Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Vikings’

What did King John do for Liverpool? New Mersey crossing and the Dockers’ Umbrella under fire

The Liverpool Echo has fun suggesting that last year’s 800th anniversary might have been 15 years too late. Deeds have been donated to the city which show that the area was populated as far back as 1192, over a decade before King John granted his charter. However, the evidence of this old habitation is still to be seen in the landscape, in both Liverpool itself and the surrounding areas. Birkenhead Priory has been in existence since the 12th Century. Evidence of Roman trade has been excavated in parts of southern Liverpool and to the east of the city, in addition to Iron Age evidence on the Wirral. The best evidence is in the place-names of Merseyside. Toxteth and Croxteth are of Viking origin, and indicate places where Toki’s and Croki’s people landed (staith = ‘landing place’). Aintree (the ‘lone tree’) has a name of Saxon origins. The last three letters of Garston, Allerton and Walton give the game away – tun started out to mean enclosure, or even fence, but soon came to include such a feature surrounding a farmstead or homestead. So it shouldn’t surprise you to find that people have been living in this area for a very long time. King John just made it official!

For almost 1000 years people having been looking for ways to cross the Mersey, from the monks of Birkenhead Priory, to the tunnel-builders and 20th Century bridge builders. A Transport and Works Order (TWO – planning permission) is being sought by Halton Council to allow purchasing of the required land, and the re-routing of the local road network, and the charging of tolls. Work could then be started on the latest crossing of the River Mersey.

The Liverpool Echo website has a short but very interesting article on the history of the Liverpool Overhead Railway (the “Dockers’ Umbrella”). I’m not sure why they chose today to write this, but it’s very informative nonetheless, concentrating on its trials and tribulations during the Second World War. The only curious fact is that “The bombings also left about 51,000 people in Liverpool homeless and 25,000 in Bootle”. These were certainly poweful bombs the Luftwaffe dropped on the city…

Update on the Meols Viking Boat Burial

After much speculation about the possibility of a Viking boat being discovered under the car park of the Railway Inn, Meols, staff at World Museum Liverpool’s Field Archaeology Unit have written an article outlining the ways in which archaeologists must go about deciding what to do with the buried vessel. As well as damping down runaway speculation as to the age of the boat, the piece gives an excellent insight into how field archaeology works in general when considering the need to excavate buried remains.

In essence the article concludes that the boat is not under threat, would cost millions to raise, and would probably cause more harm than good were it to be exposed to the elements. Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence as to the date of the boat, with some evidence actually refuting claims that it originates in the mid to late part of the first millennium AD.

Merseyside’s Martime History, ancient and modern

Two recent news updates have highlighted the marine importance of Merseyside, on both sides of the river:

Viking boat at Meols
Recent work by Professor Stephen Harding and a team of archaeologists from the University of Nottingham has brought attention to a possible Viking boat buried under the car park at the Railway Inn, Meols. The remains were first spotted in 1938 by men laying the car park, but with the risk that building work would be delayed by a dig, the find was kept secret. One of the workers, however, made a few notes, and in 1991 his son produced a report and a sketch. After the report was brought to the attention of the current landlord, the Nottingham team was brought in, and conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the location.

The survey seemed to show a ‘boat-shaped anomaly’ in the underlying clay, and further survey will assess the potential for an evaluation excavation.

The find is particularly interesting from a landscape perspective, as the pub is over a kilometre from the coast, and even further from the medieval shore. Prof Harding suggests that the boat may have been washed in by a flood, or have sunk in one of the many marshes which covered the area at the time. The area is covered with old Norse field and track names, and it wasn’t unknown for the people of the time to drag their ships substantial distances inland if necessary.


Current Archaeology, Issue 213: p4-5.


Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Anniversary Homepage

Liverpool Echo article on DNA analysis done in Liverpool by Professor Harding

News article in the Independent covering the survey.

HMS Whimbrel

More recent marine heritage may soon be making its way back to the Mersey, if Chris Pile and members of the HMS Whimbrel Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project get their way. The group aim to bring the Whimbrel, a modified Black Swan class sloop, to Merseyside, and place it in Canning Dock, close to the Liver Building, with other symbols of Liverpool’s maritime heritage. The Whimbrel, launched in 1943, was designed for the defense of merchant convoys in the Atlantic.

The Project Team see the ship as a “symbol of heroism and sacrifices made in six year battle to keep open Britain’s vital wartime lifeline to North America”, and need £2m to bring it home from its current location, Egypt. They then require another £2m to make the ship fit for a public museum, which they hope to complete by Summer 2008. £300 000 has so far been raised from the Duke of Westminster, Liverpool City Council, the Government Office of the North West and several smaller donations.


HMS Whimbrel (1942-49) Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project

Read the Signs
A recently released pamphlet highlights details of streets of Liverpool which are named after individuals who played a prominent part in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The issue has become controversial in recent years, with calls to rename the roads, against the insistence that even Liverpool’s darker past should not be forgotten.

The Read the Signs booklet was written by Laurence Westgapgh, and distributed by HELP (Historic Environment Liverpool Project), who were involved in a Heritage Open Days event at Toxteth Town Hall, attracting over 200 people from the Liverpool area. There will also be an exhibition called ‘Read the Signs’ at St George’s Hall in 2008, managed by HELP.

The pamphlet is available from locations around Liverpool, including libraries and community centres.


English Heritage’s news article about the pamphlet

Read the Signs (PDF)