Passenger port

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Frawing of people being waved off ona  ship

An Illustrated London News image showing a Cunard ship leaving Liverpool in 1881

My great aunt married as a very young teenager in Malta (this was 100 years ago).

The child bride later settled in Knotty Ash after giving birth to three children in quick succession nicknamed Boy, Girl and Baby.

Girl became a GI bride in the Second World War and emigrated to the US with her new husband, leaving Boy and Baby behind. Years passed and Girl wrote to say she was coming home to Liverpool for a visit.

Boy and Baby and their families went to meet her at the Princes Landing Stage but when she came down the gangplank no-one recognised her. Girl had totally changed her appearance – and spoke with a strong American accent.

It is many people’s dream in the crowded cities of Europe to escape to the wide-open spaces of North America and enjoy a much-improved standard of living.

By the early 19th century Liverpool was well-placed to cater for the huge growth of the emigration trade to the United States and Canada.

As a result, Liverpool became Britain’s most important international passenger port for more than a century. During the period 1830 -1930 Liverpool was probably the greatest emigration port in world history, handling a stunning nine million passengers from as far away as Russia.

It was not until 1927, when transatlantic emigration was in decline, that Southampton finally surpassed Liverpool for international passenger traffic.

Liverpool-based shipping companies ran regular passenger services to every continent until the 1960s.

There are many displays at Merseyside Maritime Museum focusing on Liverpool’s passenger ships. An Illustrated London News image (pictured) depicts a Cunard ship leaving Liverpool in 1881. A photograph shows either the Cunard liner Carmania (or her sister Caronia) at the Princes Landing Stage on 2 June 1923.

Between 1800 and the1920s the busiest ocean travel route in the world was between the British Isles and North America.

From 1850 many emigrants also headed for Australia and other British colonies around the world. From 1900 more and more people became tourists and travelled the seas for pleasure rather than necessity.

In recent years, business and holidaymaking have been the main reasons for travel. A map shows the sea routes taken by British migrants between 1815 and 1930.

As a child in I remember people queuing up at New Zealand House in Liverpool for their £10 tickets to new lives. My friends, who lived next-door-but-one to me, took this huge step in 1958 and I remember everybody waving them off as the headed for Southampton.

Our Maritime Archives department has produced an information sheet for people wanting to learn more about Emigration to USA and Canada. The sheet gives a brief history of the route, information on searching for people who travelled, details of the shipping companies involved and the records we hold on those firms.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1.50 p&p UK).