Liverpool - history and landmarks

Liverpool – a history

Liverpool began as a tidal pool next to the River Mersey. It was probably called the lifer pol meaning muddy pool. There may have been a hamlet at Liverpool before the town was founded in the 13th century. It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) but it may have been to small to merit a mention of its own. King John founded the port of Liverpool in 1207. The English had recently conquered Ireland and John needed another port to send men and supplies across the Irish Sea. John started a weekly market by the pool. In those days there were very few shops so if you wanted to buy or sell goods you had to go to a market. Once a market was up and running at Liverpool craftsmen and tradesmen would come to live in the area.

Medieval Liverpool

As well as a weekly market the king gave the citizens of Liverpool the right to hold an annual fair. In the Middle Ages a fair was like a market but it was held only once a year for a period of a few days. A Liverpool fair would attract buyers and sellers from all over northwest England.

King John in Liverpool

King John divided the land at Liverpool into plots called burgages on which people could build houses. He invited people to come and live in Liverpool. Then in 1229 the king granted the people of Liverpool another charter. This time he gave the merchants the right to form themselves into an organisation called a guild to protect their interests. In many medieval towns the Merchant's Guild also ran the town. In Liverpool the guilds members elected an official called the Reeve to run the town on a day-to-day basis. The first mention of a Mayor of Liverpool was in 1351.

However Medieval Liverpool would seem tiny to us. Even by the standards of the time it was a small town. In the 14th century Liverpool probably had a population of about 1,000. It was not more than 1200. Many of the people of Liverpool lived at partly by farming. Others were fishermen. Some were craftsmen or tradesmen such as brewers, butchers, blacksmiths and carpenters. Furthermore a little stream ran into the pool and it powered a watermill that ground grain into flour for the townspeople's bread. There was also a windmill Southeast of the pool.


Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool's Anglican cathedral is a building of superlatives. Not only is it Britain's largest church, it's also the world's largest Anglican cathedral. It is the work of Sir Gilbert Scott, who also gave us the red telephone box and the Southwark Power Station in London, now the Tate Modern. The central bell is the world's third largest (with the world's highest and heaviest peal), while the organ, with its 9765 pipes, is likely the world's largest operational model.

The visitor centre features the Great Space; this 10-minute, panoramic high-definition movie about the history of the cathedral is followed by your own audiovisual tour, courtesy of a headset. Your ticket also gives you access to the cathedral's 101m tower, from which there are terrific views of the city and beyond – on a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower.

St George’s Hall

Arguably Liverpool's most impressive building is the Grade I–listed St George's Hall, a magnificent example of neoclassical architecture that is as imposing today as it was when it was completed in 1854. Curiously, it was built as law courts and a concert hall – presumably a judge could pass sentence and then relax to a string quartet.

Inside, you can visit the recently refurbished courtroom and robing room, stop by the cells below, and get a nice vantage point on the Great Hall, home to Britain’s second-largest organ (its 7000 pipes are pipped by the organ in London’s Albert Hall). The building also hosts concerts, corporate gigs and a host of other civic get-togethers; it is also the focal point of any city-wide celebration.


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