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24 September 2014

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Coast Walk

Queen Victoria Monument
The Victoria monument

Stage 7 - Liverpool Castle

Standing in front of the Crown Courts in Derby Square you are next to Queen Victoria’s statue, but if you could travel back in time things would look very different.

Going back 750 years to 1232 and you would be standing on a rocky ledge above the Mersey, the highest point around here. Below you, you can see a small inlet off the river, where ships can shelter. It’s an inlet that will eventually disappear beneath roads and buildings, but its name will remain ‘the Pool’. It seems to have a dirty, almost liver coloured look to it.

Now we travel forward to 1642. Liverpool Castle is standing on the site and it’s an impressive building. Its four towers are at the centre of a battle, the Roundheads are attacking from up the hill behind you, looking to capture the castle from Prince Rupert. You can smell cannon and musket fire, and hear the shouts of the thousands of Royalist troops trapped inside, on the verge of surrender.

Go forward 80 years, and the castle’s Royalist past has proved to be its death warrant. The Corporation of Liverpool has ordered its demolition. Time has not been kind, the castle has fallen into disrepair and local vagrants are squatting in the towers.

Today there’s no trace of the building that once dominated Liverpool’s skyline, but it still lives on in the street names around like Castle Street.

The building of the castle

Liverpool Castle’s history is unclear in parts, it was probably built sometime between 1232 and 1247, little is known about the early structure, in 1347 the castle had four towers and was surrounded by a dry moat, excavations on the site in 1927 revealed the remains of the original moat.  The castle included a chapel, bakehouse, brewhouse herb garden and an orchard.

It was during the Civil War that the Castle witnessed some of the most dramatic scenes in Liverpool’s history when royalist and parliamentarian forces vied for control. In May 1643 the Parliamentarians took the town and with it the crucial supply route to Ireland. Prince Rupert, having famously declared that a parcel of boys could take Liverpool, gained control of the castle for the Royalists in 1644 but only after a week of fighting and the loss of 1500 of his men. The parliamentarian John Moore regained possession of the castle, and following the royalist defeat, Parliament ordered that the castle be demolished, but only sections of the walls and gatehouses were taken down. The castle was in ruins by the early 1700’s and it was demolished with the bricks recycled for other buildings.

In 1976 excavation of the site of the new Crown Courts uncovered a ditch which was believed to have formed part of the Civil War defences. Today the Castle is commemorated by a plaque on the side of the Queen Victoria monument. Local legend says that tunnels led through the sandstone from the castle to the river through which Parliamentarian soldiers escaped from the castle during the Civil War.

During the Second World War much of the area around the Victoria monument was seriously damaged by bombing, with the Victoria monument looking out across a wasteland of rubble. The site has been significantly redeveloped since and is now flanked by modern buildings on three sides.

last updated: 21/07/05
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