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Title: The Rushworths of Liverpool : a family music business : commerce, culture and the city
Author: Wong, N. D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6058 7122
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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The Rushworth family have been largely overlooked in the seminal texts covering Liverpool’s socio-economic and cultural history. This thesis will redress this gap in the historiography of the city and account for the contributions made by the family to Liverpool’s cultural economy and civic society for a period of over 150 years. The Rushworth family music business was founded by a cabinet maker from Yorkshire, William Rushworth, and operated in Liverpool between c.1840-2002, a period spanning five generations. The company developed two separate interests: the original pipe organ building business, and a musical instrument retail enterprise which grew out of the organ building side during the second generation under the guidance of Edwin Rushworth. Throughout the generations the company passed from father to son and the third and fourth generations saw the organ works and retail arms united under a single owner, whilst the fifth saw them divided between two brothers and into two largely separate companies. The thesis will examine the growth, development and diversification of the company across the five generations, and analyse the performance of the business in relation to local economic conditions. In doing so it builds on existing research which considers the workings of commerce and culture, family business succession, and the impact of technological advancement on music consumption, production and practice. This framework provides the context in which we can consider the performance, growth and profitability of the business, and how these provided the foundation for, and facilitated, the cultural contribution of the family across Merseyside and the UK. This thesis provides a unique perspective on the functioning, structure and operations of a musical instrument manufacture and retail enterprise, and addresses four general questions: what factors contributed to the success and longevity of the Rushworth Company? How was the Rushworth family able to maximise the profitability of the firm in relation to the growth and decline of the consumer and cultural economy? How did the family drive music consumption and create the commercial and cultural environment in which the company flourished? How did the city, the business and family work in tandem to service and facilitate the local musical community? In addressing these questions the thesis provides a unique insight into the commercial strategies of a family firm specialising in cultural products, and the regional factors which contributed to the company’s shifting fortunes, thereby contributing to existing scholarship on the relationship between commerce and culture in Liverpool. The thesis will establish how the regional economy impacted upon the profitability of the business and influenced in both positive and negative ways the family’s ability to drive music consumption and encourage musical participation, and thus develop the local cultural economy and the commercial success of their business. By examining these developments, the thesis will construct a timeline of development showing how the region’s economic prosperity and subsequent downturn mirrored the growth and ultimate demise of the business, thus illustrating the reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between commerce and culture in Liverpool.
Supervisor: Popp, A. ; Cohen, S. ; Hooper, G. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral