Over the last couple of years I’ve been watching Eleanor’s House. Taking photographs occasionally as I’ve passed, on my way to Sarah’s allotment on Greenbank Lane or just out, walking in Liverpool.
The house means a lot to me as it’s where my political and social inspiration, Eleanor Rathbone, used to live. But the house had fallen on hard times. Disused and increasingly distressed.
You used to be able to walk right up to the house, and Sarah and I frequently did. Its grounds had been filled with university halls during the 1960s and the house, called Greenbank House really, had become a rented out sort of place by the late 1980s when I once hired it for an event. This was a meeting of the Liverpool Housing Trust when I worked for them. And while we were there Margaret Simey, who was on the LHT board then, said to me:
“Do you know, the last time I was in here I was taking tea with Eleanor Rathbone.”
In the years after our meeting the already vaguely run down house fell out of use altogether. But I would still walk into the university grounds to visit now and then, with Sarah or other friends. All surprised and distressed to be told of the significance of the place. Not just as the house where Eleanor Rathbone, suffragette, inventor of the family allowance and so much more had lived. But also where, in the late eighteenth century, an earlier Rathbone had sat with his friend William and discussed how to end the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. This was William Rathbone and William Roscoe, sitting in this house and changing the world as it then was. In this house of considerable significance.
And the point of this blog post and all of these pictures is to show you the house being restored over these last couple of years by the University of Liverpool, as they’ve also rebuilt the student halls around it.
I’m not sure what the house is intended to be used for and I haven’t been inside again yet. But I’m a post graduate student at the University now so I think I’ll be able to get inside someday soon, now the works are nearly done. And I’d love to be part of running something in in here one day. Something about Eleanor Rathbone, of what happened here and her possible significance for all of our futures? I’d love that.
Meanwhile enjoy these photographs of her house being cared for and let’s imagine it having a future as significant as its past.
And more of my university writing at “Field Notes for Utopia.”