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Liverpool History!

The earliest records of Liverpool have been taken from the writings of Ptolemy, the geographer of Alexandria. He tells very little of Liverpool but refers to it as "Portus Segantiorum". Later evidence such as the Calder stones of Wavertree, outside the town and some ancient pottery found at the Olive Mount undoubtedly indicate the presence of a primeval race, which seems to have been the Ancient Britons, Norsemen and Saxons. These men built themselves huts, but gave no name to their habitation, and lived by hunting and fishing. The Mersey, or the Pool as it was then called afforded an abundance of fish, lampreys and smelts of the largest size were extremely plentiful. The Norsemen held rule in Liverpool for some time and many local places have names of Norse or Danish origin amongst which are "Hingwall" (Hill of Justice), "West Derby" (Wild Beast), "Kirkdale", "Crosby", "Ormskirk" and "Garston". These invaders were forced to leave their dwelling place throgh the strenuous efforts of the Princess Elfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, who built Runcorn Castle and a large fleet to resist their repeated invasions.

The next we hear of Liverpool is from the writings of the Doomsday Commissioners, who were sent by William the Conqueror to inquire into the size, state, value and ownership of the various estates in England. They found Lancashire very desolate and a thinly peopled country, covered with forests, moors and marshes, amid which small clearings were sparsley scattered, each peopled by a handful of serfs. The few huts developed in 1089 into a village called Lyrpool or Lytherpool, the earliest view of the town probably depicting it's appearance during the twelth century shows the Chapel and Tower with a few mean looking cottages erected close to those buildings.

It was Henry Fitzwarine that Prince John, Lord of Lancaster, afterwards King John of England, confirmed the grant of the Lordship of Liverpool in consideration of the annual provisions of falcons for the royal sport. However, John in 1207 having learned the value of Liverpool as a possible seaport bargained for a return of it giving in exchange land near Preston. In the same year King John started a weekly market and also an annual fair which gave an impetus to trade and a few foreign goods were gradually making their way into the port. Still later in the same year John granted Liverpool its first charter which roused Liverpool from it's lethargy and it became a port of shipment.

Translation of King John's Charter

"John, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Earl of Anjou to all our faithful subjects who mayhave been willing to hold burgage houses at the town of Liverpool, Greeting. Know ye that we have granted to all our faithful subjects who have taken burgage houses at Liverpool, that they may have all the liberties and free customs in the town of Liverpool, which any other free borough upon the sea has in our territories. And therefore we command you that securely, and in peace you may come thither to recieve and dwell in our burgage houses, in witness whereof we tranmit to you these our letters patent.

Witness - Simon de Paterskill at Winchester the 28th day of August in the 9th year of our reign.

This charter meant a great deal for the men of Liverpool. Before John's proclamation there were many villeins or serfs; after there is no mention of them, although they are repeatedly spoken of as existing in neighbouring places. It is probable that they were emancipated and given a burgage each. These were strips of land with a house and facing one of the main roads of the town. The rent was twelve pence yearly. The tenant had much freedom; he merely paid his rent and did no feudal service whatsoever. His son might inherit without fee. His rent could not be raised. He could sub-let or sell the whole or part. In fact, this land tenure seems to have been superior to present conditions. A few years later John appointed Roger de Poictiers(?) governor of Liverpool and commanded him to set about building a castle as he felt he needed a strong place to protect his port. It stood where the Queens Memorial now stands.

When it was built, the ground was open on all sides and sloped rapidly down to the river and the pool. The water thus approached it on three sides of the four, within little more than a bow shot, so that the fire from the castle commanded three-fourths of the circuit and rendered it untenable by a besieging force. The form of the castle was nearly square. Each corner of the building had a circular tower, and the side which faced up the present Castle Street was strengthened by a much stronger tower and gate house. The castle was surrounded by a ditch from twenty to thirty feet deep. With these defences it was as strong as most castles were at that time and always afforded a place of refuge for the inhabitants of the town in turbulent times. The foundations of the Castle still exist, and the outline of the ditch can be traced.