Most people outside of the United Kingdom seem to overlook Liverpool and think that it only comes down to The Cavern Club and Anfield, but they could not be more wrong! This wonderful city has a lot to offer, and John Lennon was right in saying that “there is a lot to do in Liddypool.”
From Lerpoole to Liverpool
The city began as a muddy tidal pool by the river Mersey. It is only after King John of England – who had seen it as a convenient port of embarkation to conquer Ireland – granted a charter in 1207 that it emerged from the ground as a port city. King John later launched a weekly market, and gave the citizens of Liverpool the right to hold “an annual fair [which attracted] buyers and sellers from all over Northwest England.” Nevertheless, the town’s growth remained slow until the eighteenth century when “profitable trades” with the new English colonies and the Triangular Trade made it “the second most important port in Britain.” It is interesting to point out that Liverpool both played a major role in the development of the slave trade and its abolition as “it took the courage of Liverpool politician William Roscoe to stand up and call for the end” of the involvement of British ships with the slave trade. Liverpool later welcomed thousands of Irish who were fleeing from their country plagued by starvation, and by the nineteenth century, “it became a key staging post for Irish emigration to America.” Liverpool then officially became a city in 1880.
Since it was one of the most important ports of Great Britain, Liverpool was a major target during the Second World War, and more than 10,000 dwellings were wiped out by German bombs. Liverpool remains a very important port nowadays mainly because of its position in the Northwest of England and the fact that it is still the main trading port with North America.
A Global City
The life of Liverpool has always revolved around commerce, and especially its port facilities. It is the source of the city’s pivotal role in global trade and contributed heavily to the diversity of its population. Indeed, immigrants from as diverse origins as Ireland, Italy, China and West Africa settled in successive waves in the prosperous port city, which has always attracted a large number of workers. Both of the aspects of Liverpool aforementioned promoted various innovations including means of transportation, which, to a greater degree were pioneered in the city. It includes the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which opened in 1830 as the first railway in England to link two major cities.
Before the Triangular Trade contributed to make Liverpool a renowned port city on a global scale, the city mainly traded with neighbouring Ireland, from where animal skins were imported. As the city’s port grew exponentially in the 18th century, the goods it exported included faïence whose “decoration often consisted of pseudo-Chinese motifs”, porcelain and goods such as soap, margarine and glass. Since the 1930s, the English government has sought to expand Liverpool’s industries and nowadays, the city is also well-known for both its flourishing automobile and chemical industries.
As traders faced numerous difficulties navigating their ships in the port of Liverpool, the city built its first wet dock in 1715. The Liverpool docks gradually expanded, and four others were later established along the Mersey River, making the port of Liverpool even bigger than the docks of London. Low investment in the docks, a decrease in trade with former English colonies such as the United States, and a boom in freight transport caused the activities of the port of Liverpool to decline after the Second World War. Nevertheless, the docks south of Liverpool remained open until the 1980s, which helped the city remain one of the most important ports of Great Britain. Thousands of containers are still handled by the port Liverpool today. The port has also seen cruise ships traffic in recent years, and especially since 2012, when it became “a terminus for cruise ships.”
The difference between “dock” and “port” may be fine for the uninitiated, so here is some useful vocabulary:
- Dock: “An artificial basin, excavated, built round with masonry, and fitted with flood-gates, into which ships are received for purpose of loading and unloading or for repair.
- Dry Dock: “A narrow basin into which a single vessel is received, and from which the water is then pumped or let out, leaving the vessel dry for the purpose of repair.”
- Wet Dock: “A large water-tight enclosure in which the water is maintained at the level of high tide, so that the vessel remain constantly afloat in it.”
- Port: “A place by the shore where ships may run in for shelter from storms, or to load and unload; a harbour; a haven.”
“A Passionate Little Bubble”
It could be said that the whole world seems to have arranged to meet in Liverpool. Indeed, the city is the home of the oldest African community in England, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
“Liverpool is not being part of Britain but rather part of the world.”
This cultural diversity as led to an interestingly wide religious diversity. Indeed, Liverpool is known to have the fifth-largest Anglican cathedral in the world, the largest Catholic cathedral in England, the first mosque in Britain – which was conceived by the Muslim convert William Abdullah Quilliam after he came back from Morocco at the end of the 19th century –, several synagogues and a couple of Hindu temples.