River Mersey - gateway to the world

This interactive local history and geography workshop uses group work and gallery displays to consider the significance of the River Mersey and Liverpool's geographic location, and how trade helped it develop into one of the world's leading port cities.

This workshop is available on Thursdays at 10.15am and 11.30am.

Workshop details

This workshop begins in The Great Port gallery which outlines how Liverpool became one of the world’s great ports and how this shaped the city of today. Pupils explore the trade goods wall to identify examples of imports and exports to and from Liverpool.

An important part of this session involves exploring the significance of the River Mersey to Liverpool and the city’s geographic location. The growth of Liverpool’s docks is explored as a whole class timeline activity.

Group work investigates trade in cotton, tea, sugar and salt and pupils handle examples of these goods in different forms. Pupils discuss when goods were first traded in Liverpool, where they came from and what would have happened to the goods after they came to the docks. The geographic location of each trade good is then identified on a world map by the demonstrator on an interactive whiteboard.

The decline of the docks and impact of container ships is also investigated.  

Practical information for your visit

Visiting the Museum of Liverpool - information for groups (pdf)

Image © Gareth Jones

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand that the River Mersey has played a very important role in the development of the city and Liverpool’s prominence as an international trade port.
  • Understand what the difference between import and exports are, and be able to name several examples of each.
  • Understand how goods are moved around the world, and across Britain historically and in modern day.
  • Understand the relationship between industry and population growth.

Attitudes and values

  • Pupils will consider the effort and distances involved in obtaining everyday products.
  • Understand the impact changing technology can have on people in a city.

Creativity, inspiration and enjoyment

  • Be surprised at the distances some of their things may have travelled, and what ‘goods’ have passed through Liverpool docks.
  • Have the chance to think about how their city has changed over time and use maps to explore this.
  • Use objects, questioning and team work to explore trade goods.

Activity, behaviour and progression

  • Work as part of a group to explore aspects of Liverpool trade.
  • Become familiar with simple maps and chart change using them.

Skills development

  • Use sources and objects to draw conclusions about a subject.
  • Give a presentation as a group
  • Engage in discussion as a class in order to reach their own conclusions through visual evidence.

Curriculum links


Locational knowledge

  • Locate the world’s countries, using maps to focus on Europe and North and South America, concentrating on their environmental regions, key physical and human characteristics, countries, and major cities.

Place knowledge

  • Understand geographical similarities and differences through the study of human and physical geography of a region of the United Kingdom, a region in a European country, and a region within North or South America.

Human and physical geography

  • Describe and understand key aspects of human geography, including: types of settlement and land use, economic activity including trade links, and the distribution of natural resources including energy, food, minerals and water.

Geographical skills and fieldwork

  • Use maps, atlases, globes and digital/computer mapping to locate countries and describe features studied.


  • Pupils develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history, establishing clear narratives within and across the periods they study.
  • They should note connections, contrasts and trends over time and develop the appropriate use of historical terms.
  • They should address and historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and difference, and significance.
  • They should construct informed responses that involve thoughtful selection and organisation of relevant historical information.
  • They should understand how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of sources.

 History subject content

  • A local history study - a study of an aspect of history or a site from a period beyond 1066 that is significant in the locality – trading links
  • A study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066 - a significant turning point in British history – the development of international trade

Spoken language

  • listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers.
  • ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge.
  • articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions.
  • participate in discussions and presentations.
  • gain, maintain and monitor the interest of the listener(s).
  • select and use appropriate registers for effective communication.

Fundamental British values


  • Pupils take a leading role in discussion and debate.
  • Pupils have opportunities to collaborate and make group decisions about how to present their information.

Individual liberty

  • Pupils are encouraged to voice opinions appropriately and listen to others.
  • Pupils have opportunities to question and make their own decisions.

Rule of law

  • Pupils learn that laws governing trading and the movement of people have changed over time and that these have an impact on their lives of people.
  • Pupils respect the objects and rules of the museum, understanding the need  to follow rules for their own safety and that of other visitors.

Tolerance and mutual respect

  • Pupils are encouraged to respectfully reflect on the feelings and opinions of others, considering how opinions and attitudes change over time.
  • Pupils are encouraged to respect opinions and cultural differences but also challenge damaging misconceptions where appropriate.
  • Pupils appreciate that Liverpool’s history and culture have been influenced by many diverse people over a long period.