Liverpool is a city with a long and fascinating history. Situated on the banks of the Mersey, it was first founded in 1207 but it was not until 1880 that it was granted city status. Today, it is one of the UK’s most populous cities with over half a million inhabitants. The city’s expansion during the 18th century was largely down to its role as a major port, with trade from regions such as Europe and the West Indies, notably through links with the Atlantic slave trade, bringing economic wealth. By the 1800s, the city was one of the most important docks in the world, with almost half the world’s trade passing through it.
The city owes its prosperity to more than trade, however, and it has also pioneered innovations in transportation and construction, as well as social reform. Modern Liverpool blends the old with the new, and has in recent years undergone a cultural renaissance, leading to it being recognised as the European City of Culture in 2008. There has never been a better time to visit, simply pick up your car hire in Liverpool then get out and explore.
When it comes to architecture, the city can certainly hold its own amongst the best. Its rich architectural heritage led to several areas of the city being granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2004. Collectively known as the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City, the site consists of six locations. These are the Pier Head, Albert Dock, Stanley Dock Conservation Area, Duke Street Conservation Area, the Commercial Quarter and the Cultural Quarter. Many of the city’s most famous landmarks are included in the site.
On the waterfront, the Pier Head contains three of the city’s iconic buildings – the Three Graces of the Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool Building and the Cunard Building. Together they are a sign of Liverpool’s booming wealth during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The area also contains the new Museum of Liverpool and the art deco George’s Dock Ventilation Tower.
The Albert Dock, to the south of Pier Head, contains the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the country. After falling into disrepair following World War II, the area was renovated during the 1980s and was opened to coincide with the Tall Ships Festival in 1984. The Albert Dock is notable for many advances in dock construction and technology, including fireproof warehouses containing no structural woods, and hydraulic cranes. Buildings include Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
The Stanley Dock Conservation Area, to the north of Pier Head, includes many important docks along with part of the Leeds Liverpool Canal and canal locks. Two of the docks, dating from 1830, are the oldest still in use in the city. Notable buildings include the Victoria Clock Tower and the enormous brick structure of the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse.
The Duke Street area, also known as the Ropewalks site, includes several listed buildings and warehouses. It was one of the first areas to feel the city’s growing wealth, with Bluecoat Chambers – now a hub for culture and entertainment – dating to 1715.
The Commercial Quarter has its origins in medieval Liverpool and includes old Castle Street. Notable buildings include the Town Hall, Bank of England Building and Oriel Chambers. There are many Grade II listed buildings, contributing to a general feeling of wealth and grandeur.
The Cultural Quarter contains many of the city’s civic buildings. Notable buildings include Lime Street Station, the World Museum Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery and the Great North Western Hotel.