Located in North West England, Liverpool is an amazing city for all history lovers!
Here are 37 history facts about Liverpool that will blow your mind!
1 – Liverpool was founded by King John (aka the villain in Robin Hood)
Back in the early 1200’s, King John’s favourite pass-time was to attack the Irish. In order to do that he had to sail from Chester and pay a tax to the Earl. To avoid having to pay that tax, he decided to found his own port city and chose Liverpool in 1207.
2 – St George’s hall was built to impress visitors
Located on Lime street, right in front of the station, St George’s Hall was built in 1841. It faces the main station so that visitors stepping off the train, would have the best possible first impression of the city. It’s been recognised as part of Liverpool’s world heritage by UNESCO in 2004.
3- St John’s gardens used to be a graveyard and 82,000 bodies are still buried there
Nowadays St John’s gardens are pretty gardens with ornamental flowers and statues but back in the days it was a cemetery for people that couldn’t afford a proper burial. Even though a lot of bodies have been removed, there are still about 82,000 skeletons buried there.
4 – St George’s hall was the first air-conditioned building
St George’s Hall is located by St John’s gardens which, as mentioned above, used to be a graveyard. During hot summer days, the smell of the bodies buried in shallow graves in the adjacent gardens was unbearable for people working in the hall and closing the windows would make the heat inside unbearable. In order to find a solution to this catch 22 situation, the Reid’s system was then implemented to ventilate and cool down the temperature of the hall.
5 – Dickens adored Liverpool and gave many public readings including the world premiere of a Christmas Carol at St George’s Hall
Although his first readings in Liverpool were at the Philharmonic hall, St George’s hall soon became his favourite venue. Dickens was at the origin of what was called the Penny readings. Anyone could go see Dickens reading for one penny. He had so much success in Liverpool that the police at times had to turn down 3000 people.
6 – Dickens was sworn in as a police officer in Liverpool
Dickens was fascinated by the police and would never miss out on an opportunity to talk to police officers. Because he wanted to know more about their daily life, he asked for permission to become a police officer for a few days and be able to walk around Liverpool dressed as such. This permission was granted and Dickens became a temporary Liverpudlian police officer.
7 – William Brown Street is the only street in the world with only cultural buildings
Nicknamed the cultural district, William Brown Street is home to only cultural buildings such as the Walker Art Gallery, the World Museum, the central library…
8 – The liver bird is the symbol of Liverpool
The liver bird is a mythical bird that was specifically created to be the symbol of the city of Liverpool. According to legend, King John, who founded the city, asked the people of Liverpool to take the eagle as the symbol. However Eagles were not common in England and many Liverpudlians had never seen an eagle before. They asked King John who answered “It’s a bird with talent”. The liverpudlians then started shaping what was for them a bird with talent and created a mix between the two birds they knew: seagull and duck. Although King John was not impressed by this creation and threatened to kill the person in charge, it was finally adopted as the symbol of the city.
9 – The two biggest liver birds are named Bella and Bertie and many legends surround them
Located by the pier, Bella and Bertie are the biggest Liver birds in Liverpool. Bella, the female, is facing the ocean to protect the sailors. Bertie, the male, is facing the city to protect the families. According to the legend, if Bella and Bertie were to face each other that would mark the end of the city that would crumble down under the sea.
This legend is so powerful that when they were taken down a few years ago to be cleaned, the crew always made sure they would be moved and stored in a position where they would never face each other.
10 – Liverpool in old english means Muddy Pool
Although there are several theories about the origins of the name, the most commonly accepted is that Liverpool meant Muddy pool in old english.
11 – Liverpool has the biggest concentration of museums in the UK outside London
12 – The only Slavery museum in the world is located in Liverpool
Located on Albert dock, the museum of slavery is one of the best museums in Liverpool and most of all is completely unique in the world. Obviously the purpose of it is not to make an elogy of slavery but to help understand the important role slavery played in the development of the city and in Europe in general during the Triangle Trade.
