Until 1974 Liverpool was a County Borough in Lancashire, England. It was, first and foremost, a seaport, with docks along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary, which were the place of departure for millions of people who left Britain for North America and the Anitpodes during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was also an industrial and commercial centre from the early 19th century.
Liverpool was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880. In 1974, as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, the new County of Merseyside was created from the southeast corner of Lancashire and a portion of the neighbouring County of Cheshire. Liverpool was the largest conurbation of this area and became one of five Metropolitan Boroughs of Merseyside.
Liverpool's urbanisation and expansion were largely brought about by the city's status as a major port. By the 18th century, the import of sugar from the West Indies and general trade from Ireland and mainland Europe furthered the economic expansion of Liverpool. Liverpool is also well known for its inventions and innovations, particularly in terms of infrastructure, transportation, and general construction. Railways, ferries and the skyscraper were all pioneered in the city.
Inhabitants of Liverpool are referred to as Liverpudlians but are also colloquially known as "Scousers", in reference to the local dish known as "scouse", a form of stew. The word "Scouse" has also become synonymous with the Liverpool accent and dialect.
In the early 1960s, a period of recession for Liverpool in the commercial sense, a number of popular musical groups, particularly The Beatles, helped to put the city "back on the map". The reputation of Liverpool as a musical city has remained ever since.
Liverpool is noted for its rich architectural heritage and is home to many buildings, from cathedrals to office buildings, regarded as amongst the greatest examples of their respective styles in the world.
Liverpool is also well known for its strong sporting identity. The city is home of two Premier League football clubs, Liverpool F.C. and Everton F.C.. Matches between the two clubs are known as Merseyside derbies. The world-famous Grand National also takes places annually at Aintree Racecourse on the outskirts of the city.
King John's letters patent of 1207 announced the foundation of the borough of Liverpool, but by the middle of the 16th century the population was still only around 500. The original street plan of Liverpool is said to have been designed by King John near the same time it was granted a royal charter, making it a borough. The original seven streets were laid out in a H shape: Bank Street (now Water Street), Castle Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Juggler Street (now High Street), Moor Street (now Tithebarn Street) and Whiteacre Street (now Old Hall Street).
In the 17th century there was slow progress in trade and population growth. Battles for the town were waged during the English Civil War, including an eighteen-day siege in 1644. In 1699 Liverpool was made a parish by Act of Parliament, that same year its first slave ship, Liverpool Merchant, set sail for Africa. As trade from the West Indies surpassed that of Ireland and Europe, and as the River Dee silted up, Liverpool began to grow. The first commercial wet dock was built in Liverpool in 1715. Substantial profits from the slave trade helped the town to prosper and rapidly grow, although several prominent local men, including William Rathbone, William Roscoe and Edward Rushton, were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement.
By the start of the 19th century, a large volume of trade was passing through Liverpool, and the construction of major buildings reflected this wealth. In 1830, Liverpool and Manchester became the first cities to have an intercity rail link, through the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The population continued to rise rapidly, especially during the 1840s when Irish migrants began arriving by the hundreds of thousands as a result of the Great Famine. By 1851, approximately 25% of the city's population was Irish-born. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Liverpool was drawing immigrants from across Europe. This is evident from the diverse array of religious buildings located across the city, many of which are still in use today. The Deutsche Kirche Liverpool, Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, Gustav Adolfus Kyrka and Princes Road Synagogue were all established in the 1800s to serve Liverpool's growing German, Greek, Nordic and Jewish communities respectively. One of Liverpool's oldest surviving churches, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, served the Polish community in its final years as a place of worship.
The Housing Act 1919 resulted in mass council housing building across Liverpool during the 1920s and 1930s. Thousands of families were rehoused from the inner-city to new suburban housing estates, based on the pretext that this would improve their standard of living, though this is largely subjective. A large number of private homes were also built during this era. The process continued after the Second World War, with many more new housing estates being built in suburban areas, while some of the older inner city areas were also redeveloped for new homes. The Great Depression of the early 1930s saw unemployment in the city peak at around 30%.
During the Second World War there were 80 air-raids on Merseyside, killing 2,500 people and causing damage to almost half the homes in the metropolitan area. Significant rebuilding followed the war, including massive housing estates and the Seaforth Dock, the largest dock project in Britain. Much of the immediate reconstruction of the city centre has been deeply unpopular, and was as flawed as much town planning renewal in the 1950s and 1960s – the portions of the city's heritage that survived German bombing could not withstand the efforts of urban renewal. Since 1952 Liverpool has been twinned with Cologne, Germany, a city which also experienced severe aerial bombing during the war.
From the mid-1970s onwards Liverpool's docks and traditional manufacturing industries went into sharp decline. The advent of containerisation meant that the city's docks became largely obsolete. By the early 1980s unemployment rates in Liverpool were once again among the highest in the UK, standing at 17% by January 1982 – although this was just over half of the level of unemployment that was affecting the city in an economic downturn 50 years previously.
In recent years, Liverpool's economy has recovered and has experienced growth rates higher than the national average since the mid-nineties.
At the end of the 20th century Liverpool was concentrating on regeneration, a process which still continues today.
Capitalising on the popularity of 1960s rock groups, such as The Beatles, as well as the city's world-class art galleries, museums and landmarks, tourism has also become a significant factor in Liverpool's economy.
In 2004, property developer Grosvenor started the Paradise Project, a £920 m development centred on Paradise Street, which involved the most significant changes to Liverpool's city centre since the post-war reconstruction. Renamed 'Liverpool ONE', the centre opened in May 2008.
