and it was largely due to his efforts that the success attained has been so great, for the number of people fed in 30 years risen from 18 to 1,000 at the last dinner.

Alderman Houlding was also a prominent member of the North-western (Lancashire and Cheshire) Poor-law Conference, and frequently spoke at its annual meetings, always very concisely and to practical effect.

The particular medical charity to which he lent his aid was the Stanley Hospital, with which he was associated from its foundation. He was largely instrumental in carrying out the fancy fairs and galas which used to be held in Stanley Park, from the proceeds of which the hospital derived considerable benefit.

As a recognition of his labours in connection with the institution he was, in 1893, made the recipient of a silver punch bowl.

He was created a city magistrate in 1897, was a member of the Everton and Kirkdale Burial Boards, for many years the chairman of the Township of Everton, and was president of the Liverpool Carters’ Association.

To his keen interest in sports, particularly football, swimming, and cricket, Mr. Houlding owed much of his popularity.

Everton Football Club’s fame was largely due to his energy and organising ability, and after the differences which resulted in the removal of the club ground to Goodison Park, he established the Liverpool Club.

It is understood that he was a playing member of the Breckfield Cricket Club in his earlier days.

As a Freemason Alderman Houlding was well known and highly respected by a wide circle of members of the craft. When King Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) was the M.W.G.M. of the order, the great services of the deceased to this fraternity in the direction of charity and in other channels were recognised by the Masonic chief, who appointed him to the important office of Deacon in the Grand Lodge of England.

The late R.W. Bro. Lord Lathom, when Prov. G.M. of West Lancashire, also recognised Alderman Houlding’s long and valuable services on two occasions – first by the appointing him P.G. Registrar, and at a later period by promoting him to the rank of P.G. Senior Warden.

He was P.M. of the Everton Lodge No. 823, and identified with many other branches of the craft as founder and supporter. He also held high rank in the Royal Arc and other Masonic degrees in the provinces, and was a generous subscriber to the West Lancashire Masonic Educational Institution, the Hamer Benevolent Fund, and the Alpass Benevolent Fund, as well as to the three great London charities with the order.

It is expected that he body will be removed to England for burial.
(Liverpool Mercury, 18-03-1902)

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