History of Liverpool

Mother Earth Travel > United Kingdom > Liverpool > History

Originally thought to have been an unnamed barley farm, it was first referred to in historical documents as "Liuerpul". The pool was a mile long tidal inlet that flowed in a curve where the Mersey tunnels now begin.

In 1207 King John, who had given the land away 15 years earlier, reclaimed the small coastal area and established it a Royal borough. People from all over the country were invited to accept plots of land; a community of around 150 families eventually settled and made a living from fishing and agriculture. By 1235 the Church of St Nicholas and the Liverpool Castle were built, surrounded by seven small streets. These medieval streets have survived to the present day and can be found around the Town Hall in the city centre. During the next five centuries the borough remained a backwater with very little commercial progress.

During the Civil War (1642-48), royalist soldiers besieged the town and the castle was burnt to the ground. However, it was not all doom and gloom, as the Black Plague swept through London, merchant families fled to the small town bringing skills and capital. An industry based on coal, salt and glass grew rapidly and in 1715 the first dock was built marking the beginning of the modern ports. The Town Hall (1749) and Bluecoat Chambers (1717) are two examples of the fine architecture built in this era, both are still in permanent use today.

Overseas markets were established and the city was renowned for its spice, sugar and tobacco trade; unfortunately the city was also notorious for dominating the slave trade until it was abolished in 1807. Today, the story of this legacy can be found in the Transatlantic Slavery Exhibition at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Between 1841-1848 the entire Albert Dock complex was built at a cost of £514,575. Opened as a fully working dock by Prince Albert in July 1846, it has since been beautifully restored as a major commercial site and tourist attraction, and continues to provide the city with prosperity.

From 1837 affluent types flocked to attend the annual Grand National, the world's most famous steeplechase at Aintree. Many of the international set including Royalty and presidents would have stayed at the luxurious Britannia Adelphi Hotel, still as popular today. By the end of the 19th century Liverpool had achieved city status, and was the second greatest port in the British Empire. In recognition of this accolade, building commenced on the magnificent Anglican Cathedral in 1904.

The early years of the 20th Century were not so kind, the opening of the Manchester ship canal caused trade to suffer, and the First World War had severe effects upon the city. The Second World War blitz was even more dramatic; in May 1941 eight nights of bombing left 4,000 dead, 4,000 injured and 10,000 homes reduced to rubble. Post war years left the city defiant, but trade and industry were in decline.

The swinging sixties brought a happier outlook to the city, new docks were opened and of course the Beatles phenomenon was born. Four local boys joined a group in 1957 and they went on to perform as the Silver Beatles in Hamburg. On their return to the hometown in 1960, they were signed up to play on a regular basis in The Cavern, a basement club in the city. Their first single Love me do was recorded in September 1962 and Beatlemania began to rock the music world.

The 60s also saw the completion of the Metropolitan Cathedral, affectionately known amongst locals as "Paddy's Wigwam" due to the unusual design of the building. The next two decades proved difficult, unemployment was rife and the economy was bleak. However, a mass programme of regeneration schemes in the 90s changed the fortunes of the city; at last the tide began to turn and the city began to flourish.

In contrast to the Victorian slums, which testified to the appalling conditions and struggles suffered by the working classes, the stunning architecture around the city reflects the city's history of vast economic growth, wealth and power. The 21st Century marks a new chapter in the history of Liverpool, which has seen technology, commerce and tourism, escalate in recent years. Whether you are a resident or visitor, you can't help but notice the upsurge in spirit and vitality of a city confidently looking towards the future.