13 – In 2008, Liverpool was named European Capital of culture
With Liverpool being so culturally rich, especially in terms of museum and art collections, it was only right for it to be named European Capital of Culture in 2008. This title came 4 years after Liverpool was classified by the UNESCO and which had a huge impact on the city. It became a very popular tourist destination which enabled the city to invest more into renovating their old buildings such as the central library that had been bombed during the war. It brought a new wave of fresh air to the city.
14 – The staircase in the central library inspired the stairs of Hogwarts in Harry Potter
The director and producers of Harry Potter visited the central library in Liverpool and were so impressed by the unique layout that they decided to adapt it in their own version of Hogwarts.
15 – Many movies have been filmed in Liverpool
This very unique character has always made Liverpool a very popular movie filming location. Amongst the many movies that have been set there we can mention Fantastic beasts at St George’s Hall, Peaky Blinders and Captain America at Albert docks.
16 – It took 27 years to clear the name of the Liverpool supporters in the Hillsborough Stadium disaster case
The Hillsborough Stadium was a fatal crush of people during a football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989 that caused the death of 96 people and 766 injured, the Liverpool supporters have been wrongly accused of having initiated it. Liverpudlians fought for 27 years to get justice and it was only in 2016 that the story was set straight.
17 – You can not find a copy of the Sun newspaper in Liverpool
About a week after the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, The Sun Newspaper published false allegations on the front page, accusing liverpudlian supporters of having initiated the disaster that led to their own deaths. In response, the whole city stood by its people and started boycotting The Sun. This boycott campaign, named “Total eclipse of the sun” has been running for 30 years and to this day you will not find a single copy of the newspaper being sold in the city of Liverpool.
18 – Matthew Street used to be a fruit and vegetable market
Nowadays, Matthew Street is known to be a very lively place with pubs and live music everywhere. More importantly, this is where the Beatles made a name for themselves, at the Cavern Club. However, up until the late 50s, Matthew Street was nothing more than a fruit and vegetable market. In the 1957, Alan Sytner came back from Paris where he fell in love with all the jazz clubs and decided to import this culture to Liverpool. He chooses what was back then an egg packing plant and created what is known now as the Cavern Club. Within 6 months it became the most popular club in town. He didn’t even need to book bands, they begged him to play there.
19 – The Cavern Club is the first place where the Beatles played at
The Cavern club is located on Matthew Street. This basement club became a very popular venue in the 60s and is the first and most played venue by the Beatles. They performed their first show when they were still teenagers. Back then, Alan Sytner was the owner and he had one rule for every band playing in his club, it had to be jazz. When the Beatles played for the first time, he scheduled them at the end of the evening. As the public had already listened to the covers of all the jazz song that they were playing, they didn’t get much attention. That’s when John Lennon stopped and said “Well if you are not listening anyway, we might as well play what we want”. The four boys then started playing Don’t be cruel by Elvis Presley. Alan Sytner did not appreciate that little improvisation and wrote a note that he gave to Paul McCartney saying “Put down the bloody Rock n Roll”. The Beatles kept playing. Once finished, Alan Sytner kicked them out and told them that would be the last time they’d ever perform at the Cavern Club.
20 – The Beatles played 299 times at the Cavern Club
Once they came back from Hamburg, the Cavern Club was under new management which gave the Beatles an opportunity to play there again. At that point, the style of the club had changed a little and bands were not restricted to jazz anymore. However there was still one rule, you could not play songs that you had written yourself, they had to be covers. Obviously this was a bit hard to take for John Lennon and Paul MacCartney for whom writing songs was part of their day to day life. They could write up to three new songs per day! Even though that wasn’t what they would have hoped for, they still agreed on playing at the Cavern Club. After all, that was the best music club in Liverpool… once again they were given the last slot of the night. The previous bands had already played all the covers they had planned on doing so they decided to improvise again and play their own songs. And the public absolutely loved it! They literally could not get enough of them! The Beatles were scheduled to finish their performance at 11pm and they played until 2 in the morning! That was the beginning of the Beatles Mania! All together, they performed 299 times at the Cavern Club.
