Liverpool and the River Mersey in 1680, R. P. Herdman, courtesy Liverpool Records office
Historical outlines of Liverpool

Historical outlines of Liverpool

Northern Daily Times 1855

Historical outlines of Liverpool 1

Lancastria, the wild and uncultivated district that extended from the Trent and the Dee to the Cheviot hills. The forest of West Derby included the ground on which Liverpool now stands, and all the adjoining townships as far as the Stanley Brook in one direction and the manor of Formby in the other. Down to the time of Edward the Confessor, all Lancashire was neither more nor less than a continual succession of forests. Such clearance was soon effected in the woods of West Derby, as sufficed for the sustenance of the cattle of their respective proprietors.

The chief occupation of the people during the early Saxon times consisted of agriculture and pasturage. Then grew up the practise of enclosing green fields with hedgegrows and hawthorn bushes, which relieved the monotonous aspect of unbroken plains. But with the arrival of the Normans came a better system of agriculture, and more extensive clearing of forest lands.

The soil of Lancashire was never favourable to the husbandman, nor was that of Cheshire more productive. The quantity of arable land on either side of the Mersey when the Doomsday survey was commenced, was miserable in the extreme, of all the Hundreds of West Derby, Warrington, Blackburn, Salford, Leyland and Newton, only a very small portion seemed fit for cultivation. At the decease of Edward the Confessor, the value of the entire country between the Mersey and the Ribble, did not reach £150. But when the mosses began to be drained and the forests cleared away a salutary change soon appeared in every direction. From the days of Edward 111, the value of the property had multiplied exceedingly.

The salt springs of Cheshire appeared to have been worked since Roman times, the rock salt of Northwich was not discovered till later in the 17th century. When the Weaver was rendered navigable through the rich saline districts of Cheshire, Liverpool soon obtained the advantages of extended trade. The destruction of the forests became more rapid with the increased consumption of wood in the iron districts, in consequence the introduction of coal as a substitute took place in the reign of James 1. About the middle of the last century the art of smelting ironstone with coal became much improved, that it soon began to be in general use. It now supplies annually 2 million tons of iron.

The opening of the Mersey and the Trent canal led early in the present century to an important advance on behalf of the town. Since it thenceforth became the depot for the iron manufactures of the neighbouring shires.

The great coal fields of Lancashire stretch to the south of the Ribble, and runs between the river and the Mersey, with lateral branches in the direction of Macclesfield, and there is met by another which radiates to Staffordshire. It runs in fact from Todmorden to Torbock, and from Macclesfield to Colon and has proved to be one of the richest and deepest of the English mines. The cotton manufacture rose under its valuable assistance, as did the woollen, cutlery, earthenware and iron, of Yorkshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire, under their abundant coal mines. There were other sources of improvement besides these.

The turbaries about the town were of great value at the time. One of the earliest civic documents is a deed of a gift from Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, the owner to the burgesses of Liverpool of 12 acres of mosses known as, the Great Heath, at an annual rent of 1d. The same land is now valuable corporate property. It is the ground long known as Shaw's Brow, on which St Georges Hall was recently built. Edge Hill and the southern portion of the town, Everton and West Derby were principally turbaries from the time of being denuded of their forestry down to a very late period. But when the mechanical arts began to develop themselves and mills to multiply on every available elevation, along Shaw's Brow, Everton and West Derby, Edge Hill and Toxteth Park the burgage holdings in the town became more numerous and business of the port more active.

The humble hamlet or ferry station by the Mersey Shore, laying at the uttermost extremity of all that was known or civilized in Europe, progressed at a snails pace down to the period of Henry 11, as there was no opportunities of bettering its condition, nor facilities to advance its trade. Thence forward there arose an occasional stir in the place, whenever troops were wanted to be despatched to Ireland, or levies to be made and mustered to increase the strength of the troops.

ORMEROD affords us with an account of Cheshire, a notice of the earliest edifice erected on the shores of the Mersey, being the castle of Runcorn in the early part of the 10th century. About 90 yrs later West Derby castle is supposed to have been built, about 1050 during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Roger de Poictiers, the favourite of William of Normandy, and the foremost man of the day in Lancashire, is said to have erected a baronial structure on the site of St Georges Church, and which was only taken down in the beginning of the last century. This castle was for a considerable time the only prominent feature of the place, the radical nucleus of the town.

