top of page
Liverpool is a city in north west England. A borough from 1207 and a city from 1880, in 2014 the city council area had a population of 470,537. Liverpool sits on the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary, and historically lay within the ancient hundred of West Derby in the south west of the county of Lancashire.
The expansion of the city in the Industrial Revolution paralleled its growth as a major port, and participation in the Atlantic slave trade. Liverpool was the port of registry of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, and many other Cunard and White Star ocean liners such as the RMS Lusitania, Queen Mary, and Olympic.
In 1190 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 uncertain.
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", in place names in England, is derived from the late British or Welsh "pwll" meaning a pool, an inlet, or a pit. In modern Welsh, the name "Lerpwl" is used, based on the English. Another major immigrant group to Liverpool are the Irish, and in Irish the name is "Learpholl". An older Welsh name for Liverpool is "Llynlleifiad", meaning "pool of the floods". The city had a small Welsh speaking community, mostly migrants from North Wales.
LIVERPOOL IN 1860
Although a 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. It is thought that the King wanted a port in the district that was free from the control of the Earl of Chester. Initially it served as a dispatch point for troops sent to Ireland, soon after the building around 1235 of Liverpool 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. In the 13th Century, Liverpool as an area comprised just seven streets.
The original seven streets were laid out in an H shape: Bank Street (now Water Street), Castle Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Juggler Street (now High Street), Moor Street (now Tithebarn Street) and Whiteacre Street (now Old Hall Street). In the 17th century there was slow progress in trade and population growth. Battles for the town were waged during the English Civil War, including an eighteen-day siege in 1644. In 1699 Liverpool was made a parish by Act of Parliament, that same year its first slave ship, Liverpool Merchant, set sail for Africa.
As trade from the West Indies surpassed that of Ireland and Europe, and as the River Dee silted up, Liverpool began to grow. The first commercial wet dock was built in Liverpool in 1715.
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 Mersey.
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 family fortifying their house on Water Street.
The Stanley Tower was also the catalyst for a feud between the Stanley and Molyneux families. The Molyneux family residing at the nearby Liverpool Castle during the early 15th century. The resulting rivalry spilling into a near riot in 1424. 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 1650s.
The international trade of the city grew, based, as well as on slaves, on a wide range of commodities - including, in particular, cotton, for which the city became the leading world market, supplying the textile mills of Manchester and Lancashire.
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.
Liverpool was first linked by canal to Manchester in 1721, the St. Helens coalfield in 1755, and Leeds in 1816. In 1830, Liverpool became home to the world's first inter-urban rail link to another city, Manchester, through the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the maiden journey Stephenson's The Rocket train.
Liverpool's importance was such that it was home to a number of world firsts, including gaining the world's first fully electrically powered overhead railway, the Liverpool Overhead Railway, which was opened in 1893 and so pre-dated those in both New York and Chicago.
The built-up area grew rapidly from the eighteenth century on. The Bluecoat Hospital for poor 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 mediaeval origins. 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 about 1810.
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 monopoly in 1813. Over 140 acres (0.57 km2) of new docks, with 10 miles (16 km) of quay space, were opened between 1824 and 1858.
During the 1840s, Irish migrants began arriving by the thousands due to the Great Famine of 1845-1849. 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 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 Liverpool Scotland from 1885 to 1929.
Liverpool Castle was a castle in Liverpool, England, that stood from the early 13th century to the early 18th century. The castle was probably erected in the 1230s, between 1232 and 1235, under the orders of William de Ferrers, 4th Earl of Derby. No records of the castle construction survive, except the licence to fortify de Ferrers received in 1235.
Nearby in West Derby, there had long been a castle, which was taken by the Ferrerses in 1232, but by 1296 it lay in ruins. The castle in Liverpool was built to protect King John's new port, and was sited at the top of modern day Lord Street, the highest point in the city which overlooks the Pool. This corresponds to present day Derby Square (Queen Victoria Monument), near the city centre.
The castle was built on top of a plateau, which had been specially constructed, and a moat measuring 20 yards (18 m) was cut out of solid rock. The main building of the castle consisted of the gatehouse flanked by two towers at the north-east corner which faced Castle Street; three round towers at the three remaining corners, one being added at a later date than the others, in 1442.
Four curtain walls connected the four towers; the northern and southern walls were recessed to allow them to be commanded from the towers. Inside the castle were a hall and chapel, which were connected to the south-western tower, and a brewhouse and bakehouse. There was also a passage which ran under the moat toward the edge of the river. The courtyard was divided by a wall built running from the north wall to the south wall. Underneath the castle walls stood a dovecot, and an orchard ran from the castle to the Pool in the east. Finally in 1715 an act was passed to demolish the castle and build a church in its place. Construction of St George's church began on the site of the old castle and the church was consecrated in 1734. By 1825 the church had been pulled down and a new one built in its place. In 1899 the church was demolished and the Victoria Monument was erected in 1902. In 1976 excavation of the south side of Castle Street was conducted before the construction of the Crown Courts building, which was built in the style of a castle.
RECOLLECTIONS OF OLD LIVERPOOL - JAMES STONEHOUSE 1863
When I look around and see the various changes that have taken place in this “good old town” I am sometimes lost in wonderment. Narrow, inconvenient, ill-paved streets have been succeeded by broad thoroughfares—old tumble-down houses have been replaced by handsome and costly buildings, while the poor little humble shops that once were sufficient for our wants have been completely eclipsed by the gigantic and elegant “establishments” of the present day.
