Joseph Mayer was born 23rd February 1803 in Staffordshire. The family was not a wealthy one, but
also not poverty stricken like many of the day. An event took place in Josephs childhood he said say
gave him his respect for financial gain in adult hood. As a child he found an urn containing small silver
coins which had been unearthed in a recently ploughed field. He took them home to show his
grandfather. His grandfather examined the coins and promised Joseph a reward if he could decipher
the coins correctly. Joseph went a away and with a little hard work and determination he deciphered
the coins and found them to be of Roman origin. He was subsequently rewarded as promised by his
In 1815 Joseph Mayer enlisted as a drummer boy in the 34th regiment of Foot. His dreams of a long
and distinguished military career were cut short when the war with France ended. His regiment was
partially disbanded and Joseph left the service. He eventually found his love for antiques to be
profitable. He began to collect, buy, sell and trade. Over the following years he travelled the world far
and wide purchasing new antiques. In 1833 Joseph travelled to Liverpool and entered partnership
with James Wordley. They opened Jewellers & goldsmiths in Lord Street, one of the main roads and
most in town. The shop ran successfully for ten years and was considered by many one of the more
premier establishment on Lord Street at that time.
In 1843, after a period of 10 years Joseph Mayer moved further down Lord Street choosing to open up
his own shop. The shop was an instant hit and over the forthcoming years Joseph built up an
illustrious and highly profitable business for himself. He purchased Egyptian antiquities, prehistoric and
ethnographic curiosities, glass, pottery, gold, jewellery, gems, rings, enamels, ivory and an assortment
of metal work. He would frequently reminisce of the older days, when he and his partner would have
to take turns sleeping under the counter to protect the shop from burglars as good safes had not been
invented at that stage. Josephs business skills were so good that he was purchasing so many
antiquities and earning so much money that he soon out grew his Lord Street shop and had to move to
Colquitt Street to a larger premises.
Josephs reputations for a keen eye and as a shrewd business man preceded him. However one note
does exist that he purchased some papyri of the gospel of St Matthew, and was persuaded to publish
them at considerable cost to himself. He later found out that they were not genuine. The years rolled
on and so did the treasure which he had amassed. In 1854 Joseph Mayer moved from Liverpool to
Dacre Park, Rock Ferry, Wirral. 10 Years later in 1864, Joseph moved to Bebbington. The house in
which he lived is now the Municipal offices. The dwelling was a small merchants house to start with,
over the years he added many changes and extensions to the building. He named it Pennant House.
Joseph was said to have been an instant hit with the folk of Bebbington Village. He organised a
horticultural society and created allotments. He was on the committee for the bowling club, cricket
club, quoiting and football. Joseph secured money for a loan when the local hospital was running short
of funds. IN 1865 Joseph Mayer conceived the idea of founding a public library for the residents of
Bebbington. The house formerly occupied by Thomas Francais , the eccentric stonemason was chosen
as the first home of the library. Mr Mayer rented it, furnished it, and equipped it with over 1500
volumes. Mr pilling Elsby the Master of the school village was appointed honorary librarian. In 1866 it
was opened and was an instant success.
A short time after the size of the premises became inadequate and a bigger building was needed. As
luck would have it an 18th century farm house, with barn and meadow land became available and was
snapped up by Mr Mayer. The main building was transformed i the library and two rooms were added
to the rear, one as a reading room and the other as a chess room. A clock tower was subsequently
added to the front. The new library was opened in 1870 with a stock of over 10,000 volumes. Later
the land attached to the orchard and meadow were made into a public car park.
Between Pennant house and the new library stood an old bakers shop and a barn which was attached
to the farm. Mr Mayer decided on one last feat, towards the end of 1870 he transformed the barn into
a public hall, and staged an exhibition there. In 1871 he had the hall and bakers shop pulled down
and erected the present day Mayer Hall in its place. For a long time the building housed a museum the
contents of which were provided by Mr Mayer. Later it was transformed into the council chambers for
the corporation. In 1867 Joseph Mayer valued his stash at £80,000 which was an incredible sum in
those days. Shortly after he presented his inventory to the Corporation of Liverpool which was
incorporated into the museum a short time later.
A statue was commissioned in his honour and was placed in St Georges Hall, one of Liverpool's most
visited tourist spots today. One thousand pounds was paid for the work and the marvelous statue
was created from the finest Carrara marble. It was unveiled and in 1869 together with a statue of
Lord Derby. Both statues can be seen today at St Georges Hall.