The Anglo Saxon homesteads had given way to the Norman halls, which located themselves under the shadow of the tower, the architectural type and guarantee of Baronial protection.

Here the CROSSES, the MORES and the MOLYNEUXES had early fixed their settlements and adhered to them with tenacity. More Hall was built on the northern side of the town, and that of the CROSSES to the eastern end about Dale St, while about 150 cottages or burgages served with a display of a windmill here and there on the green and mossy heights of Shaws Brow and Martindale. West Derby, Everton and Edge Hill were then but farmsteads in the southern district of the town.

Historical outlines of Liverpool 11

Early in the 13th century [1207] the Royal Patron King John, bestowed the original charter to the town, 22yrs later his son Henry 11 granted a second one. At this period it was little better than a hamlet. The Nonce Rolls supply the following information, the value of Liverpool was under £7, there were four Royal Boroughs, Lancaster, Preston, Liverpool and Wigan. While Liverpool was still insignificant, Bristol was of great comparative consequence, its property return then exceeded £30,000.

Chester, Manchester and Lancaster grew up under Roman power and are noted in the Roman itineraries as military stations. Not a trace can be discovered of Roman rule about Liverpool, it must have been more or less solitude.

The hills were covered in dense forest, where deer and swine roamed and were tended and looked after by the foresters and swine-herders of our Saxon ancestors. On the platforms of our low and straggling hills the Druid had his stone circle and consecrated altar. The Calder stones were there but nothing else. The Danes are the first people of whom traces can be discovered about the neighbourhood and on the banks of the Mersey.

Manchester was then a town of the old kingdom of Northumbria, as Chester was of the kingdom of Mercia. Here also, the Danes only settled along the coast and did not attempt to penetrate into the heart of the country.

They established their dominion coastwise in the, Isle of Mann, and became masters in the seaports of the Irish shore, holding, Dublin, Waterford and Cork. The names of the places about Liverpool are far more Danish than Saxon. The Danes imposed there own names where ever they went. Whitby, Formby, Crosby, Grimsby, which signify in Scandinavian language, towns of Danish origin. Thingwall was the Danish Court of Justice and places of that name are to be met within Lancashire and Cheshire. The Tynwald Hill of the Isle of Mann is a relic of the same Danish domination, localities ending in kirk and eye are Danish and plentiful in Lancashire.

Of the origin of the name Liverpool, in the days of Elizabeth it was written, Litherpole, according to Camden in Saxon days, Liferpole. Leland writes it Lyrpole. In the Testa de Neville it is given as Litherpol. In the Sheriffs accounts in the time of Edward 1, it is made Lithepole. Lider, lither, lith all signify the sea in Scandinavian, so that the name means Seapool. The port of Leith has the same derivation of the name. The Dublin Liffy where the Danes were masters is said to have been written Lith in records of the time of King John.

The lands in and about the town were held at the time of Edward the Confessor by several Thanes, in small lots, who led the lives of pastoral chieftains in the midst of their tenantry. Their principal riches consisted of herds of cattle and swine, which lived in the woods and forests.

There was no town at the time, in those old Saxon days, but a rude hamlet or village. It was a mere ferry station. Edward held the Manor of West Derby. The Norman knights introduced the feudal system with its military arrangements, useful for the time as defensive, when the country was liable to invasion, it helped make the Normans masters of their territories. The want of it rendered the Saxons easy prey to every invader.

The lands of West Derby, Liverpool, Crosby, Garston, Everton, Thingwall and Wavertree fell to eight Norman knights, followers of Roger de Poictiers. He had received from the conqueror the whole of Lancashire and it forms part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Goisfred, Sheriff of this Honour of Lancaster was one of these followers and made over the manor of Garston to the Monastry of Saint Peters and Paul, Shrewsbury.