21 – People used to go see the Beatles during their lunch break
Most of the time, the Beatles would perform during the day and Liverpudlians were so crazy about them they would queue in front of the Cavern Club during their lunch break, eating a sandwich on the go just to get to see them play a couple of songs.
22 – The Cavern Club had no AC, no fire exit and no alcohol licence
Funnily enough, the most popular club in Liverpool was also probably one of the most unexpected ones. Back in the 60s when the Bealtes were playing there, they didn’t even have an alcohol licence, which is insane for Britain. People would queue up for hours to go see these boys without even getting to enjoy a drink! Also, it was not what we would call a nice and safe place, the stage was located in the basement with no fire exit and no AC, the moisture was dripping from the wall.
23 – Cilla Black used to work in the Cloak room of the Cavern Club
Cilla Black was originally working at the Cavern Club in the Cloak Room when the Beatles were performing. John Lennon noticed how talented a musician she was and convinced his manager to give her an audition. This was the start of Cilla’s career. Since then she has presented many TV shows including Blind Date, Surprise Surprise and many more.
24 – The statue of Eleanor Rigby was made of coins in tribute to John Lennon after he was murdered
Based on the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby”, this statue was designed and created by Tommy Steele, famous english entertainer, in tribute to John Lennon after his murder. He made an offer to the Liverpool City Council with a commission fee of 3 pence.
25 – There is a secret tunnel between the Cavern Pub and the Cavern Club
According to “legend”, there is a secret tunnel between the Cavern pub and the Cavern club that was used so the bands could drink at the pub and just jump in the tunnel to get straight out on stage in the Club.
26 – The Cavern Club is used by artists to test new music
Still to this day, the Cavern Club is used to test new music. Artists from all over the world come to Liverpool to perform at the Cavern Club and play their new songs. Liverpool has been a game changer for the music industry and the Cavern Club has the reputation to be the best sample of public. Therefore artists come to play secret gigs and depending on the public’s reaction they know if their new songs have potential or not. A lot of world premieres have been performed at the Cavern Club.
27 – The artists have to pay to be featured on Matthew Street wall of fame. The bigger the amount, the closer the name would be to the Beatles.
Located just across from the Cavern Club, by the Cavern pub, the wall of fame features artists that followed in the Beatles footsteps by playing at the Cavern Club. Dozens of names are engraved in the bricks however their location is not random. The artist or band’s agent would put down a bid and pay to be featured on the wall. The higher the amount, the closer they would get to the Beatles (right in the middle) . Playing at the Cavern Club is generally part of the debut for bands, which means that you can assume that the closer you are to the Beatles, the higher the expectations your agent had for you. Some of them are accurate, others a bit less. For example Adele is located quite far from the Beatles and yet became an international superstar.
28 – Liverpool One is the largest open air shopping centre in europe
Located in the city centre, Liverpool One has over 170 shops and restaurants which makes Liverpool 1 one of Europe’s best shopping destinations. If building an open air shopping centre in the North of England seems like an odd idea, it has been designed to make sure that wherever you stand within Liverpool 1 you will be able to see one of Liverpool’s landmarks.
29 – Paradise street got its name because it was the first place the sailors would reach in the city from the port
30 – Liverpool became a wealthy and important city with the triangle trade
Due to its ideal location (entrance door to Europe) and extremely advanced docking technologies, Liverpool became the main port during the triangle slave. Almost all of the world’s cotton production would arrive in Liverpool before being transported to Manchester to be manufactured. In the 18th century, 80% of Britain’s slave activity (and 40% of the world’s) would go through Liverpool. Even after the abolition of slavery in England, most of the products going through Liverpool were the result of slavery work in America.
31 – Albert Dock was the world’s first commercial wet dock
Liverpool was the first port using docks with artificial tides, reducing waiting time to serve the ships from 3 weeks to 2 and a half days.
