History of Liverpool can be traced back to 1190 when the place
was known as 'Liuerpul', possibly meaning a pool or creek with
muddy water. Other origins of the name have been
suggested, including 'elverpool', a reference to the large number
of eels in the Mersey, but the
definitive origin is open to debate and is probably lost to
A likely derivation is connected with the Welsh
word "Llif" meaning a flood, often used as the proper name for the
Atlantic Ocean, whilst "pool" is in general in place names in
England derived from the late British or Welsh "Pwll" meaing
variously, a pool, an inlet or a pit.
small motte and bailey castle had
earlier been built by the Normans at West Derby, the origins of the city of Liverpool are usually
dated from 28 August 1207, when letters
patent were issued by King John
advertising the establishment of a new borough, "Livpul", and
inviting settlers to come and take up holdings there.
thought that the King wanted a port in the district that was free
from the control of the Earl of
. Initially it served as a dispatch point for
troops sent to Ireland, soon after the building around 1235 of
Castle, which was removed in 1726. St Nicholas Church was built by 1257, originally as a chapel within
the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill.
With the formation of a market on the site of the later Town Hall,
Liverpool became established as a small fishing and farming
community, administered by burgesses
and, slightly later, a mayor
. There was probably
some coastal trade around the Irish Sea, and there were occasional ferries across the
However, for several centuries it remained a small
and relatively unimportant settlement, with a population of no more
than 1,000 in the mid 14th century. By the early fifteenth century
a period of economic decline set in, and the county gentry
increased their power over the town, the Stanley
their house on Water Street. In the middle of the 16th century the
population of Liverpool had fallen to around 600, and the port was
regarded as subordinate to Chester until the
Elizabethan era and the Civil War
Liverpool in 1572.
In 1571 the inhabitants of Liverpool sent a memorial to Queen Elizabeth
, praying relief from
a subsidy which they thought themselves unable to bear, wherein
they styled themselves "her majesty's poor decayed town of
" Some time towards the close of this reign,
Henry Stanley, 4th Earl
of Derby, on his way to the Isle of Man, stayed at his house, the Tower; at which the
corporation erected a handsome hall or seat for him in the church,
where he honoured them several times with his
By the end of the sixteenth century, the town began to be able to
take advantage of economic revival and the silting of the River Dee
to win trade, mainly from
Chester, to Ireland, the Isle of Man and elsewhere. In 1626, King
gave the town a new
and improved charter.
Liverpool in 1650.
Few remarkable occurrences are recorded of the town in this period,
except for the eighteen-day siege of it by Prince Rupert of the Rhine
the English Civil Wars in 1644. Some traces of this were discovered when the
foundation of the Liverpool Infirmary was sunk, particularly the marks of the trenches
thrown up by the prince, and some cartouches, etc., left behind by
The first cargo from the Americas was recorded in 1648.
development of the town accelerated after the Restoration of 1660,
with the growth of trade with America and the West Indies. From that time may be traced the rapid
progress of population and commerce, until Liverpool had become the
second metropolis of Great Britain.
Initially, cloth, coal and salt from
Lancashire and Cheshire were exchanged for sugar and tobacco; the
town's first sugar refinery was established in 1670.
In 1699 Liverpool was made a parish
own by Act of Parliament
from that of Walton-on-the-Hill, with two parish churches. At the
same time it gained separate customs authority from Chester.
Slavery and Trade
On 3 October 1699
very same year that Liverpool had been granted status as an
independent parish, Liverpool's first 'recorded' slave ship
, named "Liverpool Merchant", set sail
for Africa, arriving in Barbados with a 'cargo' of 220 Africans,
returning to Liverpool on 18 September
. The following month a second recorded
ship, "The Blessing", set sail for the Gold Coast.
The first wet dock
in Britain was built in
Liverpool and completed in 1715. It was the first commercial
enclosed wet dock in the world and was constructed for a capacity
of 100 ships. By the close of the 18th century 40% of the world's,
and 80% of Britain's Atlantic slave activity was accounted for by
slave ships that voyaged from the docks at Liverpool
black community dates from the building of the first dock in 1715
and grew rapidly, reaching a population of 10,000 within five
Vast profits from the slave
transformed Liverpool into one of Britain's foremost
important cities. Liverpool became a financial centre, rivalled by
Bristol, another slaving port, and beaten only by London. In the
peak year of 1799, ships sailing from Liverpool carried over 45,000
slaves from Africa.
