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Liverpool, Merseyside (England)

British City

Last modified: 2022-04-02 by rob raeside
Keywords: liverpool | merseyside | liverbird |
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Introduction: City of Liverpool

The City of Liverpool is a city district and metropolitan borough in Merseyside County. Its population makes it the tenth-largest city in England and the largest in Merseyside. Liverpool is on the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. Its name comes from the Old English lifer, meaning thick or muddy water, and pol, meaning a pool or creek, thus it was first named Liuerpul around 1190. In 1207 King John made the town officially the borough of Liverpool and gave it a royal charter. After that there was a period of very slow growth in both trade and population. However, this changed in 1699 when the first recorded slave ship, the Liverpool Merchant, set sail for Africa. Trade with the West Indies (triangular trade of slaves, sugar and tobacco) allowed the merchants of Liverpool to become very rich. The town's growth as a major port and the later Industrial Revolution, resulted in the wealth of Liverpool exceeding that of London several times during the 19th century.
Liverpool became the major port of departure for English and Irish emigrants to North America, and it was home of the famous Cunard and White Star Lines in the twentieth century - the port of registry of the ocean liners RMS Titanic, RMS Lusitania, and the RMS Queen Mary.
During the 20th century the economy of the city has see-sawed up and down and unemployment became a major problem. But the city has also become closely associated with the arts, especially music. The popularity of The Beatles (widely regarded as one of the most influential musical acts in history) in the 1960s, has contributed to the city's status today as a major tourist destination. Liverpool is now ranked at No. 6 on the list of the most visited United Kingdom cities.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

Proposed Flags for Liverpool

[Proposed Flags for Liverpool]
images compiled by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

The lack of any official City of Liverpool flag has frustrated many citizens of the city and led to quite a few suggested flags to fill the gap. These eight represent some of the more serious proposed flag designs put forth by these frustrated vexillographers. So far none seems to gained much traction.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

[Proposed Flags for Liverpool] images located by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

Perhaps one of the more interesting suggestions for a Liverpool City flag was this one. Really, I didn't make this up, it was suggested.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

City of Liverpool Flags

Commercial, not official city flags

There is no shortage of commercial "City of Liverpool" flags being provided by enterprising flag manufacturers trying to provide one for those who wish one. Then, of course, there are the flags made for the two Merseyside Football Clubs, the Liverpool (LFC) and Everton (EFC) that you will find throughout the city and county.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

Commercial Variant #1

[Proposed Flags for Liverpool] image by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

Commercial Variant #2

[City of Liverpool, England] image by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020
Based on this image.

Commercial Variant #3

[City of Liverpool, England] image by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020
Based on this image.

Liverpool City Council Coat of Arms
or "What bird is that?"

It seems that Liverpool has no flag. The arms are a gold liverbird bearing an olive branch in its mouth on an argent field.
Source: Ensign & Jack #8
Jaume Ollé, 24 January 2001

Carr, 1961, says "Liverpool's arms date from 1797, when the heralds, having never heard of Litherland close by, were left to choose between the pool of laver - that is, the seaweed Porphyra - and the pool of the liver, a bird unknown to naturalists; and, failing to find a figure of the imaginary bird, they invented a sort of short-necked cormorant, into whose beak they put a couple of fronds of Porphyra in case it was Liverpool after all. This very neat instance of heraldic hedging did not, however, meet with the success it deserved, for the old name was discovered to be Litherpool - that is, the sluggish pool - yet the cormorant and the seaweed remain, for they are in the grant."
Carr therefore suggests that cities may use banners of arms.
Jarig Bakker, 2 April 2002

[Arms of Liverpool] Image from Valerie Sullivan, 16 June 2004

It is a cormorant on the arms of Liverpool. It was inspired by an American flag with a bald eagle on it, and developed with a hint of the famous Liverpool humour. The "liver birds" are Oliver and Olivia - she looking out to sea waiting for her true love to return, he looking into the city to see if the pubs are open!
Valerie Sullivan, 16 June 2004

The late Fritz Spiegl, who was an authority on all things Liverpudlian (and who wrote a four volume series entitled Lern Yersel Scouse under the pseudonym Linacre Lane), claimed that the Liver Bird was based on a pelican, the local artist who was commissioned to draw the bird (a) had never seen one and (b) was drunk at the time.
Ron Lahav, 18 April 2005

