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A Virtual Tour of the Black and Asian Presence in Liverpool, 1500 - 1850


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Liverpool

Liverpool took over from Bristol as the country’s major slave trading port in the mid 17th century.

In the 16th century, Liverpool had been just one of Britain’s many ports and had not been as quick as London or Bristol to seize the opportunities presented by the Slave Trade.

Liverpool merchants eventually undercut London and Bristol by a combination of price-cutting measures such as employing younger sailors on less pay and taking advantage of the superior harbour and docking facilities of the Mersey. Bristol merchants also had to deal with the problem of low tides and silting on the way to their harbour.

As well as a five-fold increase in its population, a Black and Asian presence in Liverpool was the consequence of this commercial activity. Black and Asian servants, sailors, runaways and others lived and remained in Liverpool.


Map of Liverpool

Click on a red cross to explore evidence of the Black and Asian presence.

Map of Liverpool Pier Head Martin's Bank The Town Hall Rodney Street & Maryland Street Roscoe Memorial Gardens The Walker Art Gallery


Key:

1. Pier Head
2. Martin's Bank
3. The Town Hall
4. The Walker Art Gallery
5. Roscoe Memorial Gardens
6. Rodney Street and Maryland Street


 

Pier Head

The Goree road signBy the late 18th century, Britain accounted for half the world’s transatlantic slave voyages, with Liverpool accounting for 60% of Britain’s share. During the 18th century, Liverpool’s population had grown from just 5,000 to 78,000. This dramatic growth was achieved on the back of Liverpool’s involvement in the slave trade.

It is said that in the docks area of Liverpool, ships trading with Africa, the Caribbean and America would berth three to four deep along the quays. Today, the Albert Dock is home to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which houses the transatlantic slave gallery. Running parallel to Pier Head is the Strand, formerly known as the Goree Piazza. Goree is named after the island off the coast of Senegal, West Africa, which was used as a base to trade for slaves.


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Martin’s Bank

Water Street

Martin's BankThis building was built in 1927 as the headquarters of Martin’s Bank. The origins of this bank lie in the establishment of Heywood’s Bank, formed by Benjamin and Arthur Heywood, who became wealthy through the slave trade and set up the bank to enable others to do so as well. Heywood’s Bank was incorporated into the Bank of Liverpool, which was incorporated into Martin’s Bank before being incorporated, in turn, into Barclay’s Bank.

The establishment of finance institutions, which still exist today, is one of slavery’s lasting legacies.


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The Town Hall

Water Street

Frieze - The Town HallThe Town Hall was built in 1795 and if you look up at the friezes around the outside of the building you will see African faces, elephants, crocodiles and lions representing Liverpool’s African trading links.

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The Walker Art Gallery

This art gallery, built between 1874 and 1877, has on display several paintings featuring the Black presence. These include ‘The Hunted Slaves’ by Richard Ansell, painted in 1861 and ‘The Family of Sir William Young’ by Johann Zoffany, painted about 1770, which features a young, Black servant boy. There is also a painting of William Roscoe, the anti-slavery campaigner who was MP for Liverpool.

The gallery also displays ‘The Death of Nelson’ by Daniel Maclise, painted between 1859 and 1864. It features a Black sailor pointing out a sniper at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Is this the same Black sailor who appears in the sculpture at the foot of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London?

'The Death of Nelson'

'The Death of Nelson', detail

The Death of Nelson, detail

'The Death of Nelson', detail

The Death of Nelson, detail


This painting by Daniel Maclise is a replica of a fresco that is in the Royal Gallery of the Houses of Parliament (see London) and shows an Black sailor pointing out a French sniper to a sharpshooter. Perhaps he is pointing out the sniper who has fatally wounded Vice Admiral Nelson. This painting differs slightly from the sculpture below Nelson’s Column in London but is yet again proof that Black and Asian men fought in the military in some of Britain’s most famous battles. For the possible identity of the Black sailor, see Nelson's Column, London. On the left of the painting there is also another Black sailor providing comfort to the wounded.

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Roscoe Memorial Gardens

Roscoe Memorial GardensThis small park off Mount Pleasant is the burial site of William Roscoe, who founded a branch of the Anti-Slavery Society in Liverpool. He was a committed campaigner against the trade, using his position as MP for Liverpool to help abolish slavery.

 

 

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Rodney Street and Maryland Street

Maryland Street signThe houses on Rodney Street, named after the pro-slavery British Admiral Rodney, date from the late 18th century and were designed for those with the wealth and affluence to afford them.

In this street lived John Gladstone, who had made his money from the slave trade in Jamaica and British Guiana. He was the father of William Ewart Gladstone, four times British Prime Minister in the 19th century. Just off Rodney Street is Maryland Street, underlying Liverpool’s links with the slave-produced goods of the American South.

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