The first dock in Liverpool was built in 1715 and another four were built before the 19th century became a fact. The huge profits made from slave had made this growth possible, in fact the growth of the port was so reliant on slave trade that it was sometimes said that every brick of Liverpool was cemented with the blood of an African.
The slave trade provided manpower for the sugar and cotton plantations which in turn provided raw materials for industries in Liverpool. Related industries helped support shipping which then flourished as never before. To grow the port still further the Mersey was deepened so that larger ships could enter the port. In turn docks technology was further developed and many more warehouses were built.
The port of Liverpool boomed in the 1800s and many new docks were built. By the middle of the 19th century, Liverpool was second only to London. Although the docks dominated Liverpool there were other industries such as shipbuilding, iron foundries, glass manufacture, and soap making. In 1801 the population of Liverpool was about 77,000 and by 1851 the population of Liverpool had reached 376,000, boosted by the many Irish immigrants escaping the various potatoe famines.
However like all towns in the 19th century Liverpool was unsanitary. Many typhoid and cholera epidemics took place, the worst cholera epidemics taking place in 1832, 1849, 1854 and 1866. The epidemic of 1849 was particularly severe with a total of 5308 deaths during a period of 6 months. The population was then recorded as being 388,159 which meant about 14 people per thousand living actually died. The peak lasted 4 weeks during which 60 people per day were dying of cholera!! In those days “night soil collector” was a recognized trade. Their task was to collect excrement and anything else unsavoury (at times dead bodies were simply left in the streets) from the courts and lanes. Known also as “gong farmers” or “midnight mechanics” you can imagine theirs was not a pleasant trade. The many horses needed for public transport (horse drawn trams and buses ran from 1835 until these were converted to electricity in 1898-1901) also contributed their portion ensuring that the “night soil collectors” were never short of work. The population explosion due to the potatoe famine in Ireland led to the creation of horrific housing conditions. The infamous Liverpool courts and cellars were home for about 60% of the population. No affordable piped water was available for those living in these times and sewers had only been laid in about 20% of streets (without a connection to the courts). Most people had to rely on barrels or wells for water. Later, a municipal water supply was begun in 1857 and slowly but surely communual taps were installed in the courts.
Liverpool officially became a city in 1880 and by 1881 its population had reached 611,00. The population reached a peak of 850,000 in 1931 but nowadays the population of the City of Liverpool is estimated to be only 490,000. This may seem a dramatic decline but if one considers the municipality volume then this is estimated between 1.2 million and 2.4 million depending on which boroughs you include in the municipal area.
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