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Origins of Liverpool

Home > History > Origins of Liverpool

Although a small motte and bailey castle had earlier been built by the Normans at West Derby, the origins of the city of Liverpool are usually dated from 28 August 1207, when letters patent were issued by King John advertising the establishment of a new borough, "Livpul", and inviting settlers to come and take up holdings there. It is thought that the King wanted a port in the district that was free from the control of the Earl of Chester. Initially it served as a dispatch point for troops sent to Ireland, soon after the building around 1235 of Liverpool Castle, which was removed in 1726. St Nicholas Church was built by 1257, originally as a chapel within the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill.

With the formation of a market on the site of the later Town Hall, Liverpool became established as a small fishing and farming community, administered by burgesses and, slightly later, a mayor. There was probably some coastal trade around the Irish Sea, and there were occasional ferries across the Mersey. However, for several centuries it remained a small and relatively unimportant settlement, with a population of no more than 1,000 in the mid 14th century. By the early fifteenth century a period of economic decline set in, and the county gentry increased their power over the town, the Stanley family fortifying their house on Water Street. In the middle of the 16th century the population of Liverpool had fallen to around 600, and the port was regarded as subordinate to Chester until the 1650s.