In 2007, the city celebrated the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the borough of Liverpool, for which a number of events were planned. Liverpool is a joint European Capital of Culture for 2008. The main celebrations, in September 2008, included La Princesse, a large mechanical spider which is 20 metres high and weighs 37 tonnes, and represents the "eight legs" of Liverpool: honour, history, music, the Mersey, the ports, governance, sunshine and culture. La Princesse roamed the streets of the city during the festivities, and concluded by entering the Queensway Tunnel.
Spearheaded by the multi-billion Liverpool ONE development, regeneration has continued on an unprecedented scale through to the start of the early 2010s in Liverpool. Some of the most significant regeneration projects to have taken place in the city include the new Commercial District, King's Dock, Mann Island, the Lime Street Gateway, the Baltic Triangle, RopeWalks and the Edge Lane Gateway. All projects could however soon be eclipsed by the Liverpool Waters scheme which if built will cost in the region of £5.5billion and be one of the largest megaprojects in the UK's history. Liverpool Waters is a mixed use development which will contain one of Europe's largest skyscraper clusters. The project received outline planning permission in 2012, despite fierce opposition from the likes of UNESCO who claim it will have a damaging effect on Liverpool's World Heritage status.
Second city of Empire
For periods during the 19th century the wealth of Liverpool exceeded that of London itself, and Liverpool's Custom House was the single largest contributor to the British Exchequer. Liverpool's status can be judged from the fact that it was the only British city ever to have its own Whitehall office.
As early as 1851 the city was described as "the New York of Europe" and its buildings, constructed on a heroic, even megalomaniacal scale stand witness to the supreme confidence and ambition of the city at the turn of the 20th century.
Liverpool was also the site of the UK's first provincial airport, operating from 1930, and was the first UK airport to be renamed after an individual – John Lennon.
During the Second World War, the critical strategic importance of Liverpool was recognised by both Hitler and Churchill, with the city suffering a blitz second only to London's, and the pivotal Battle of the Atlantic being planned, fought and won from Liverpool.
Inventions and innovations
Railways, transatlantic steamships, municipal trams, electric trains were all pioneered in Liverpool as modes of mass transit. In 1829 and 1836 the first railway tunnels in the world were constructed under Liverpool. From 1950–51, the world's first scheduled passenger helicopter service ran between Liverpool and Cardiff.
The first School for the Blind, Mechanics' Institute, High School for Girls, council house and Juvenile Court were all founded in Liverpool. The RSPCA, NSPCC, Age Concern, Relate, Citizen's Advice Bureau and Legal Aid all evolved from work in the city.
In the field of public health, the first lifeboat station, public baths and wash-houses, sanitary act, medical officer for health, district nurse, slum clearance, purpose-built ambulance, X-ray medical diagnosis, school of tropical medicine, motorised municipal fire-engine, free school milk and school meals, cancer research centre, and zoonosis research centre all originated in Liverpool. The first British Nobel Prize was awarded in 1902 to Ronald Ross, professor at the School of Tropical Medicine, the first school of its kind in the world. Orthopaedic surgery was pioneered in Liverpool by Hugh Owen Thomas, and modern medical anaesthetics by Thomas Cecil Gray.
The world's first integrated sewer system was constructed in Liverpool by James Newlands, appointed the UK's first borough engineer in 1847.
In finance, Liverpool founded the UK's first Underwriters' Association and the first Institute of Accountants. The Western world's first financial derivatives (cotton futures) were traded on the Liverpool Cotton Exchange in the late 1700s.
In the arts, Liverpool was home to the first lending library, athenaeum society, arts centre and public art conservation centre. Liverpool is also home to the UK's oldest surviving classical orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the oldest surviving repertory theatre, the Liverpool Playhouse.
Between 1862 and 1867, Liverpool held an annual Grand Olympic Festival. Devised by John Hulley and Charles Melly, these games were the first to be wholly amateur in nature and international in outlook. The programme of the first modern Olympiad in Athens in 1896 was almost identical to that of the Liverpool Olympics. In 1865 Hulley co-founded the National Olympian Association in Liverpool, a forerunner of the British Olympic Association. Its articles of foundation provided the framework for the International Olympic Charter.
Shipowner Sir Alfred Lewis Jones introduced the banana to Great Britain in 1884.
In 1889, borough engineer John Alexander Brodie invented the football goal-net, and was a pioneer in the use of pre-fabricated housing. He was also vice-president of the Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association which was a precursor, and later a constituent member, of the Royal Automobile Club. Brodie oversaw the construction of the UK's first ring road, the UK's first intercity highway as well as the Queensway Tunnel, linking Liverpool and Birkenhead. Described as "the eighth wonder of the world", at the time of its construction it was the longest underwater tunnel in the world, a title it held for 24 years.
In 1897, the Lumière brothers filmed Liverpool, including what is believed to be the world's first tracking shot, taken from the Liverpool Overhead Railway – the world's first elevated electrified railway.
Liverpool inventor Frank Hornby was a visionary in toy development and manufacture and produced three of the most popular lines of toys in the 20th century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys.
The British Interplanetary Society, founded in Liverpool in 1933 by Phillip Ellaby Cleator, is the world's oldest existing organisation devoted to the promotion of spaceflight, and its journal the longest running astronautical publication in the world.
In 1999, Liverpool was the first city outside the capital to be awarded blue plaques by English Heritage in recognition of the "significant contribution made by its sons and daughters in all walks of life."