As part of my birthday celebrations and presents, I was treated to a weekend in Liverpool with my sister. She’d bought me tickets to see Steps at the Echo Arena which was absolutely incredible, as well as a huge nostalgia trip!
We did also get the chance to wander along the waterfront and potter around the Museum of Liverpool for an hour or so. Liverpool is such a fantastic city, and it’s brilliant for shopping too. I may have spent one or two pounds in John Lewis!
But back to it… Many people, when asked about Liverpool, will think of The Beatles, the Grand National and football. There’s quite a bit more to it than that. Being on the coast of England, it owes pretty much all of its past wealth to trade. From about 1700 onwards, the city grew into a northern hub of trade, and was actually the first city in the world to build a commercial wet dock to save the ships from being exposed to the elements whilst anchored in the middle of the Mersey. The first dock opened in 1715 and could hold 100 ships. It was a great success and the city went from strength to strength.
The trade was not all good though. Liverpool played a central role in the development of the transatlantic slave trade for over 100 years. The city’s wealth in the 18th century can pretty much be attributed to it. Liverpool often acted as the construction yard and repair shop for the slave ships. Apparently nearly 1.5 million slaves were forcibly transported across the Atlantic on ships that were built in Liverpool. It is obviously a dark mark on the history of the city, and there is actually a museum dedicated to this part of its story. I didn’t visit it on this occasion, but I have previously. It is most definitely worth a look!
As I said at the top of this post, Nen and I had a spare hour or so to visit the Museum of Liverpool, which gives a great insight into the many facets of this hugely multicultural and vibrant city. It takes you through the good and the bad, including an example of a post-war slum. Nen wasn’t best impressed… there was no plug for her hair straighteners!
On the top floor, there’s a huge window which looks out to the River Mersey on the left, and the ‘Three Graces’ on the right. These three buildings are iconic, and consist of the Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool building. Sitting atop the Liver Building are the two famous Liver Birds which clock in at 5½ metres tall. The story goes that the two birds are a male and female pair, and if they were to ever fly away, the city would cease to exist. The female looks out to sea, hoping that the seamen make it home safely. The male bird faces inland watching over the families of the seamen. Another version says that they are making sure the pubs are open which I find far more likely to be honest!
The waterfront surrounding the Museum of Liverpool and the Three Graces is known as Pier Head and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, which I didn’t know until I was researching for this post. This recognises Liverpool’s maritime past, and its influence as an international hub for commerce in the 18th century. Speaking of ‘maritime past’, I have to mention the RMS Titanic. Her ill-fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic has been well-documented since it sank only 5 days after it left Southampton on 10th April 1912. The White Star line, who owned Titanic, was founded in Liverpool in 1845 and had their base in the city. When news of the sinking reached Liverpool, the officials who worked in the White Star offices in Albion House were so afraid to go outside and face the crowds that they announced the names of the dead from the balcony. Nowadays, Albion House is known as 30 James Street, and is a Titanic-themed hotel. Not sure how I feel about that…
I suppose what I’m trying to say in the end is that there’s so much more to Liverpool than football, The Beatles, and horse racing, and I would urge anyone to visit and learn more about its ups-and-downs through the years. It is truly fascinating.