Robert Tressel -The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Our work is always interesting, but sometimes we have a piece of work which is more interesting than usual. Last week we were approached by Rice Lane Farm, an urban farm on the outskirts of Liverpool, to undertake a review of their funding and make recommendations for the future. We visited the Farm on a lovely spring morning, and were given a tour. The Farm is on the land of Walton Park Cemetery and was once the Liverpool Parochial Cemetery. It then became the burial place of the poor who died in Liverpool and Walton Workhouse hospitals. It is consecrated ground, not available for development, so part of it is the City Farm and the rest is recreational woodland.

What amazed me, as we walked around the gravestones and woodlands, is that this is where Robert Tressell, the author of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, is buried. His grave is at the far side of the graveyard, in the shadow of Walton Prison. He was originally buried in a pauper's grave, but admirers of his work have marked the grave where he was buried.

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1914) is a semi-autobiographical novel by Irish house painter and sign writer Robert Noonan, who wrote the book in his spare time under the pen name Robert Tressell. Published after Tressell's death from tuberculosis in the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1911, the novel follows a house painter's efforts to find work in the fictional English town of Mugsborough (based on the coastal town of Hastings) to stave off the workhouse for himself, his wife and his son. The original title page, drawn by Tressell, carried the subtitle: "Being the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned, and written down by Robert Tressell.

The novel was read widely by troops during the Second World War, and this is cited as one of the main reasons for Labour's landslide victory in 1945.

This was such an unexpected and interesting discovery, on a work day, and in the most unlikely of places!