There was a settlement on the north bank of the River Mersey in the 1st century AD close to a muddy creek or ‘lifrugpool'. By 1200 a fishing village had established itself and King John granted ‘Livpul' a charter in 1207 to encourage development of a port. Sugar trade with the West Indies and the growth of the slave trade led to a surge of expansion in the late 17th century. However, it was primarily the coming of steamships in the 1840's that gave rapid rise to Liverpool's prominence and prosperity as a merchant port.
The famous Albert Dock opened in 1846 as England's gateway to the New World and steamships took emigrants to Australia, Canada and primarily America. Exhibits in the Maritime Museum recall that between 1830 and 1930 some 9 million Europeans emigrated to America through Liverpool. The Albert Dock has long since fallen into disuse and the 7 mile long waterfront now comprises the largest group of Grade 1 listed buildings in Britain, revamped into a modern 21st century quayside complex. Incorporated within this vast complex are the Maritime Museum, the Tate Gallery, water sports facilities and The Beatles Story. The latter is a walk-through sight and sound experience following the pop group's progression from childhood to ‘Beatlemania'.
Among the prominent buildings in the city is the Roman Catholic Cathedral, originally conceived to rival St Peters in Rome. War time interruptions and soaring costs tempered these aspirations. Consecrated in 1967 its construction owes more to the space age than the past being cylindrical in shape with a conical roof topped by a tapering lantern style tower.
Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, the largest in Britain, is 671ft long standing on a wooded slope to the east of the city. Built of red sandstone it is a 20th century expression of medieval Gothic design. Construction began in 1904, Edward VII laying the foundation stone, but progress was interrupted by two World Wars with eventual completion in 1978.
One of the most imposing buildings in Liverpool is St George's Hall, designed by a 24year old Lonsdale Elmes in 1838. The Hall has been described as the finest example of the Greco-Roman style in Europe, able to accommodate some 1750 people. The structure incorporates 16 Corinthian columns, each about 60 ft in height making up the front portico, all of which is approached via the delightful St John's Gardens.
The late 19th century Walker Art Gallery contains the largest collection of paintings in Britain outside London. Internationally renowned its paintings range from the 14th century to the present day. There are works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Rembrant, with particularly large collections of European Old Masters, Victorian and Pre Raphalite. Modern British contributions, including works by Liverpudlian George Stubbs, are also in evidence.
Speke Hall, founded in 1490 and completed in 1610, looks today as it did toward the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. With its black and white half-timbering it remains one of the finest examples of the period in existence. Ye Hole in Ye Wall public house, originally built in 1727 as a Quaker Meeting House, now remains as one of Liverpool's oldest pubs having witnessed many a skirmish between merchant seamen and the Royal Navy's notorious ‘press gangs'.
In the early 1960's a favourite city nightspot was a club called the Cavern. Originally opened in 1957 as a jazz club it was here that the world famous pop group, the Beatles, made the first of 300 performances in February 1961. Demolished in 1973, a second Cavern Club was eventually built on the site of the original as a living memorial to the ‘Fab Four'. There are also Beatle ‘walking trails' around the city centre and bus tours taking in sights associated with the group.