It is 7 miles long and still to this day the largest in the world.
This means that when you are walking on the pier and the docks you are actually walking on water!
32 – The first bananas and pineapples to come to Europe arrived in Liverpool
As Liverpool managed to create the most efficient port in the world, it is only natural that it became the main gate of entry to Europe. After the discovery of the americas and with more and more ships setting out to explore the rest of the world, sailors started bringing back some new products and the first bananas and pineapples to come to Europe came through Liverpool. This is why still to this day you can find some pineapples on some Liverpudlian buildings. They were a symbol of wealth. Back then, with these products being so rare, only the wealthy could afford them and they would display them on their houses, showing everybody they could afford these tropical fruits.
33 – The first overhead railway was invented in Liverpool to enhance the logistics of the port
34 – The white star line building by the dock is nicknamed “Streaky bacon building”
This beautiful red and white building belongs to the White Star line company, mainly known for having commissioned the Titanic. Back in 1912, when the Titanic sank, people from Liverpool gathered in front of the building demanding to know the list of people that had died on the Titanic. In a moment of panic, the director of the White Star line, accidently dropped the complete list of passengers out the window. The crowd obviously then assumed everybody had died which created chaos in the city. He, then, standing at that same window, had to make a public statement, reading out, one by one, the name of every person that had lost their life on the Titanic.
Please note that even though the Titanic was registered in Liverpool, it was built in Belfast.
35 – The 10 pound imigration scheme to Australia started in Liverpool
After WWII, Australia had a massive shortage of people and skills. As part of the Commonwealth, the British government started an imigration scheme offering british people the possibility to move to Australia for £10. In a nutshell, they were offered the same life in Australia for £10. They would be given the same job they were doing in England and their houses would be rebuilt down under. Whole neighbourhoods were motivated to move. Thousands of Brits took up on the opportunity and moved to Australia with their entire family and friends. Once they got to Australia, they were given the same job and houses they had. Some Liverpudlian neighbourhoods were copied to perfection. They only had to pay £10 to travel on a Cunnard’s ship from Liverpool to Australia. These british citizens were nicknamed by the Australians and New Zealanders as the “Ten Pound Poms”.
36 – The radio tower in the city centre used to be a ventilation chap and then a revolving restaurant
If you are standing in front of the central library, you get to enjoy a perfect view of what seems to be a radio tower. This is quite right as indeed it is a radio tower, but it didn’t used to be! It was originally built to be a ventilation chap. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the most successful idea which is why a few years later it was converted into a revolving rooftop restaurant. The idea was to enjoy a 360 degree view of Liverpool. If the idea itself was rather good, the execution was not as great. Unfortunately the revolving plate was spinning too fast causing customers to get sick. Not ideal when you are eating or trying to at least. They eventually decided to close it down and found a new use as a radio tower for the local Liverpool radio.
37 – Liverpool has 3 graces and 3 disgraces
Located on George’s Pier Head, the three graces have been built to impress visitors when they arrive in Liverpool. They are facing the sea as this was the main entrance to Liverpool. A bit like the Town Hall, they were specifically built to welcome visitors but just this time not coming from the train station but from the port. These three buildings are the liver building, the cunard building and the port of Liverpool building. Bella, the female liver bird is placed on top of the Royal Liver Building. These buildings are remarkable pieces of architecture and you can even find some Easter eggs on them. The cunard building for example, on the right hand side, above the windows has stones engraved with all signs from the zodiac. Another common belief was that the custom building was built this way to be impressive enough to force visitors to come in to declare their goods. In 2008, when Liverpool became European Capital of Culture, the city invested into creating new museums on the pier. Architecture contests are launched and the museum of Liverpool is built based on the design of the winner. This also applies to the Mann Island building and the ferry terminal of Mersey ferries. These buildings received poor support from people who describe them as horrendously ugly. Being placed in front of the 3 graces, they naturally were nicknamed the 3 disgraces.