The Molyneux family made purchase of the assignment from monastic lessee in the time of Edward 1V, the earliest documentary evidence in the municipal archives which tended to establish the corporate rights during their contest with the House of Molyneux, had connection with the parish of Walton. It is a lease granted by the Mayor and Burgesses of the town of Liverpool to Sir William Molyneux of a certain parcel of land near More-Green, containing 4 roods in length on which to build an office or Tithe-barn to store the tithes of that part of the parish of Walton then comprised in the townships of Liverpool and Kirkdale at the annual rent of 6d. Here was clear proof of the municipal claims, and which, between the corporation and Sephton Family was unanswerable.

The More-Green common appears to be leased herein as part of the corporate property and rented as such by the lessee. We here also trace the origin of the name of Tithebarn St, in the northern part of the town which was formerly called More St.

The Fee-farm part of the town was leased by Henry V11 to one David Ap Griffith, elsewhere called David Harvey, for a sum of £14 a year, a few years later another lease was obtained from the town by William Molyneux of the lands of Croxteth and Simonswood at a rent of £16 a year. But these lands then were open heaths and waste marshes.

The same King granted power to Thomas Fazakerly for a small annual rent, to establish a fishing station on the river Mersey between Toxteth and Liverpool. The parks of Toxteth had been given in the preceding reign to [Henry V1] to Thomas Stanley, afterwards, Lord Stanley.

Henry V111 as the Duke of Lancaster appointed commissioners to inquire into the demise of the towns dues and to ascertain the cause. Sir William Molyneux was a commissioner and during the investigations acquired such an insight into local matters and prudent forethoughts into corporate affairs, that he immediately leased the estates of the crown.

The Green Lane or private passage to More Hall was thrown open as a High Road to the public by the proprietor of the hall for the convenience of the inhabitants and improvement of the town. The common then waste ground, is now the source of an annual income of £100 to the corporation. The entire property of Liverpool at this time only made a yearly rent of 7s-5d

In the 16th year of Henry V111, the king granted a lease of the fee-farm of the town to Alice Gruff, alias Griffith, probably the widow of David Griffith, or Harvey, already mentioned as original lessee of the crown, and one Henry Ackers for 20 years. Shortly after he made extended leases for 20 years at a slightly increased rent. In 1531 the same Henry Ackers sub-let his moiety to the Mayor and Burgesses of the town for 6 years at an annual rent of £10. This Levee of the crown laid claim to the ferry between Liverpool and Runcorn.

At ths period the collective rent of Liverpool made only £10 a year for the Royal Lessor. He bestowed the priory at Birkenhead on his page of the wardrobe and groom of the chamber, Ralph Worsley, of Worsley in Lancashire, together with the church, churchyard, belfry and 70 acres of good land adjoining, with mills, barns, stables and other parcels of land in the several townships, parishes or hamlets of Birkenhead, namely Claughton, Wolton, Tranmere, Bidstone and Kirby Whally otherwise Wallassey. Yearly rent of which at that time was £115-13s-5d, which must have been considerable. The place still bears the designation of the Monks-Ferry.

The common council in those days seemed to consist of the Mayor, bailiffs and 12 burgesses, elected to govern the borough. The corporation records for the first time are attended to and kept in something like a systematic arrangement. The tolling of the curfew bell was not forgotten and besides the health and comfort of the town its inhabitants attention was devoted to their amusement. The Waites and their music were especially ordered to be in attendance through the borough every morning, except the Sabbath day. The Butchers and Bakers had to be looked after in the days of good Queen Elizabeth, as well as in our own better ordered times.

In the 28th year of the reign of Henry V111, Thomas Holcroft obtained a lease of the fee-farm from the King and shortly afterwards assigned it to Sir William Molyneux of Sefton. In 1539 a moiety of the same was granted in lease by Sir William Molyneux to the corporation at an annual rent of £10 and the other moiety leased to Edward Gee a wealthy merchant of Chester, at a yearly rent of £8.

The earliest description of the town that can be found is that of Leland, in his itinerary,

Lyrpole, alias Lyverpole, a paved town, hath but a chapel. Walton four miles off, not far from the sea, is the parish church. The King has a castelet there, and the Earl of Derby hath a stone house. Irish merchants come thither as to a good haven. After that, Mersey water coming towards Runcorn in Cheshire, loseth among the common people the name Mersey, and floweth to Lyrpole, and much Irish yarn, that Manchester men do buy here.

