Joseph Livesey • Preston Guild City
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Preston Guild City

Joseph Livesey

Portrait of Joseph Livesey.

Preston's most famous teetotaller...

Born in 1794 at Walton-le-Dale, Joseph Livesey was the son of a cloth manufacturer who contracted work out to local weavers.

His parents died of tuberculosis when he was seven, resulting in Joseph’s grandfather and uncle taking on the factory and caring for Joseph.

The business was wound up within four years, the family becoming weavers instead, practising their trade in a damp cellar, prone to flooding due to the nearby River Ribble.

Joseph also took on domestic responsibilities, his early hardships continuing through into his marriage in 1815 when he moved to Preston and abandoned weaving for cheese selling.

Joseph subsequently became keenly involved in local public life, including identifying with the temperance movement and promoting complete abstinence from alcohol.

From 1831 to 1883, he published The Moral Reformer, a six penny monthly magazine that became the Preston Temperance Advocate, priced at a penny, England’s first temperance publication.

This then became the British Temperance Advocate, with Joseph subsequently reviving The Moral Reformer. In 1841 he became involved in anti-Corn Laws agitation, issuing The Struggle magazine. The magazine's 235 editions reached up to 15,000 readers a week, paying a half penny a time.

In 1844 he established, with the help of his sons, the weekly Preston Guardian. The publication became the leading North Lancashire paper until its sale 15 years later.

Joseph launched two further publications on teetotalism, and in 1881 issued his memoirs. He was also an enthusiast for vegetarianism from 1867 after spending a year without meat.

He died at the age of 90, leaving a large family behind. His will included a provision that every household in Preston should receive a free copy of his Malt Liquor Lecture, in which he maintained ‘there is more food in a penny worth of bread than in a gallon of ale’. Each of the 20,000 copies was inscribed with the words, "he being dead yet speaketh".

See where Joseph Livesey's temperance movement drew up the first pledge on the Blue Plaque Heritage Walk.