The Florence Institute For Boys was opened in 1889 as one of the first boys’ institutes in the country, second only to the Gordon Working Lads Institute in Kirkdale, North Liverpool in 1886.
Built by local philanthropist, magistrate and Mayor of Liverpool, Bernard Hall as ‘an acceptable place of recreation and instruction for the poor and working boys of this district of the city’ The Florrie, as the Institute is fondly known, was named in memory of Hall’s daughter Florence, who died at the untimely age of just 22.
From its inception, The Florrie was a centre of excellence for various sports, becoming a hub for nurturing Liverpool’s sporting heritage with many championship teams including gymnastics, baseball, basketball and of course, football with Florence Albion, Florence Richmond and Florence Olympic football teams.
Whichever sport they enjoyed, The Florrie Boys were often the best in class, winning strings of medals and awards. This was exemplified in that most ancient and noble martial art: boxing.
Boxing has been an important part of Liverpool’s culture for centuries, and was at the heart of The Florrie’s sporting curriculum. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the institute became renowned both in the city and much further afield for its ability to nurture hard-hitting champions from the tough, working class communities surrounding the Liverpool docks. The Florrie’s motto – ‘No pains, no gains’ – seems particularly appropriate when it comes to the sport.
Names like Alan Rudkin, Tommy ‘Demolition Man’ Bache, his best friend Billy Williams, Larry Paul, Dick Tiger, and Stan Atherton, headed a roll call of names that included the greatest Liverpool boxers of the mid and late 20th Century. They fought at the highest levels, won the belts and bouts and that truly mattered, and brought success and pride to Liverpool 8 and the city of Liverpool.
In addition to sport, throughout its history The Florrie provided a wide range of educational and skills-based activities for its members. Diverse in nature, classes ranged from woodwork and technical drawing to budgie-breeding and model making, a first-aid ambulance class and even a debating society! The Committee equally valued the importance of recreation and self-development for the young people of the Dingle, which was nurtured through outdoor pursuits and camping expeditions taking Florrie Boys all over the UK and even to Europe!
As you would expect music was also a big part of The Florrie’s appeal. A young Gerry Marsden played guitar here and held his very first skiffle gig in the Grand Hall before his band ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’ became a global sensation, with hits including ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’, ‘I Like It’ and legendary Liverpool FC anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. As a Florrie Old Boy, Gerry was also instrumental in the campaign to save The Florrie and remains a dear friend and supporter.
In its later years, The Florrie responded to the grave social and economic challenges which faced the area by shifting its focus from providing solely for young people to becoming an inclusive community centre. Education and employment training schemes sat alongside provision for young families and activities for older people to bring the community together and harness the camaraderie of The Florrie spirit for all.
The Florrie served the people of Liverpool 8 for almost one hundred years before falling into disrepair and closing during the 1980’s. What followed was an un-wavered 23 year community campaign to save The Florrie from further decay and demolition, to restore the building back to its former glory.
After several devastating building fires, any future for The Florrie looked impossible. This was until local residents formed the “Friends of The Florrie” campaign group, from which a charitable trust was established to take the lead in saving the building (along with a little help from The Prince of Wales). Together they managed to raise the funds for the almighty restoration.
With help from Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Fund, Northwest Regional Development Agency, The Tudor Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Liverpool City Council, The Florrie re-opened its doors on 1st April 2012, beginning an exciting new chapter.
Today, The Florrie is a multi use community hub which provides resources and activities to individuals, groups and local businesses. Within our wonderful building we have a magnificent Grand Hall, gym, Heritage Resource Centre, library and IT suite, radio studio, community cafe, classrooms and managed workspaces. You can find out more about what we do and get involved by visiting The Florrie website.
THE FLORENCE INSTITUTE
Registered Office: The Florence Institute Trust Ltd, 377 Mill Street, Liverpool L8 4RF. Charity Registration No: 1109301. Company Registration No: 05330850 (registered in England and Wales).