Liverpool's Hidden Slavery History ...

by Zoe Dawes /
Zoe Dawes's picture
Oct 09, 2009 / 0 comments

There are so very many things to see and do in Liverpool. Beatles fans couldn't wish for more opportunities to discover their idols, there's great art at Liverpool Tate and the Walker Art Gallery, brilliant food, pubs and bars to suit every taste and pocket - and so much more. 

But - there is a part of Liverpool that some would prefer to keep hidden. Its majestic buildings, historic docklands and very essence exists beacuse of its postion on the River Mersey - and that river has a dark past.

I joined Eric Lynch, oral historian and creator of The Slavery History Tour on one of his fascinating walks back in time. Liverpool born and bred and with an encyclopedic knowledge, he took us around some of the monuments and painful reminders of the slave trade that few Liverpudlians know about - and some would rather we didn't.

Eric and Liver Building

He started off at the Maritime Museum where he had helped put together their excellent International Slavery Exhibition.  From there we walked around the docks and over to the iconic Liver Building.  All the time Eric told us gripping and heart-wrenching tales of how Liverpool gradually built its wealth on the shackled peoples from Africa and the Caribbean, traded for bags of rice, gin, cotton, sugar, tobacco ...

I was brought up only 20 miles from Liverpool but my eyes were opened toBas Relief so many new sights and also feelings about this great maritime city. The wrought iron motifs on the Liver Building, the strange and varied heads adorning the Cunard Building, the church which seems to want to deny any connection to this very dubious past ... But the most memorable image for me was the marble bas reliefs on either side of the entrance to Martin's Bank, Exchange Square - a giant figure of Neptune resting his webbed hands on the heads of two black children, their wrists and ankles clearly encircled by what could well be the manacles of slavery.

I was privileged to interview Eric after the tour- he is a truly inspiring person and if you are ever in Liverpool do book his tour. And don't leave it too long; he's told me he wants to go on his own quirky travels someday soon ...

If you are ever up in the North West of England do get in touch for more info on interesting and quirky things to do.