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How was Liverpool named?

LIVERPOOL’S maritime history with the River Mersey is widely documented, but how did the city come to be named Liverpool?

A brand-new illustration by TransPennine Express (above) as part of a series celebrating the heritage of places on their network has revealed all, as the name can be traced all the way back to 1207, when it was known as Liuerpul, meaning a ‘pool or creak with muddy water’. Not exactly as glamorous as the city’s reputation today!

The pool element refers to the inlet which flowed where Whitechapel and Paradise Street stand. There is a lot of discussion as to where ‘liver’ came from – whether it’s the mythical bird or a reference to the weeds which grew in the stream.

In 1207, King John issued letters patent advertising the establishment of a new borough – ‘Livpul’. He invited settlers to come and take up holdings in the area, free of control from the Earl of Chester. The peasant dwellings from those days were made of fallen timber, mud and furze, shown in the illustration. A few years later, a building named Liverpool Castle was completed, standing on the spot where the Victoria monument now is (on Castle Street). It was removed in 1726.

In the early days, Liverpool was a small area that was relatively unimportant. It consisted of seven streets, which are all still there today – Bank Street (now Water Street), Chapel Street, Castle Street, Juggler Street (now High Street), Dale Street, Moor Street (now Tithebarn Street) and Whiteacre Street (now Old Hall Street).  It wasn’t until the transatlantic trade of the 18th Century that Liverpool rose to prominence. In 1715, Liverpool had the first ever commercial wet dock on the River Mersey, known as Thomas Steer’s dock, accommodating up to 100 ships. In 1846, the Albert Dock was constructed, consisting of wet and dry docks, making Liverpool a hotspot for cargo – by the late 19th Century, 40% of the world’s trade passed through Liverpool.

Off the back of the success of the maritime trading, Liverpool became wealthy and several important buildings were constructed to show this, including St. George’s Hall and Lime Street Station.

In 2004, Liverpool received a world heritage accolade from UNESCO, reflecting on its significance as a commercial port in the 18th and 19th Century. This world heritage site goes along the waterfront, from Albert Dock, through the Pier Head up towards Stanley Dock and through the commercial areas to St George’s Hall.  The city was the Capital of Culture in 2008 and continues to thrive in culture, creativity and entertainment. In 2015, it was given a ‘City of Music’ UNESCO. Not too shabby for a city named after a muddy pool!

View more illustrations here:

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