1807: Roper & Cole

I’m often drawn to this era in Liverpool’s history. If I could go back in time to some point in the town’s development (perhaps with the exception of witnessing the Calderstones in use), then this would be right up there.

Liverpool had been a parish of its own (emerging from under the wing of Walton-on-the-Hill) for over a century. But it was only just on the cusp of its transformation from town to city.

It was around this time that Liverpool put on a growth spurt. The earliest suburbs were starting to differentiate themselves from the city centre. But the docks were still in their relative infancy (there are only ten basins on this map), and gardens rubbed shoulders with roperies.

This map captures this process in full swing.

A Beauty of England (and Wales)

The engraved words around the edge of the map tell us who produced this map and when. One G. Cole made an original drawing, from which J. Roper made the engraving. The map was produced for a book, The Beauties of England and Wales, Vol IX, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, published in 1807 by Vernor, Hood & Sharpe, booksellers of Poultry, London (old map).

The main decoration is an engraving of St Paul’s Church, which once stood in St Paul’s Square, just to the west of the railway as it enters Exchange Station. The unbuilt portions of Liverpool, even where depicted between dense streets, is a wonderful green colour.

In the top centre is a slightly simplified version of Liverpool’s coat of arms. There are two liver birds (OK, maybe cormorants), one with wings aloft and the other looking more relaxed. They are flanked by Neptune and Triton holding flags of another liver cormorant and a ship respectively.

Birth of the institutional landscape

Liverpool’s ‘university quarter’ is one of its more famous areas, full of famous institutions, cultural landmarks and its two cathedrals. When this map was made, the foundations were being laid for this ‘institutional landscape’, with the workhouse on Brownlow Hill, a correctional institute and a fever ward nearby. Alms houses were not far away on Hope Street. This is the edge of the town in 1807, with St James Walk (where the Anglican Cathedral would one day stand) is essentially in the countryside.

The Liverpool infirmary and Seaman’s Hospital were next door to each other on the land now occupied by St. George’s Hall.

Another age

On the river front, gardens rub shoulders with roperies on Wapping, and Ladies Walk, which Picton noted was once a romantic and tree-lined lane, is at the end of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal with its industry.

There is a fort and barracks on the Mersey, reflecting international tensions and the threat of a French invasion.

You can use the numbered index in the top right to explore the locations of other landmarks.

Further reading

The publishers of this map, Vernor, Hood & Sharpe, have quite a history: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol1/pp416-424 (accessed 15th Feb 2022)