I recollect Dale-street when it was a narrow thoroughfare, ill-paved and ill-lighted at night. It was not half the present width. In 1808, as the town began to spread and its traffic increase, great complaints were constantly being made of the inconvenience of the principal streets, and it was agreed on all sides that something should be done towards improvement. The first movement was made by widening Dale-street; the improvement being by throwing the thoroughfare open from Castle-street to Temple-court, but it really was not until 1820 that this street was set out in anything like a bold and handsome manner. Great difficulties were constantly thrown in the way of alterations by many of the inhabitants, who had lived in their old houses, made fortunes under their roofs, and were hoping to live and die where they had been born and brought up. Many tough battles had the authorities to fight with the owners of the property.
Some were most unreasonable in the compensation they demanded, while others for a time obstinately refused to enter into any negotiations whatever, completely disregarding all promised advantages. The most obtuse and determined man was a shoemaker or cobbler, who owned a small house and shop which stood near Hockenall-alley. Nothing could persuade him to go out of his house or listen to any proposition. Out he would not go, although his neighbours had disappeared and his house actually stood like an island in the midst of the traffic current. The road was carried on each side of his house, but there stood the cobbler’s stall alone in its glory. While new and comfortable dwellings were springing up, the old cobbler laughed at his persecutors, defied them, and stood his ground in spite of all entreaty. There the house stood in the middle of the street, and for a long time put a stop to further and complete improvement, until the authorities, roused by the indignation of the public, took forcible possession of the place and pulled the old obnoxious building about the owner’s ears, in spite of his resistance and his fighting manfully for what he thought were his rights; nor would he leave the house until it had been unroofed, the floors torn up, and the walls crumbling and falling down from room to room. The cobbler stuck to his old house to the last, showing fight all through, with a determination and persistence worthy of a nobler cause. Some few years ago a barber, also in Dale-street, exhibited an equal degree of persistence in keeping possession of his shop which was wanted for an improvement near Temple-street. This man clung to his old house and shop until it was made utterly uninhabitable.
Lord-street, previous to 1827, was very narrow; it was not so wide even as Dale-street. The houses and all the streets in Liverpool were just as we see in third-rate country towns, having bowed shop-windows, or square ones, projecting from the side of the house. I recollect Church-street and Ranelagh-street being paved in the centre only.
Cable-street, Redcross-street and Park-lane were only flagged in 1821; and nearly all the houses in these streets were then private dwellings. In Ranelagh-street the houses had high steps to the front doors. The porches of the old houses in Liverpool were remarkable for their handsome appearance and patterns. Many still remain but they are yearly decreasing in number. I recollect when the only shops in Church-street were a grocer’s (where part of Compton House now stands) and a confectioner’s at the corner of Church-alley. Bold-street was nearly all private houses, and there were very few shops in it, even some forty years ago. Seventy years since there was scarcely a house of any sort in it.
I have been told that where the Athenæum now stands in Church-street, there was once a large pond on which the skaters used to cut a figure, and that a farm-house stood at the corner of Hanover-street.
Some houses in Hanover-street will be noticed as being built out at angles with the street. This was to secure a good view of the river from the windows. At the corner of Bold-street some ninety years ago was a milkman’s cottage and dairy. Whitechapel, when I was a lad, was a dreadful thoroughfare. I have seen it deep in water, and boats rowed about, conveying people from house to house, in times of flood. There used to be a channel with water running down the centre of the street, which was considerably lower than it is at present. It was no uncommon thing for the cellars of all the houses to be filled with water, and even now, I believe, some portion of the neighbourhood is not unfrequently rendered damp and uncomfortable. In the cellars under the Forum, in Marble-street, there is a very deep well which is at all times full; this well drains the premises.
This Forum, about fifty years ago, was a well-known and much frequented arena for disputations of all sorts. Many a clever speaker has addressed audiences now passed away. Speaker and spoken to are for the most part gone. A great change took place some forty years ago in the locality where St. John’s Market now stands. There was a ropewalk here which extended from where the angle of the building faces the Amphitheatre, as far as Renshaw-street. There was a field at one time to the north of the ropery skirted by hedges which went down the site of the present Hood-street, and round to where there is now a large draper’s shop in the Old Haymarket; the hedge then went up John’s-lane, and so round by the site of the lamp opposite the Queen’s Hotel, along Limekiln-lane to Ranelagh-street. These were all fields, being a portion of what was anciently called “the Great Heath.” It was at one time intended to erect a handsome Crescent where the cab-stand is now.
The almshouses stood on this ground. Limekiln-lane, now Lime-street, was so called from the limekiln that stood on the site of the present Skelhorn-street. Here were open fields, which extended to the London-road, quite famous for the assembling of all sorts of rough characters, especially on summer evenings, and on Sundays. Cock-fighting, dog-fighting, and pugilistic encounters used to be carried on daily, and scenes of the utmost confusion took place, until public murmurings compelled the authorities to keep order.
It was in the fields about where the Lord Nelson-street rooms stand, that my grandfather recollects seeing three, if not four, men hung for being mixed up in the rebellion of ’45. They were hung there in chains for some time, and afterwards buried at the foot of the gallows as a warning to evil-doers.
"Could we draw aside the thick veil that hides the future from us, we might perhaps behold our great seaport swelling into a metropolis, in size and importance, its suburbs creeping out to an undreamt-of distance from its centre; or we might, reversing the picture, behold Liverpool by some unthought-of calamity—some fatal, unforeseen mischance, some concatenation of calamities—dwindled down to its former insignificance: its docks shipless, its warehouses in ruins, its streets moss-grown, and in its decay like some bye-gone cities of the east, that once sent out their vessels laden with “cloth of blue, and red barbaric gold.” Under which of these two fates will Liverpool find its lot some centuries hence?"
THE HISTORY OF INDIA BUILDING
bottom of page