St Luke's Church c.1831

ASPINALL,  James  [1795-1861]

James Aspinall was born on 22 June 1795, the son of John Bridge Aspinall (1759-1830) a West Indies merchant, shipowner and slave trader who served as mayor of Liverpool in 1803.

He graduated from St Mary Hall, Oxford (BA 1820, MA 1823) and began his ecclesiastical career as a curate in Cheshire and Rochdale before returning to Liverpool as curate of the then recently completed church of St Luke. At this time he lived at 17 Bedford Street L7 (a house since demolished although much of the fine housing of this street remains) .It was whilst in this post, in 1831, that he delivered a remarkably radical sermon (published as The Crisis or The Signs of the Times with regard to the Church of England ). He called for the complete reform of the established church, focusing especially upon tithes, pluralities, inequalities of clerical salaries and ownership of patronage.

In 1839 he moved to the rectorship of Althorpe in Lincolnshire, a post he held until his death in 1861. He continued to be active in radical circles and on 26 January 1839 he shared a platform with John Bright and Richard Cobden at a great free trade meeting at Hull.

He published numerous serious works on religious and other themes but to those interested in Liverpool and its history the real gem is a work first published in 1852 entitled Liverpool A Few Years Since by An Old Stager. The work comprises some twenty-five short chapters, recalling the events and personages making up the town’s recent history. As an insight into the life and times of Liverpool in the first half of the 19th century it really is unsurpassed. A second edition of the book was published in 1869 and in a new preface the author’s son, Clarke Aspinall (then Coroner of Liverpool) revealed the true identity of the author.

Another of his son’s, Butler Cole Aspinall, followed a legal career and rose to some prominence in the politics of Victoria, Australia.

John Bridge Aspinall, James' father, and Mayor of Liverpool.

Frontispiece of author's copy of 'Liverpool A Few Years Since' with manuscript note made by his son, Clarke Aspinall.


There is a fairly comprehensive entry for James Aspinall in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.