Liverpool docks

Liverpool docks, Merseyside (c) Webb Aviation

Britain from the Air - Liverpool docks

In magnitude, cost and durability the docks of Liverpool surpass all others in the world…" Herman Melville

Liverpool was once one of the main commercial centres in Britain. It began to develop rapidly in the 1600s with the expansion of the English colonies in North America and the West Indies. Much trade went back and forth between Liverpool docks and the east coasts of America and the Caribbean. The port expanded to keep up with demand, and by the 19th century Liverpool was the second largest port in Britain, second only to London.

With the shift in emphasis in our trade away from USA to the rest of Europe, Liverpool has lost much of its original purpose and the docks now only handle some 32 million tonnes of cargo a year. Future plans to redevelop parts of the docks for business and leisure - the Liverpool Waters project - might see £5.5 bn invested in the city by 2060, creating up to 17,000 new jobs.

Changing times

In the early 1700s, Liverpool was involved in the expanding slave trade in North America; a trade the British helped to develop and then abolish. The city was torn between those who profited from the trade and those who wanted an end to it.

After the American Civil War, some of the freed slaves made their way to Liverpool and chose to settle there. But it was after the Second World War that a second, much larger, wave of Caribbean immigrants came to Liverpool voluntarily. They filled the many jobs in expanding services like transport and the health service.


Work in the UK has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. In the early 1970s almost half the population worked in industrial jobs and over a third in manufacturing. Those numbers have since reduced by more than half. Instead, employment in the service sector, which includes financial services, government jobs and tourism, has increased to reach nearly 80%. 

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Location: Liverpools Docks, Merseyside, L3 4AB
Grid reference: SJ 34006 89717

Britain from the Air - Liverpool docks credits

Thank you to -

Webb Aviation for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Liverpool’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinese community in Europe.