Ancient Liverpool: The seven original streets of Liverpool that shaped the city
Founded by King John in 1207, Liverpool originally consisted of just seven medieval streets. But from those humble beginnings the small outpost developed into one of the most significant ports in the world and evolved into the unique and wonderful city it is today.
But where are those original seven streets now, how close are they to their original layout, and how much have they changed? In this article we aim to answer all of these questions and more.
The original street plan of Liverpool is said to have been designed by King John himself at the same time he granted a royal charter to make it a borough. It was likely founded to provide a base to send men and supplies to his forthcoming campaign in Ireland and Wales.
The name Liverpool comes from the Old English lifer, meaning muddy water, and pol, meaning a pool and is first recorded around 1190 as Liuerpul. There may have been a hamlet on the site, but it wasn’t until the King’s decree that a notable settlement sprang up.
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Early Liverpool was laid out in a H shape of crossed streets. Liverpool Castle was completed at the apex of the site around 1235, but it was demolished in 1720 shortly after the first of Liverpool’s now famous docks were built.
Up until that time, the nearby city of Chester on the River Dee had been the main port on the Irish Sea, but as the Dee silted up, Liverpool and the River Mersey took over. Global trade and huge profits from the transatlantic slave trade saw the city boom.
Many of the streets you walk down today have names linked to the slave trade and plaques are being installed on these roads explaining a dark history.
The city’s new-found wealth helped transform the layout of the existing streets, roads and buildings but the majority of those seven original streets from 1207 still remain, in one form or another. Take a journey with us as we travel down them and share their history.