The first commercial wet dock in the world was opened in Liverpool in 1715. It was known originally by the engineer’s name Thomas Steer’s Dock, but later, as other docks were built it became known as the Old Dock. This Old Dock was infilled in 1826.
When Liverpool One was being created they found the Old Dock during excavations in 2001. The Old Dock has been preserved as much as possible and is now part of Liverpool Maritime Museum and you can take tours of this Old Dock and see where the original stream flowed into the Pool.
As Rome was built by the local people who lived on seven hills, Liverpool, nearly 2000 years later, planned its layout in 1207, based on seven streets.
High Street, (1207), which used to have a weekly market and annual fairs and was originally called Jugglers Street.
Chapel Street, (1257), named after the Chapel of St Mary, which no longer exists, having been demolished in 1814.
Water Street (1207), used to be called Bonk (Bank) St, the street to the riverbank of the River Mersey.
Castle Street (1235), the street that led to the castle.
Dale Street (1207), used to be called Dell St., through which the stream ran to the pool (Liver Pool).
Tithebarn Street, used to be called Moor St, which I think was connected to the Salthouse Moor district, or perhaps the Moor family. It ran from Castle Street to the river. Later in 1523 Sir William Molyneux bought the tithe rights from the monks of Shrewsbury Abbey and erected a tithe barn to collect produce as a tithe. The street then became known as Tithebarn Street.
Old Hall Street (1207), (used to be called Milne or Mill St) and changed to Old Hall Street after the Moore family moved from this hall to another on the outskirts of the city. The Moore’s ‘old hall’ remained, so the street’s name changed over time to Old Hall Street.
Making sure that the background of Liverpool was correct for my novel Ice King, which is set between 1804 to 1807 was very time consuming , but for me, very interesting. I had to make sure that I didn’t refer to any location in Liverpool that did not exist in 1804.
So, the research was to find out what did exist in 1804.
I was safe in using St Nicholas Church – the sailors’ church because it was used as a guide by sailors to bring their ship in to port in 1804. It had been a place of worship since 1257, so I felt safe if I had to refer to the church building. The above photograph taken a few years ago.
The above photograph of St Nicholas’ church taken a few years after William King’s, my main character, adventures.
So, what else can I use from 1804? After a great deal of searching, I found just what I wanted, an old map of Liverpool which was produce by John Britton (1771 – 1857) and as far as I can make out, he produced the map in 1807!
From the above map I was able to expand the area that was of my particular interest – the area around George’s Dock. As sailors did in the early days, they used the tower of St Nichols’ church to navigate in to the ‘Bason’ and then into George’s Dock.
George’s dock was opened in 1771 and named after King George III.
In 1874 the Bason was filled in, and in 1899 the dock itself was filled in to create what we know today as the Pier Head.
Later (1914) Cunard Shipping Line commissioned a new headquarters, which was opened in 1917. The Cunard Building, which is to the right of the Liver Building, can be seen in the picture below. A section of the George’s dock wall can still be seen in the basement of the Cunard Building.
What was the river like in 1804 (sand banks, wrecks etc), so I need a chart.
Chart of the Mersey Bar area dated 1801; produced by William Morris, (the link will take you to the National Library of Wales) a fascinating man who also charted the seas around the island of Anglesey.
When researching for an appropriate gentleman’s club, one where a prosperous ship owner and trader would frequent in 1804, I came across the Athenaeum Club. I wanted to develop the background and lifestyle of the main character’s father.
This club was opened in 1797 and the location of the club as in Ice King is correct for 1804, but not for today, because the club moved from Church St to Church Alley in 1928. The club is still active in Liverpool.
There is an Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall, London, which was founded in 1824.
One of the founder members of the Liverpool Atheneum Club was William Roscoe who was a strong anti- slavery advocate. Other founder members were some of the most prosperous slave traders in Liverpool. I found it odd that the needs of the members for a club, such as the Athenaeum, overcame their like or dislike of the African slave trade. Perhaps William Roscoe thought that he might be able to influence the slave traders, to reject the trade, in a social situation.
Roscoe was a strong Christian and fought in Parliament, as the member for Liverpool, for the rights of Catholics and other denominations to hold high office. In 1807 he voted with William Wilberforce to stop the slave trade, which successfully passed into law, but caused William Roscoe trouble back home in Liverpool. He lost his seat at the next election.
In the novel I referred to a character who had won £20,000 in a lottery in 1776 – this is true.
His name was Thomas Leyland and he was the Mayor of Liverpool three times. When he died in 1827, he was one of the richest men in the Britain. His wealth was due to him investing a large amount of his winnings into the slave trade. In 1807 when Britain made it illegal to trade in slaves he switched to banking.
The bank stayed in the Leyland family until 1901, at which time it merged with the North & South Wales Bank.
Later, in 1908, they were taken over by the London City and Midland Bank. Eventually this bank became just ‘Midland Bank’, before being taken over itself by the HSBC Bank. I wonder if they realise that part of their foundation is based on slavery.
The hours of research helped produced less than a chapter, but hopefully a reader would enjoy the story that much more because of the research, but I am still not sure if Maureen (my wife) is correct when she said that I prefer the research to the writing. . . .