Many factors led to the demise of slavery including revolts,
piracy, social unrest, and the repercussions of corruption such as
slave insurance fraud, e.g. the Zong
1781. Slavery in British colonies was finally abolished in 1834,
though some apprenticeships ran until 1838. However, many merchants
managed to ignore the laws and continued to deal in underground
slave trafficking, also underhandedly engaging in financial
investments for slaving activities in the Americas.
Industrial revolution and commercial expansion
The international trade of the city grew, based, as well as on
slaves, on a wide range of commodities - including, in particular,
, for which the city became the leading
world market, supplying the textile mills of Manchester and
During the eighteenth century the town's population grew from some
6,000 to 80,000, and its land and water communications with its
hinterland and other northern cities steadily improved.
was first linked by canal to Manchester in 1721, the St.
Helens coalfield in 1755, and Leeds in 1816.
Liverpool became home to one of the first inter-urban rail links to
another city, Manchester, through the Liverpool and Manchester
The built-up area grew rapidly from the eighteenth century on. The
children opened in 1718. With the demolition of the castle in 1726,
only St Nicholas Church and the historic street plan - with Castle Street
as the spine of the original settlement, and Paradise Street
following the line of the Pool - remained to reflect the town's
The Town Hall, with a covered exchange
for merchants designed by architect John Wood
, was built in 1754, and the
first office buildings including the Corn Exchange were opened in
Throughout the 19th century Liverpool's trade and its population
continued to expanded rapidly. Growth in the cotton trade was
accompanied by the development of strong trading links with India
and the Far East following the ending of the East India Company's
in 1813. Over of new docks, with of quay space, were opened between
1824 and 1858.
Map of Liverpool from 1880
During the 1840s, Irish
began arriving by the thousands due to the Great Famine
Almost 300,000 arrived in the year 1847 alone, and by 1851
approximately 25% of the city was Irish-born. The Irish influence
is reflected in the unique place Liverpool occupies in UK and Irish
political history, being the only place outside of Ireland to elect
a member of parliament from the Irish Parliamentary Party to the
British parliament in Westminster. T.P. O'Connor
represented the constituency of
from 1885 to 1929.
town become a leading port of the British
Empire, a number of major buildings were constructed, including
St. George's Hall (1854), and Lime Street
steeplechase was first run at Aintree in 1837.
Between 1851 and 1911, Liverpool attracted at least 20,000 people
from Wales in each decade, peaking in the 1880s, and Welsh culture
flourished. One of the first Welsh language journals, Yr
, was founded in Liverpool by William Rees
, and there
were over 50 Welsh chapels in the city.
When the American Civil War
out Liverpool became a hotbed of intrigue. The last Confederate ship, the CSS Alabama, was built at Birkenhead on the Mersey and the CSS
Shenandoah surrendered there.
was granted city
status in 1880, and the following year its university was established. By 1901, the city's
population had grown to over 700,000, and its boundaries had
expanded to include Kirkdale, Everton, Walton, West
Derby, Toxteth and Garston.
During the first part of the 20th century Liverpool continued to
expand, pulling in immigrants from Europe. In 1904, the building
of the Anglican
Cathedral began, and by 1916 the three Pier Head buildings, including the Liver Building, were complete.
This period marked the
pinnacle of Liverpool's economic success, when it regarded itself
as the "second city" of the British
. The formerly independent urban districts of Allerton, Childwall, Little Woolton and
Much Woolton were added in 1913, and
the parish of Speke added in
's half-brother Alois
and his Irish sister-in-law Bridget Dowling
are known to have lived in
Upper Stanhope Street in the 1910s. Bridget's alleged memoirs,
which surfaced in the 1970s, said that Adolf stayed with them in
1912-13, although this is much disputed as many believe the memoirs
to be a forgery.
maiden voyage of Titanic was originally planned to depart from Liverpool, as
Liverpool was its port of
registration and the home of owners White Star Line. However, it was
changed to depart from Southampton instead.
Aside from the large Irish
Liverpool, there were other pockets of cultural diversity.
of Gerard, Hunter, Lionel and Whale streets, off Scotland Road, was referred to as Little Italy.
by an old Venetian custom, Liverpool was 'married to the sea' in
September 1928. Liverpool was also home to a large Welsh population,
and was sometimes referred to as the Capital of North Wales.
In 1884, 1900 and 1929, Eisteddfods
held in Liverpool. The population of the city peaked at over
850,000 in the 1930s.
Economic changes began in the first part of the 20th century, as
falls in world demand for the north west's traditional export
commodities contributed to stagnation and decline in the city.
