Millions of people around the world are focused, for the time being at least, on their New Year resolutions. There’s a distinct probability that weight loss and exercise is a common goal for many in 2013. Today Liverpool has plenty to offer the health-conscious individual but we are by no means the first generation with the urge to keep fit.
On July 18, 1865 the Mayor laid the foundation stone for a brand new gymnasium on vacant land in Myrtle Street. There was great local interest in the construction as the desire for health and physical well-being was then at an all-time high. The land had been purchased by the philanthropic Charles Melly who was championing the cause of his associate John Hulley. The two men had previously formed the Liverpool Athletic Club and organised the first Grand Olympic Festival on the parade ground at Mount Vernon. On that occasion over 10000 people witnessed a varied programme of athletics predating the modern Olympics by several decades.By the time his new gym opened Hulley had carved himself the persona of being something of an all-round fitness guru and was a strong advocate of the role physical education in society.
His gym-goers entered a large hall full of exercise equipment, such as dumbbells, vaulting horses, Indian clubs and a forty foot high piece of apparatus known as ‘The Fort’. This had originally been used in France to teach soldiers how to climb efficiently, but now it proved to be excellent in the efforts for personal fitness. At one end of the room was a busy network of ropes and cordage allowing members to harness their balance and upper-body strength. Hulley’s background in gymnastics was clear in the layout.
Attached to the gym was a school of arms where the arts of boxing, wrestling and fencing were taught. Within eager students would become familiar with the foil, sabre and even the bayonet. There was also plenty of gallery space which could often be found crowded with watchful young ladies and no doubt their presence gave members a little extra incentive to perform to the best their abilities.However women too were free to use the facilities with 80 females of various ages making up the 890 members who had joined by the December of that year.
One contemporary reporter wrote this timeless remark, “If any of our readers, ladies or gentlemen, are afflicted with ennui, or run the risk of dying from sloth or indolence, we would strongly recommend them to the Myrtle Street gymnasium. If the exercises for three months do not give a new impulse to the springs of human life and restore their wonted vivacity, such persons are in a hopeless state of collapse from absolute inanimation.”
Best of luck with your resolutions!