A Crash Course In Liverpool History

Liverpool’s history is as deep and rich as any other European city, however it can prove to be rather bewildering to try and understand all of it in one go.

Thankfully, there are a tonne of great resources that can provide you with everything you need to know about this fantastic place, so you can get properly swatted up before you make a trip to visit it yourself.

Never underestimate the value that context can bring to your life, although I gather the majority of my information from books and museums around the city, there are a handful of fantastic sources that I’ve found to bolster my knowledge further.

Video Content

What’s My Line?

This episode of What’s My Line?, a classic British panel television show from the mid-20th Century offers an interesting light on how Liverpool’s culture was perceived at the time. No doubt the city’s reputation has changes somewhat since this episode was aired:

The History of the City of Liverpool

You can’t beat a good bit of local knowledge sometimes and that’s exactly what this video offers. Although the video footage is a little compromised there’s plenty of great information here about the city including some really interesting tidbits that even I wasn’t aware of:

Online Articles

The Liverpool History Society is home to many concise and fascinating free articles from topics as far ranging as a complete history of the city, an expose of how the council of 1965 flooded a Welsh town and profile on some of the city’s most influential characters. Even today Liverpool is a city of opportunity, this is a reputation that it has held for centuries. The History Society do a fantastic job of breaking down the trials and tribulations of this city, whilst contextualising many of the historical events and framing them in comparison to what is happening in the city today. You can take a look at their articles and see if there any talks that you would like to attend by taking a look at their website here.

Museums

If you’d rather wait until you get here to learn about the city then there are no better places to do this than at the Museum of Liverpool which is conveniently placed just a short walk away from the Royal Albert Dock. This wonderfully researched and effectively presented museum is a real credit to the city, offering a detailed look into the formation of the city from its roots in ancient history to present day. No expense was spared in collecting authentic artefacts from the city’s history. Should you wish to learn more about the city’s maritime history then you can do so at the Merseyside Maritime Museum (the namesake of this blog).

The China Connection Est. 1834

Liverpool is a world renowned city.


Mention Liverpool to any Brit or Western traveller and they’ll probably be able to reel off a few dubious ‘facts’ about The Beatles and will more than likely warn you not to leave your car parked up somewhere quiet.

Negative stereotypes aside, Liverpool is a city famed for its rich musical heritage and football teams, but many people are unaware of the long-standing cultural connection that the city has had with China, in fact many tourists to the city are often surprised by the presence of a Chinatown here. To many the iconic Chinese Arch (the largest of its kind outside of China) is a rather incongruous sight, but a quick visit to the recently opened Museum of Liverpool soon reveals this landmark’s origins.

You’ll find a detailed history of the city’s Chinese connection in the Museum of Liverpool’s ‘Global City’ exhibition on the ground floor, but for those who aren’t planning a visit anytime soon I’ll give a brief rundown that should help to elucidate this intriguing section of Liverpool’s history.

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Liverpool in 1834, these intrepid travellers were employed by Alfred Holt and Company, one of the first British companies to establish trade routes to the East. By the 19th Century, Liverpool’s Albert Docks were under construction but there were still many smaller dock yards dotted along the Mersey receiving goods from all over the world. These Chinese seafarers were some of the first of their kind to have settled overseas, they were accommodated in boarding houses close to the dockyards, but it wasn’t long until they started to branch out into other parts of the city. Cleveland Square, Frederick Street and Pitt Street were amongst the first areas to see an established Chinese community.

From the late 19th century these Chinese people were able to start setting up businesses. Shops, boarding houses, restaurants and cafes soon began to populate the streets attracting more Chinese folks and also encouraging more seafarers to jump ship in favour of a life on dry land. After 60 years of living amongst the people of Liverpool, the Chinese visitors were now becoming accepted. It was at this point in time that marriages between Chinese men and local women began to take place.

Despite some seafarers’ taste for gambling, Chinese men had a good reputation amongst the people of Liverpool. They were considered hard workers and were drinking less than their English counterparts. From these unions more businesses sprang, by the 20th century there were around 14 Chinese owned restaurants in addition to a number of Chinese-style laundry shops opened which were considered innovative for the time.

After significant bombing decimated much of the Chinese dwellings during World War II, the Chinese families (some of whom could trace their history back almost a 100 years) moved once more to the area now considered to be Liverpool’s Chinatown. Although the aforementioned Chinese Arch (crafted in China and constructed here in 1999) is one of the most recognisable footprints of this China connection, a walk around Nelson Street, Berry Street, and Duke Street reveals a cornucopia of delights for the observant sinophile.