Unemployment was well above the national average as early as the
1920s, and the city became known nationally for its occasionally
violent religious sectarianism
1939-1945: World War II
During World War II
, Liverpool was the
control centre for the Battle of the
. There were eighty air-raids on Merseyside
, with an especially
concentrated series of raids in May 1941 which interrupted
operations at the docks for almost a week. Although 'only' 2,500
people were killed, almost half the homes in the metropolitan area
sustained some damage and 11,000 were totally destroyed. Over
70,000 people were made homeless. John
, one of the founding members of The Beatles
, was born in Liverpool during an
air-raid on 9 October 1940
Significant rebuilding followed the war,
including massive housing estates and the Seaforth Dock, the largest dock project in Britain.
However, the city has been suffering since the 1950s with the loss
of numerous employers. By 1985 the population had fallen to
460,000. Declines in manufacturing and dock activity struck the
city particularly hard.
In 1955, the Labour Party
locally by Jack and Bessie Braddock
came to power in the City Council for the first time.
In the 1960s Liverpool became a centre of youth culture
. The city produced the
sound, and, most
famously, The Beatles
From the 1970s onwards Liverpool's docks and traditional
manufacturing industries went into further sharp decline. The
advent of containerisation
that Liverpool's docks ceased to be a major local employer. In
1974, Liverpool became a metropolitan district
within the newly
created metropolitan county
The 1980s saw Liverpool's fortunes sink to their lowest point. In
the early 1980s unemployment
Liverpool were amongst the highest in the UK, an average of 12,000
people each year were leaving the city, and some 15% of its land
was vacant or derelict. In 1981 the infamous Toxteth Riots took place, during which,
for the first time in the UK outside Northern Ireland, tear gas was used by
police against civilians.
In the same year, the Tate and Lyle
sugar works, previously a
mainstay of the city's manufacturing economy, closed down.
Liverpool City Council
'dominated' by the far-left wing Militant
group during the 1980s, under the
leadership of Derek
(although Hatton was formally only Deputy Leader). The
city council sank heavily into debt, as the City Council fought a
campaign to prevent central government from reducing funding for
local services. Ultimately this led to 49 of the City's Councillors
being removed from office by the unelected District Auditor, for
refusing to make staff redundant or remove council services to
reduce their spending.
96 Liverpool fans died and many more were severely injured in the
Hillsborough disaster at a
football game in Sheffield.
This had a traumatic effect on people in
both cities, and resulted in legally imposed changes in the way in
which football fans have since been accommodated. In particular
this led to strong feeling in Liverpool because it was widely
reported in the media that the Liverpool fans were at fault
(especially in the tabloid newspaper The Sun
which led to a boycott of the
paper in Liverpool that continues to this day). It has since become
clear that South Yorkshire
made a range of mistakes at the game, though the senior
officer in charge of the event retired soon after.
A similar outpouring of grief and shock occurred in 1993 when two
year-old James Bulger
killed by two ten year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert
A general economic and civic revival has been underway since the
. Liverpool's economy has grown
faster than the national average and its crime levels have remained
lower than most other metropolitan areas in England and Wales, with
recorded crime per head in Merseyside comparable to the national
average — unusually low for an urban area.
In recent years, the city has emphasised its cultural attractions.
Tourism has become a significant factor in Liverpool's economy,
capitalising on the popularity of The Beatles and other groups of
the Merseybeat era. In June 2003, Liverpool won the right to be
named European Capital of
Culture for 2008, beating other British cities such as Newcastle and Birmingham to the coveted title.
The riverfront of the
city was also designated as a World
In October 2007, Liverpool and London continued with wildcat
strikes after the end of the official CWU strikes
been ongoing since June in a dispute with the Royal Mail
over pay, pensions, and hours.
- John Belchem (ed.), Liverpool 800: Culture, Character &
History, 2006, ISBN 1-84361-035-0
- BBC - Liverpool Local History - American
Connections - Slavery Timeline
- John Davies, A History of
Wales, 1993, ISBN 0-140-28475-3
- Liverpool: Our City, Our Heritage 1990, by Freddy O'Connor.
- Liverpool CB/MB Lancashire through time |
Administrative history of Local Government District: hierarchies,
- Mike Royden's Local History Pages - Hitler in
- BBC - Legacies - Myths and Legends - England -
Liverpool - Adolf Hitler - did he visit Liverpool during 1912-13? -
By M W Royden
- Some sources state 4,000