In the time of Elizabeth commerce and manufactures seem to have flourished, yet it was natural enough they should do so, there was neither foreign strife, nor civilian commotion to disturb the steady progress of trade. The sovereign seemed better disposed to retain security. It has been ascertained that no less than 30 families rose into sudden affluence, either by the purchase or grant from the royal distributor.

Historical outlines of Liverpool 111

The little town by the Mersey side originally collected together like an encampment of cottages, or burgages, as they were termed in the charter of King John, looked quite orderly under the surveillance of the castle. The fine manorial hall of the Delamores was erected on the northern extremity, while another of the Crosses rose near the verge of Dale St, on the eastern side. The Molyneuxs as governors, held the castle, while the Stanleys with intermarriage with the Lathoms, their own tower down by the chapel of the Virgin and St Nicholas at the end of Water St, where they occasionally resided and mixed with the town. Yet, it is really inconceivable how seldom these generous and genial races would agree. The mills or mosses, the streams or sluices that fed or drained them, the timbers of the forest, or the ternaries of the health, anything, no matter how trifling could excite them to fix a quarrel or commence a law-suit.

A mere fishing hamlet in the parish of Walton, it was too inconsiderable to obtain a mention in the Doomsday Book, it is not named at all. One main street, the ends and centre of which bore different names, Castle St, Juggler St, and Milne St with three others, Dale St, Water St and Chapel St running in lateral directions, comprised the entire extent.

The Molyneuxs who had come with Norman, William, Moores and Crosses, seemed to adhere to their favourite spot with fidelity. None could anticipate that in time the green and lofty elevations of Edge Hill, 230ft and Everton 240ft above the level of the river, rising like gigantic bulwarks to shelter the incipient borough, should one day form part and parcel of the town itself.

This country it is well known failed in the cultivation of flax, but that eventually was a little material detriment. Chester at that time had constituted the principal port for all excisable purposes in the North West, the port of Liverpool had already run ahead of it in commercial matters, the customs revenue of Liverpool was then £272-3s, Chester had nothing like that amount. The Earls of Derby then friends of the town, in their connections with Chester, conferred on it a most invaluable service, the Earl by his powerful influence with Elizabeths secretary, Walsingham, obtained for Liverpool the privilege of dealing directly with Portugal and Spain, without fees or reference of any kind to the rival port. Chester applied to the Lord Chief Justice, but the final decision of the law authorities was against it and Chester was beaten.

Great military forces from all parts of the country, the rear guard of Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, were at this time collected in Liverpool for the purpose of accompanying their new commander in attempt to crush the great Irish chieftain ONeil. They had become unruly, probably by drink, but all events were guilty of outrageous conduct. As long as these outrages were confined to their quarters and amongst themselves, it was borne patiently by the people, but at length it became unmanageable that the burgesses resolved in opposing them.

The Mayor and all the town were suddenly on the heath, every man with his best weapon, it was Sunday, every householder was home, every man as eager as a lion. The Captains and their men drew up on the heath and the military leader advanced to the Mayor, who had gallantly headed the people. After the battle array the Captain showed all courtesy to the Mayor and came up to the town in friendship and unity. The Captain and his soldiers after this was done, were more gentle to deal with while they abode in the town. The Irish Kernes soon cooled down this extra ardour since the generality of them were sent to an early grave.

Sir Richard Molyneux obtained a renewal of his old lease of the fee-farm for 40 years. The grant annoyed the merchants and alarmed the corporation, since they foresaw he would acquire the entire commerce of the port besides the authority he held as governor of the castle.

They took the law into their own hands in order to restrain him and arrested the collector of dues, Thomas Moore, the Mayor was in London at the time, when he suddenly found himself arrested and thrown into the Fleet prison, where he was told he would remain till he apologised for his conduct and that of the corporation. The Chancellor of the Duchy had the case before him and decided in favour of the Lessee of the crown. The burgesses changed their minds and made up matters with the governor and elected his son Richard Molyneux as one of their representatives. The nomination of the second member was left to their great and friendly neighbour the Earl of Derby.

Historical outlines of Liverpool 1V

We have already discussed the origin of the name - now for the heraldic escutcheon, or armorial ensign of the town.

