Liverpool, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Liverpool is an industrial city and a major port in northwest England. It sits on the northeastern shore of the Mersey estuary and forms part of the greater metropolitan area of Merseyside. Merseyside consists of Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral and the city of Liverpool.
King John issued a charter in 1207 for a town on the banks of the Mersey. He saw Liverpool as a convenient place to mount an attack on Ireland. The town grew slowly throughout the medieval period and for the first 400 years of its existence it consisted of seven small streets. However, in the late-sixteenth century it emerged as a port under the jurisdiction of Chester, before gaining recognition as a self-governing customs port in 1658.
During the seventeenth century it developed as the principal port linking Britain with Ireland and then as an important colonial port. Liverpool became a centre of the slave trade from West Africa, thriving as the need for cheap labour on the cotton plantations of North America increased. With the ending of both the slave trade in 1807, and the East India Company’s monopoly on Indian trade, Liverpool was able to develop new trading patterns. A new dock system was built in 1824 which served until after World War II.
Liverpool’s significance grew with the Industrial Revolution. As well as being a manufacturing city in its own right, it handled most of the goods coming from Manchester and the north-west of England. During the eighteenth century a series of docks were built on the Mersey and in 1830 the Manchester to Liverpool Railway was opened, the first of its kind in the world. Much of the city’s population lived in poverty, a situation exacerbated by the Irish famine of the 1840s which created an influx of refugees. The population was also expanded by Chinese and black immigrant labour as well as by itinerant sailors. Liverpool suffered heavily in the 1930s economic slump and in World War II through Luftwaffe bombing.
After the two world wars Liverpool fell into economic decline. However the city’s contribution to the social, cultural and sporting prestige of the nation has remained a source of pride for the city. Liverpool produced The Beatles in the 1960s and is the home of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. It has three universities: Liverpool University (founded in 1881), Liverpool John Moores and Liverpool Hope. The city’s Aintree racecourse hosts the Grand National annually and it is also home to two of England’s leading football teams, Liverpool and Everton. Large swathes of the city (including much of the old docklands) are now being re-generated and new businesses attracted. Liverpool was one of two European Capitals of Culture for 2008.
Places of Interest
Speke Hall, dating from 1490;
20 Forthlin Road, the former home of the McCartney family, where The Beatles met, rehearsed and wrote many of their earliest songs;
the Royal Liver Building, opened in 1911 and the first large scale building in the world to be made of reinforced concrete;
the Liverpool Cathedral Church of Christ, or Anglican Cathedral, the world’s largest Anglican Church;
the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, or the Catholic Cathedral, originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens but completed in 1967 on the plans of Sir Frederick Gibberd;
the Liverpool Museum, the oldest of the national museums on Merseyside, hosting collections of archaeology, ethnology and the natural and physical sciences;
the Walker Art Gallery, home to collections of Dutch paintings from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries and works by major artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, Monet and Degas;
the Mersey Maritime Museum detailing the maritime history of the city;
Lady Lever Art Gallery, founded by William Hesketh Lever in 1922, displaying 18th and nineteenth century British paintings;
the Tate Gallery Liverpool, opened in 1988 in a converted warehouse, hosting a collection of modern art.