Concerning the Liverbird, I can't believe people think the Liverbird is a cormorant. I felt the need, being from Liverpool myself and being very proud of my city, to set the record straight. The original seal of Liverpool was based on the heraldic emblem of King John, which was an eagle. The original seal was broken some time during Liverpool's history and when the new seal was created the artist couldn't quite render the eagle as well as the original, so it came to look something like a cormorant.
Neil Evans, 7 May 2006

[Liverpool City Council Coat of Arms] image located by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

Hopefully this information from the Liverpool City Council website solves the mystery of the birds. "A crest or coat of arms is a heraldic symbol of the Council and one which embodies the rich history and identity of the local government area. The origins of a crest or coat of arms dates back to the Medieval period where these symbols of a family, community or land owner, were a symbol of strength and leadership."

Official Blazon:

  • Arms: Argent, A Cormorant or Liver Bird, wings elevated and addorsed Sable, beaked and legged Gules, in the beak a sprig of Wattle leaved and flowered, on a Chief wavy Vert a Lymphad, sail furled, between two Towers.
  • Crest: At the top of the shield, a Mural Crown, standing in front of a Cross Crosslet with a winged bull rising above emblazed in gold, armed and unglued.
  • Supporters: On either side of the shield a Hawk, wings elevated and addorsed, beaked, legged, belied and jessed Or, gorged with a Collar Azure charged with two Estoiles and pendent thereform an Escutcheon Gold charged with a Grenade Sable.
  • Motto: Nisi Dominus Frustra.
"The motto is a contraction of the first line of Psalm 127. 'Unless the lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain' - typically summarised as either 'Without the Lord, frustration' or 'Without God all is in vain'."
On the Arms: "The Cormorant or Liver Bird in the shield is drawn from the Coat of Arms of the City of Liverpool, England. The wattle, the floral emblem of Australia, provides a local connection to the English ancestry of the region. The wavy line refers to the Georges River and the ancient ship and towers are drawn from the arms of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, founder of Liverpool in 1810. The ship also refers to the shipping on the river and in combination with the towers refers to the military origins and connection of the city."
On the Crest: "The Mural Crown, symbolising a walled city, the five towers are a modern elaboration relating to a town. Arising above, the grass mound, gold cross and winged bull are symbolic of St Luke's and its importance to Liverpool. The winged bull being the symbol of St. Luke, the patron stain of the local church."
Source: Liverpool City Council: City Crest.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

The Lost Flag Of Liverpool 1908

[Lost Flag Of Liverpool 1908] image by Pete Loeser, 25 March 2022
Based on this image located by Stan Turner, 14 October 2021

I am told it is the only surviving flag of this type. The flag is cotton/linen. It has been kept in a metal deed box. The liver bird, starfish and waves river are sewn in. The local history of MD&HB was taken over by Peel Holdings in the last decade or so. They moved their head office out of the Pier Head to Seaforth Dock. I purchased it from a local removal company. I do feel that the flag is the original flown in 1908.
Stan Turner, 14 October 2021

This flag doesn't look over 100 years old. The white field is still very clean and bright - typically they yellow with age, and the flag is clearly printed, not sewn. Screen-printing of flags was done 100 years ago, but it was not common, and a single flag like this would much more likely be sewn or appliqued. How far back do you know its progeny? Is there any chance it could have been made for the centennial anniversary of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board building or some other such celebration? Has the city of Liverpool celebrated a significant anniversary in the past 30 years, for example? Just trying to look at all the possibilities here.
Rob Raeside, 15 October 2021

I have been in contact with the maritime museum in Liverpool and they have no records of it but I still feel it was flown on The Mersey Docks and Habour Board building in 1908 on the completion of their building (one of the "three graces" on the Pier Head on the Liverpool waterfront. Quite a rare flag.
Stan Turner, 15 October 2021

Liverpool City Council Logos

[Liverpool City Council Logo type #1]     [Liverpool City Council Logo type #2]     [Liverpool City Council Logo type #3]
images located by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

"The crest has now been replaced by the logo as the symbol for the community and Council, however the crest is still retained as a symbol of the Mayor's office and the strength and leadership embodied by the title."
Source: Liverpool City Council: City Crest.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

University of Liverpool

[University of Liverpool] image located by Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020

The University of Liverpool is a public university based in the city of Liverpool. It dates back to 1881 and was first named University College Liverpool. In 1903 the college gained its royal charter which allowed it to award degrees and was renamed the University of Liverpool. It is one of the six original "red brick" civic universities.
Pete Loeser, 29 October 2020