The Romans ignored it in favor of Chester on the nearby River Dee, and the Danes passed it by more than a thousand years ago. Those seafaring explorers, warriors and settlers left their names on nearby villages that have survived to the present time, but of Liverpool itself there is nothing tangible in ancient history. 

Indeed, the great port city of the future was still only a collection of huts at the time of the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, and Liverpool’s real birth can more safely be set 800 years ago when King John granted it a charter in 1207. In recognition of its value as a port, a castle was built to provide protection.

There are many theories for the origin of the name of Liverpool. There is not much doubt about the “pool.” A pool or inlet from the wide river Mersey provided a haven for small boats and later for larger vessels right up until the 19th century, when encroaching development caused it to be filled in. “Liver” also appears in very old documents as “Lither,” “Lider” and “Lithe,” which may be derivatives from the old Gothic “Lithe” or “Lide” meaning “the sea.” Thus, “Pool by the Sea” is a reasonable interpretation, though there are other favorite theories.

The building of Liverpool’s castle stimulated settlement, and the town is mentioned periodically in old documents, though never flatteringly. By the 1500s the population was still only 700, but the reign of Queen Elizabeth I  saw improvements to the quay and harbor.

The Places
Lancashire, England - 1200s-1600s

Click here for:

  1. Bullet  Liverpool in the 1700s 

  2. Bullet  Liverpool in the 1800s

  3. Bullet  Liverpool in the 1900s

  4. Bullet  Liverpool’s Camp Hill

  5. Bullet  Return to “The Places” name index

Birthplace of Catherine Berry
Birthplace of Michael R. Otterson
Residence: Robert Otterson-Doris Dix family, 1947-1949
Marriage place of Michael Otterson and Catherine Berry
Birth, marriage and death place for many of the Berry and Giles families in the 1800s and 1900s, and the Hackett, Riley, Joyce and Reed families after their immigration from Ireland in the mid-1800s.

"John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Earl of Anjou to all our faithful subjects who may have been willing to hold burgage houses at the town of Liverpool, Greeting. Know ye that we have granted to all our faithful subjects who have taken burgage houses at Liverpool, that they may have all the liberties and free customs in the town of Liverpool, which any other free borough upon the sea has in our territories. And therefore we command you that securely, and in peace you may come thither to receive and dwell in our burgage houses, in witness whereof we transmit to you these our letters patent.”

Witness - Simon de Paterskill at Winchester the 28th day of August in the 9th year of our reign (1207).

Liverpool 1664, from an original antiquarian print, drawn by S. Austin, engraved

by E. Finden, published 1836. Collection of Michael and Catherine Otterson.

By the 1600s the town was important enough to figure in the English Civil War. Parliamentary forces drove the Royalists out of the castle where they had taken refuge, only to lose it again later when the Royalists returned with a substantial army. It cost the king 1,500 men, however, and their victory was short-lived. The castle fell again to a siege by Cromwell’s soldiers. When the Civil War was over and the monarchy was restored in later years, the castle was destroyed by order of Charles II - a seeming fit of pique that perhaps arose from anger at those inhabitants who had sided with the parliamentary forces. The road leading from the castle to what is now the Town Hall survives as Castle Street.

The engraving, left, shows how Liverpool would have looked at this time from a stormy River Mersey. The castle can clearly be seen on the right.