A gull or cormorant is the crest and the bird bears in its bill a sprig of lever, so when first adopted, the sea bird was very properly called a cormorant, but since the Heralds office acquired a voice potential to the matter consistently enough with all its other vain imaginations it created its fanciful bird - the Liver - which neither truth nor ornithology will sanction. The word Lever, which suggested the creation of this new species of bird, signifies simply the seaweed which it carried in its bill, and which, in the sister Isle, and perhaps here also is very commonly dressed up and sent to the table as a wholesome vegetable. Its saline quantities are excellent but its colour is too dark to be generally attractive. The gull and cormorant are in the habit of resorting to it, and hence arose the mistake. The Lever-pool as far as concerns the origin of the name, would still mean neither more nor less than sea-pool, since lever only grows by the seaside.

During the reign of Elizabeth the town had three patrons, two by virtue of their offices and the third from their influence and unlimited power. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the governor of the castle Sir Richard Molyneux and the Earl of Derby. In 1552 the town returned the Earl of Derbys servant, Ralph Seckerston as the Queens representative and left a blank for the other so that the Chancellors nominee may be placed there.

In 1562 matters did not run smoothly Sir Richard Molyneux was governor of the castle and lessee to the town dues and it was in their interest and duty to elect his son.

To the Stanleys they were for centuries under obligations of all kinds, since they hoped to receive many more the second nomination was accorded to the Earl of Derby.

A very curious fact can be gleaned from Camden, that the cotton of the day, manufactured at Manchester, were not cottons at all but woollens. The fustians of Lombardy, which they seemed closely to resemble, gave rise to the name, but the fine fabrics which some centuries later were imported by the Portuguese from the Indian calicot, were not then known.

Edward the third encouraged trade as much as possible and during his power caused many Flemish weavers and artisans to be brought over and introduced to many towns in the region. During the reign of Elizabeth there was scarcely a shire or county that did not have an establishment for the manufacture of woollen cloth. Numerous workmen had from France and Flanders flocked here in consequence of the civil dissentions of their own countries. Elizabeth received them kindly and liberally, with all the cordial sympathy of the generous woman and shrewd sagacity of the enlightened sovereign.

The Netherlands were the first artisans to imitate the art of manufacturing those light and elegant fabrics called bays. Several towns, Northwich, Colchester, Sandwich, Maidstone and Southampton received the benefit of the foreigners visit. The Cotswold and Wiltshire downs had for ages the finest wools, whilst Ryeland wool of Herefordshire, rivalled that of the Cotswolds and even superior than the great Spanish article. The great valley of the Severn to from Shrewsbury to Frome where by no means backward in the contribution to the trade and commerce and civilisation. Manchester was known to harbour bad characters, which were supposed to be detrimental to local trade. The preamble opens with an intimation to the world at large that Manchester was a town for a long time well inhabited, where the people were largely employed in the linen and woollen manufactures, and the inhabitants had obtained great riches and accumulated much wealth in trade. How the employers had afforded work to many artificers and poor folkes, whose constant residence, good order, strict and fair dealing of the inmates of the town and who had encouraged strangers and dealers, merchants and others from Ireland and other places in the kingdom, who resorted thither to manufacture cloth, linen, yarn and wooles, and other merchandise and for giving credit to the poor inhabitants of the town, who paid back with their labours.

The import and export trade in Liverpool then was moderate, since it was principally confined to some half dozen Irish ports, Dublin, Tredarth [now Drogheda], Carlingford, Dundalk, Waterford and Newry, were the chief resorts of the Liverpool traders in their limited commercial voyages. Spain, Portugal and France supplied some occasional cargos of wine and fruit. Bordeaux sent her choicest oranges and Biscay some excellent iron.. Monopolies were the order of the day and London, Bristol and Chester had become notorious for their exclusion of all young strugglers in the trade, and the Mersey town was too poor to compete with them.

The abolition of the exclusion system took place. Elizabeth like the high minded person she was in business declared openly in parliament, she had rather her hand and heart should perish, than that either her hand or heart should allow such privileges to monopolists as may be prejudicial to the people. Her reign was fortunately a long one, and her memory still is clear.


Copyright 2002 / To date