William Roscoe (1753-1831)

William Roscoe was born in Liverpool, the son of a market gardener. He became an historian, art collector, lawyer, banker, botanist and miscellaneous writer, and was briefly an M.P. He is perhaps best known today for his work as an early abolitionist. He supported the act of Parliament in 1807 to abolish the slave trade on which the prosperity of Liverpool was based.

Roscoe was a keen promoter of cultural development during Liverpool’s commercial growth. He was a founding member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool (1812), Liverpool Royal Institution and the Athenaeum Library (1797). At his bankruptcy sale, Roscoe’s friends purchased a number of his private collection of books and manuscripts, which were acquired by the Athenaeum Library, and his friend William Rathbone purchased a number of his paintings for the Liverpool Royal Institution. These were added to and given to the Walker Art Gallery by the Institution in 1948.

William Roscoe, Martin Archer Shee, 1822

William Roscoe, Martin Archer Shee, 1822, oil on canvas.

Walker Art Gallery courtesy of Google Art Project.