Today’s map is from the end of the 19th century, part of the Royal Atlas of England and Wales, published in 1898. It’s one of my favourite views of Liverpool at the height of its global power, for several reasons.
Firstly, right in the middle are the stand-out Victorian structures, Liverpool’s central gems: St. George’s Hall, Lime Street Station, the former North Western Hotel, the Library, Museum, Picton Reading Room and the Walker Art Gallery.
There’s also a collection of other municipal buildings: the General Post Office, the Law Courts, the Police Offices, St. John’s Market and the Fish Market. This goes to show just how compact Liverpool was; a superpower with a surprisingly small base.
The other thing I love about this location is the original street layout. While a lot is recognisable, a lot has changed. Look how easy it is to spot Queen Square, Williamson Square and Clayton Square! You can see how Roe Street once curved around Queen Square’s corner, how St. John’s Market lay along one side of Great Charlotte Street, and how Old Haymarket’s size and openness fitted the use its name suggests.
Finally, look closely and you’ll notice a little label in St. John’s Gardens, behind St. George’s Hall: it says “Proposed Site of Liverpool Cathedral”. St. John’s church is present and correct, but it was proposed that it be replaced with a cathedral suited to Liverpool’s grand place in the world. This was just one site proposed, along with London Road triangle where the statue of George III stands, St. Peter’s on Church Street, St. Luke’s at the top of Bold Street, and St. James’s Mount, where the cathedral was eventually placed.
All this from just one small slice of an old map? No wonder we find them so interesting!