Liverpool’s Slavery History Trail

‘’Use your eyes, look up and all around you – there are traces of the city’s history all over the place’’. These words were spoken by Eric Lynch, the oral historian and creator of the Slavery History Tour – a tour which takes you to some of the monuments and painful reminders of the slave trade that few Liverpudlians knew about.

Liverpool was a major slaving port and its ships and merchants dominated the transatlantic slave trade in the second half of the 18th century. The ‘Liverpool Merchant’ was the first recorded slave ship to sail from Liverpool. It set off in October 1699 and arrived in Barbados in September 1700 with a cargo of 220 enslaved Africans.

A slow but solid growth, by the 1730s about 15 ships were leaving Africa a year. By the 1950s, this number jumped to 50 a year and it continued to rise, reaching well over a 100 a year in each of the early years of the 1770s. By 1795, Liverpool controlled over 80% of the British and over 40% of the entire European slave trade.

The slave trade was abolished in 1807.

If you’re staying in Liverpool, the Slavery History Tour is something to experience. Here are some of the places that had a significant role in the slave trade in Liverpool.

  1. Pier Head: Opened in 1771, the buildings at the Pier Head stand on the site of George’s Dock. Ships trading to West Africa, North America and the West Indies would have berthed three or four deep along the quays.
  2. St Nicholas’s Church: Known as the sailor’s church, it has been rebuilt several times since its foundation in medieval times.
  3. Earle Street: Members of the Earle family were salve traders throughout the 18th John Earle and his two sons, Ralph and Thomas, served on the town council and all three held the office of mayor.
  4. Exchange flags: Merchants of Liverpool carried out their business in the open air at the spot. The most familiar feature is the Nelson Monument, erected by public subscription in 1813.
  5. Town Hall: The Town Hall was the centre of civic and mercantile activity in the 18th century.
  6. Water Street: This is the place where many merchants had their homes, businesses and offices here.
  7. Goree: Goree is named after the island off Dakar, Senegal in West Africa, one of the trading places for slaves.
  8. Merseyside Maritime Museum: Completed in 1846, this museum occupies one of the warehouses of the Albert Dock. The museum houses the Transatlantic Slavery Gallery and the Maritime Archives and Library, which includes items related to the slave trade.
  9. Graving Docks: Ships used in the slave trade were repaired here. Built in 1756 and 1765-69, these graving docks are the oldest surviving part of the Liverpool dock system.
  10. Salthouse Dock: The dock took its name from the salt refinery which stood nearby. It was founded in 1696 to process Cheshire salt. This was exported to Newfoundland for salting cod, which was then sent to feed slaves on the plantation of the West indies.
  11. Cunliffe Street: Named after Foster Cunliffe who was Mayor of Liverpool in 1716, 1729 and 1735. His sons Robert and Ellis were prominent slave traders. In 1752, they had four vessels involved in slaving.
  12. Dale Street: Narrow lanes run off Dale Street from either side, giving some sense of how it would have looked at the height of the slave trade.
  13. Yorke Street: Established in 1758, Fawcett Preston made plans, kettles, pots, guns, and other iron goods. They also produced sugar boiling pans and sugar cane crushing machinery for use in the Caribbean.
  14. Old Dock: The first commercial enclosed wet dock in the world, it begun in 1708 and opened in 1715. Many slave ships left from here, and ships could load and unload here regardless of the state of the tide. In 1826, the dock was filled in and modern buildings now stand on the site.
  15. Paradise Street: Many lodging houses and taverns used by sailors were located in this area in the 18th
  16. Park Lane: Many merchants’ warehouses were situated in this area. In 1767, in the nearby Sparling Street, Charles Roe & Company was founded. It supplied copper and brass goods and equipment for trading in Africa.
  17. Trueman Street: The best surviving house of the Georgian period in Liverpool is located on the corner of Dale Street and Trueman Street. Built in 1790, it was the home of John Haughton, whose distillery stood adjacent to it in Trueman Street. Spirits were important goods in the trade with Africa. Nowadays, a simple seven minute walk from The Z Hotel on North John Street will enable you to take in this and other local sites.
  18. Tarleton Street: The Tarletons were a slaving family in Liverpool for over three generations. Three of John Tarleton’s sons were involved in trade between 1786 and 1788 and had shared in 52 slaving voyages.
  19. Church Street: Liverpool dispensary was located here. Funded by a number of salve traders, it provided medical treatment for the poor of the town.
  20. Athenaeum: Founded in 1799 by a group which included abolitionist William Roscoe, this was a gentlemen’s club, library and reading room.
  21. Bluecoat school: Founded in 1707 and built in 1716-17, the Bluecoat was a school for orphans, partly funded by Bryan Blundell, the merchant and trader.
  22. Walker Art Gallery: Built in 1874 – 1877, the gallery has several paintings associated with slavery or featuring Black people.
  23. St George’s Hall: Built as a law court and concert hall.
  24. Lime Street Station: The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first commercial railway in the world. In the early 1820s, there were attempts to build a rail link to move cotton, cloth and other goods – funded mainly by those who grew through slavery.
  25. Rodney Street: Built between 1782 and 1801, this street provided homes for many of Liverpool’s elite merchants. It was named after Admiral Rodney who defeated the French in St Lucia in 1782 to preserve British influence in the West Indies.
  26. Jamaica Street: Jamaica was the largest British colony in the West Indies. The island was seized and became a major source of sugar. It was the spot for many Liverpool slave ships and many Liverpool merchants had extensive business interests there.
  27. Gildart Street: Richard Gildart was a slave trader and politician. H was listed amongst the Company of Merchants trading to Africa in 1752.
  28. Mount Pleasant: In the 1790s, Mount Pleasant was on the edge of the town. Adjacent to this street, Roscoe Memorial Gardens stand – the burial site of Liverpool’s most famous abolitionist, William Roscoe.




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