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The docks had good sides (making lots of money for Liverpool), and some darker sides as well...  If you have ever wondered “What was so important about a few ships rocking up here,” you’re about to find out! 


By the Victorian period, Bootle was linked to several docks bringing in supplies like tobacco, sugar and timber (wood).  As a result, there was an explosion!  Well, not literally, but loads of businesses came to Bootle, and they set up factories which smelted steel, made sausages and produced leather.  


If people managed to build their factories near the docks, they hit the big-time!  Staying nearby all the ships made trade so much easier.  A lot of the goods that they needed to make their products were arriving very close to their buildings.  As there were more jobs, more labourers were recruited.  That meant that the number of houses in Bootle shot up.   

This was the time of the Industrial Revolution.  The docks grew and grew, more factories popped up, and hundreds of people came to the area looking for a job!  That meant   products could be sold faster than ever, making loads of money - at least for the rich factory owners. It wasn't the same for the poor dock workers. 

Getting work at the docks...

Here's how staff would have been chosen at the start of the work day. Do you think this was fair?

One of the least pleasant parts of the dock’s history is the link to the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Liverpool formed part of a triangle – ships departed from ports in Europe (including Liverpool).  They then collected enslaved people from Africa and took them to the Americas.  Merchants arrived back in European docks with supplies made by slave labour: coffee, rice and cotton, for example.   

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Question time!

Life could be difficult for dock workers.  If their managers didn’t like the look of them, what could they do? 

A) Say “GO AWAY!” 

B) Say “GO AWAY,” and beat them up.  

C) Say “GO AWAY,” and refuse to pay them 

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True or False?

Bristol was the main port for slave ships sailing from Britain.  Liverpool was just behind it. 

Horrid Facts!

Liverpool once controlled 80% of Britain’s slave business.  It was the main port for all the ships to travel from.   


In the early 19th century, 40% of all trade across the world passed through Liverpool’s docks!   


During the Blitz in World War Two, the docks were a big focus for bombs.  This was because bombing the docks would stop supplies from getting to the country. Unfortunately, this meant Bootle was bombed a lot. By the end of the war, 90% of all the buildings in Bootle were either destroyed or damaged. 


By the mid 1800s, the timber trade was on a roll.  4,000 tons of wood was being shipped in every year.  That’s equal to the weight of 333 double deckers (the bus, not the chocolate bar).   

Click on the map to return to the Horrible History Map page

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