As we move into a new year I often think about the events which will shape the year. What will 2015 bring for me, for my family and friends, for Liverpool, and around the world?
In the past, years ending with '-15' have sometimes incorporated momentous occasions for Liverpool, so we mark several centenaries this year. 1715 is probably the most significant and celebrated of these – the year that Liverpool’s first dock opened.
This capitalised on decades of growing trade via the tidal pool that formed a natural harbour. Liverpool merchants were expanding their trade networks around the Irish Sea, Europe and North America. The dock was designed by canal engineer, Thomas Steers. He devised a way to convert the mouth of the natural pool into a dock with quaysides and a river gate. It was the dock gate that made this a revolutionary structure – enabling ships to be loaded and unloaded whatever the stage of the tide.
To learn more about the Old Dock, now buried deep beneath the Liverpool One shopping centre, you can visit it with one of our expert guides. Join an Old Dock Tour from Merseyside Maritime Museum, pre-book by phoning 0151 478 4499.
While Liverpool remained a small town until around the mid 18th century, it had acquired its first town hall some 200 years before its first dock. Five hundred years ago, a thatched building was built for use as a Town Hall. This was a humble building by comparison to the present grand 18th century Town Hall, and we have no physical remains of it. Indeed, precious few things survive from central Liverpool to elucidate its early history. However, records tell us that, in his will, influential Liverpool man John Crosse bequeathed the town money to build a “new [house] called our Ladie house to kepe their courtes and such busynes as they shall thynke most expedient”. This first Town Hall was used as a meeting house and law court, and spaces within it also functioned as a warehouse and a gaol.
Some 200-300 years before Liverpool had its own Town Hall it already had several sizeable buildings, including a stone castle, chapel, waterfront tower, and a few large homes such as More Old Hall, which gives Old Hall Street its name.
In 1315 Liverpool Castle experienced one of its defining moments, when it was defended against an attack. ‘The Banastre Rebellion’ was masterminded by Adam Banastre and took advantage of some political turmoil which followed the granting of control of the castle and borough to Robert de Holand by Earl Thomas de Lancaster. The rebels may have been avenging Thomas de Lancaster’s rebellion against King Edward II, or jockeying for their own political advantage. They were unsuccessful in attacking the castle, which fulfilled its defensive purpose. This was the only recorded test of the castles defences until the English Civil War. While Liverpool’s castle is now long gone, it is remembered in the name of Castle Street, which once led to it - in the area of the present Derby Square. You can see a model of it in the Timeline in the Museum of Liverpool.
I wonder what we will all make happen in 2015 in Liverpool?