From 1837 to 1901 Queen Victoria sat on the throne of Great Britain, this reign saw dramatic changes to the whole country and in particular Liverpool.
During Victoria’s reign Great Britain ruled over a quarter of the known world, and Liverpool (as a major shipping and business district) became known as the second most important city in the world after London.
In some ways this period saw more technological and social change than our own high-tech and fast moving era today. At the heart of it all was the building of the railways, this allowed for rapid movement of people and industry, and the first ever railway started here in Liverpool.
Liverpool also had many other world firsts during the Victorian period including the world's first:
* School for deaf people.
* Traveling post office
* Public baths
* Children’s hospital
* Rugby club
* Purpose built public library
* Overhead electric railway
Much of the way we see our city today is a result of the massive building work that took place in this era. Most of our present day city centre was designed and built during the Victoria era, and many of these buildings are now regarded as not only our finest, but amongst the finest in the world.
Lime Street Station when built was the largest railway station in the world and St George Hall one of the worlds finest buildings was designed by a 25 year old architect.
Victorian Liverpool was a very rich and prosperous place, and must also have been incredibly exciting - Imagine seeing trains, trams, photography, electricity, telephones and cinema for the first time!
Hidden behind all of the grand buildings and technology was the darker side of Victorian life. For millions it was an era of immense poverty and hardship. Death from starvation, disease and machine injury were common place and the average life expectancy about 30 years.
Children were forced to work in the new factories – even as young as 4 or 5 years old, often without payment. Many children would also be found drunk on the streets, as the drinking water as so bad that many people drank gin because it caused less disease.
Liverpool became a melting pot for many different cultures and nationalities as it’s port became the gateway to the world and many people came to Liverpool to travel onto America for a new life. The people that made the biggest change to Liverpool life were the Irish.
In 1845 a terrible potato fungus spread across Ireland wiping out the potato crops that formed the bulk of the Irish people’s diet. The results were so devastating that even today the population level of Ireland has never recovered – so many people died or emigrated.
Many of the Irish that left headed for Liverpool where they formed a huge community in the Everton and Kirkdale areas. In the space of a few years the population of Liverpool doubled as a result. It is the influence of the Irish people (and the people who arrived from North Wales) that gives Liverpool the ‘scouse’ accent it has today. Many of our sayings and customs today are a result of this Irish Influence.
Read more about Liverpool life during the Victorian era
The world’s first passenger railway – at Liverpool
BBC Interactive Victorian site
Victorian Times Resource site
Liverpool Victorian Drinking fountains
Nettlesworth Primary School – Victorian Site
St James Cemetery
Learning Curve – Victorian Links Page
Irish immigration to Liverpool
Migration histories - Irish in Liverpool
Irish Potato Famine – Interactive site