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Category: History

The origin of the name Liverpool has been debated long and hard by many historians and there will probably never be a definitive meaning agreed by all. An added problem to the source of our city’s name is that is has been spelt in a variety of ways over the centuries and this has consequently led to the development of a number of different explanations as to its meaning.

In a Charter of Henry II dated 1173, Liverpool is said to be a place which ‘Lrypul men call Litherpul’. Historians are not sure if this is a forgery, so the earliest recording of the spelling could be in a deed of Richard I, in which the spelling was Leverpol. In King John’s Charter of 1207 the spelling was Liverpul while in a Charter of Henry III (1229) it was Litherpol. A variety of other spellings, including Lyverpol and Liverpull, can be found in numerous early official documents. Names such as Lytham and Litherland have the element 'lide' or 'lithe' meaning the sea. Liverpool could then have been Lytherpool - the pool by the sea. Other historians have suggested ‘lither’ signifies ‘lower’, making Lither-pool the lower pool.

 

What is known is that back in the 11th century, so tiny a hamlet was the original Liverpool that it did not even merit a mention in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086. This would all begin to change however when King John spotted that this small hamlet, possessing a sheltered, inland pool, would make an ideal base from which his ships could invade Ireland. As a result of his findings King John issued the Charter (letters-patent) that resulted in the little hamlet of Liverpul becoming, on the 23rd August 1207, a town and borough. He decreed that ownership of local land be offered to the wealthy, also giving tax concessions to them and others who were able to farm the land or establish themselves in a variety of trades. Despite some growth and expansion due to the King’s efforts, Liverpool was still many hundreds of years from becoming the city it is now, and it was to be some years later that this little town, possessing just a few narrow streets and farm tracks, began to expand.