The statue that stands opposite Liverpool’s Philharmonic pub on Hope Street is of Hugh Stowell Brown. He was a minister at the nearby Myrtle Street Baptist for 39 year prior to his sudden death in 1886.
Hugh Stowell Brown was born on Sunday 10 August 1823 in Douglas on the Isle of Man. His father was an Anglican Minister. He attended Douglas Grammar School but more often than not he spent his time at home reading for four or five hours per day to his Father, who was losing his sight. At the age of 16 Hugh left the family home to take up an apprenticeship as a Land Surveyor with the son of a family friend David Macfarlane in the West midlands. He started work in February 1839 and was living near Birmingham.
After four years of work, which was usually followed by an evening in the pub, he decided to train as an Anglican vicar back in the isle of man. He gave up drink, believing that working men spent too much money on it resulting in poverty and no savings. He never completed his studies though as he believed that baptisms should not be done for babies, instead only those who expressed their beliefs.
In March 1847 Brown unexpectedly received an invitation to preach at Myrtle Street Chapel, Liverpool. At first he was there to take morning and evening services during a pastoral vacancy, but something about the young man appealed to the congregation and they invited him to stay. Before long they asked him to be their minister. He had a place to study at Bristol Baptist College but he never went there, and with minimal training and very little experience he became minister of one of the largest churches in Liverpool town centre.
Brown’s preaching was simple, direct, humorous and full of homely proverbs. His speaking attracted the rich and powerful and the poor and uneducated of the city. When he went to Myrtle Street the church had 239 members; forty years later in 1884, it had 849 members.
As well as his sermons in Myrtle Street Baptist Church, Brown began a series of popular Sunday afternoon lectures in St George’s Hall. He was worried that many working men didn’t attend church because they believed they didn’t have the ‘appropriate’ clothing (Sunday best). Brown noted with great pleasure how many, both men and women, turned up in their working clothes. Up to three thousand people would come along each week to hear this witty and plain-speaking Manxman talk about gambling and abstinence and family life and the state of the nation, and always about his Lord Jesus.
Also in the summer evenings after chapel, Brown would address large audiences of working people, numbering from three to four thousand. It was because of Brown’s enthusiasm and through his efforts to reach as many people as possible that many of the labouring class were encouraged to place their money in the “Workman’s Bank”. The Workman’s Bank had been established by his church in 1861. The idea behind the bank was to get the working classes into the habit of saving and hopefully stop them drinking as much and leaving themselves so short of money. Brown had always been concerned that every penny the working classes earned was spent and much of it on alcohol. There was never any ‘rainy day’ money put aside.
Brown married twice, outliving both wives. He passed away on Wednesday 24 February 1886. On the Saturday he had had a sudden nose bleed and that had been the beginning of the end. He had suffered an apoplexy, which was a bursting of blood vessels in the brain. He died peacefully and pain free in his own bed at 29 Falkner Square, at the relatively young age of 63. His funeral was held just 4 days later on Sunday 28 February and the route to the Necropolis was lined by 10,000 people. The funeral route was lined by more than 10,000 people.
Following his death in 1886 a statue was paid for by public subscription. The statue was first erected at Myrtle Street in the 1880s, moved to Princes Park in 1954 following the church’s demolition and then put into storage the 1980s in Croxteth Park. It was put on present site in 2015. You can see on the plinth the inscription about moving to present site in 1954 has been faded out.