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History of Liverpool

Liverpool is a city steeped in maritime history and is where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Where does the name ‘Liverpool’ come from? In 1190 the city was known as ‘Liuerpul’ meaning “a pool or creek with muddy water”, which is not exactly inspiring!

Over centuries the name evolved with a number of different spellings including Leuerepul, Lyuerpole, Lytherpole, Litherpoole and eventually Liverpool. The ‘pool’ element is said to refer to the Pool, the inlet which flowed where Whitechapel and Paradise Street now stand, into the Mersey.

The ‘liver’ element is more highly debated. Some historians refer to the ‘livered’ slow flowing water in the stream due to the amount of weeds growing in it like liverwort.

Other interpretations look at the mythical liver or a similar water loving bird.

The origins of the city of Liverpool date back to 1207, when King John issued letters patent advertising the establishment of a new borough - ‘Livpul’. Soon after, in 1235, the building of Liverpool Castle was completed. This stood on the spot where the Victoria monument now is (on the aptly named Castle Street) and was removed in 1726.

In its early days, Liverpool comprised of just seven streets, which are all still there today - 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). It would remain a relatively small and unimportant city until its rise to prominence in the 18th century as part of the booming transatlantic trade.

In 1715 the first ever commercial wet dock was completed in Liverpool on the River Mersey, originally known as Thomas Steer’s Dock. The dock accommodated up to 100 ships and was originally a tidal basin accessed directly from the river, and by 1737 via Canning Dock.

In 1846 came architectural triumph when the Albert Dock complex was constructed, consisting of a number of wet and dry docks. Liverpool was a hive of cargo from all over the world and by the late 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade was passing through.

The town became wealthy and a number of major buildings were constructed to reflect this. Amongst these are St George’s Hall, The Congregational (The Black-E) and Lime Street Station. In 1830, Liverpool and Manchester became the first cities to have an intercity rail link.

Another notable building is 30 James Street, formerly known as Albion House and constructed in the late 19th century opposite the Pier Head. It’s the previous home of the cruise line headquarters, The White Star Line and the registered port of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.

The Pier Head is where both The White Star Line and Cunard were based, operating cruise ships all over the world. Many Liverpudlians worked on these ships and their visits to countries all over the world brought many cultural influences to the city especially from places such as the USA and Jamaica. In the late 1860s many Chinese migrants first arrived in Liverpool as a result of employment of Chinese seamen by the Blue Funnel Shipping Line, creating strong links between the cities Shanghai, Hong Kong and Liverpool, mainly importing silk, cotton and tea. This all added to Liverpool’s melting pot of world cultures.

In 1940 Liverpool suffered during WWII’s as a result of the Blitz, with 80 air raids devastating homes and, by the end of the German bombings, killing over 2,700 Liverpudlians. 

One of the most poignant symbols of the Liverpool Blitz is the shell of St Luke’s Church, now known as ‘The Bombed Out Church’, which was hit by an incendiary bomb on 5 May 1941. The church was gutted but remained standing strong and is a stark reminder of what the city endured during this time.

After the war Liverpool struggled after a decline in manufacturing at the docks. During those times, music became an escape for the people of Liverpool and in 1960, one of the Liverpool’s most famous exports was born, The Beatles. The city became the centre of ‘The Mersey Beat’, with thanks to The Cavern Club that opened in 1957.

In July 2004 Liverpool received the UNESCO World Heritage accolade after a bid centred on Liverpool as a Maritime Mercantile city, reflecting the significance of the city as a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence.

The World Heritage Site stretches along the waterfront from Albert Dock, through the Pier Head, up to Stanley Dock and through the commercial districts, such as the Ropewalks area, to St George’s Hall.

In 2004 the Paradise Street Project began, a £920m investment that lead to the opening of Liverpool ONE in 2008.

Liverpool was awarded European Capital of Culture in 2008 and, spearheaded by the Paradise Project, has incurred incredible and unprecedented growth. The 11,000 seat Arena and Convention Centre also known as the ECHO Arena opened in 2008 on Liverpool’s Waterfront.

Since then, Liverpool’s offer has continued to soar. Bold Street is a hive of unique and independent businesses ‘doing it for themselves.’ The Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool is the fastest growing area of the city, a hub of creative, indie businesses.

In December 2015, Liverpool was honoured with a ‘City of Music’ UNESCO.

Liverpool’s turbulent development leaves an illustrious past. The people of Liverpool are strong-willed and determined, hence the growth in independent businesses. The people of Liverpool are also famously friendly, witty and most of all, proud of their city. 

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