Merseyside is perhaps most famous for being home to the city of Liverpool. Liverpool, world-renowned as the birthplace of one of the most famous bands of all time – The Beatles – is also home to many fascinating historic sites.
Historic hotspot Albert Dock is a destination in itself, boasting the largest group of Grade I listed buildings in Britain as well as the International Slavery Museum. Also popular is the historic World Museum, which features a stunning planetarium alongside endless exhibits.
In wider Merseyside, scenic sites such as Tudor-era Speke Hall make for an enjoyable day out for history and outdoor lovers alike.
Here’s our selection of 10 of the best historic sites in Merseyside.
The Western Approaches Museum in Liverpool sits within a World War Two bunker complex which served as the combined services command centre during the Battle of the Atlantic – the Allied fight against the German U-boat offensive in the Atlantic ocean. The Operations Room has remained exactly how as it was left when its doors were closed on 15 August 1945.
Visitors can view the underground telecommunications and mapping rooms and explore the bunker as a whole. Displays and information help people gain an insight into the development of the battle and the challenges involved in keeping the sea lanes open. A tour is available that covers the Central Operations room, cypher room, a 1940s street scene, NAAFI canteen and community classroom facility. The original Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector which Winston Churchill used to watch secret war footage is also on display.
The International Slavery Museum is a museum located by Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock that is dedicated to showcasing the history and legacy of Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. The museum serves not only as a commemorative institution to those in Britain who worked tirelessly to see the trade abolished in 1807, but also as a stark reminder of the prominent role Britain played in the trafficking of Africans across the Atlantic.
Today, the International Slavery Museum has multiple collections, exhibitions, tours and displays that cover multiple aspects of slavery – both historical and contemporary. Exhibitions include a vast array of important documents and artefacts, as well as interactive elements and videos.
3. Port Sunlight Museum & Garden Village
The historic industrial village of Port Sunlight makes for a fascinating day out. The late 19th-century village was constructed by William Hesketh Lever to house workers from his soap factory, Lever Brothers, which eventually turned into the global giant Unilever.
Hever had a passion for art and architecture, so employed more than 30 architects to create the village. The result is a village set in 130 acres of stunningly maintained parkland which features public art and one of the biggest war memorials in Britain.
4. Speke Hall
Speke Hall is a Grade I listed wood-framed wattle-and-daub Tudor manor house in Speke. A National Trust property, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of its style of property. Originally built in 1530, it has an atmospheric interior that features a Tudor-era Great Hall and priest hole alongside Victorian William Morris wallpapers, Jacobean plasterwork and intricately carved furniture.
The restored garden is also a highlight, featuring spring bulbs, a rose garden, summer border and stream garden, as well as beautiful views towards the Mersey basin and North Wales hills.
Royal Albert Dock is an iconic harbour on Liverpool’s waterfront, boasting a rich history and multiple attractions for visitors. Liverpool’s docks dominated global trade by the late 18th and early 19th century. During much of the 18th century Liverpool was Britain’s main slaving port. Royal Albert Dock itself, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick, was only oficially opened in 1846, by HRH Prince Albert himself.
To this day the Mersey continues to play a central role in the city of Liverpool’s cultural life, with the Albert Dock an integral part of the city’s historic waterfront. Royal Albert Dock is a prime location to visit whilst in Liverpool, with so many attractions on offer. Visitors can take advantage of the impressive retail and leisure offering at the Dock, as well as multiple historical museums such as the International Slavery Museum, Beatles Museum and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
6. The Bombed-out Church
More commonly known as bombed-out church, St. Luke’s Church is a former Anglican parish church in Liverpool that was built between 1811 and 1832. It was badly damaged during the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, and it has been a roofless shell ever since as a memorial to those who died in the war.
Today, it is a designated Grade II* listed building that is also used for exhibitions and events such as poetry readings and theatre performances. It makes for a very scenic and historic visit, and on a sunny day people can be found picnicking there.
Liverpool Cathedral, a blend of modernist and Gothic architecture, is a magnificent monument in the centre of Liverpool. It is the largest cathedral in Britain and the fifth largest in the world, highly warranting a visit for those exploring the city and its history. The construction of the Cathedral occurred after Liverpool became a diocese in the 19th century, when it was considered necessary given Liverpool’s status in the Anglican Church. Liverpool Cathedral was finally completed in 1978, having suffered numerous interruptions due to the two World Wars.
In addition to its size, Liverpool Cathedral boasts a number of other records. The arches are the largest Gothic arches ever built, and the cathedral contains the largest working church organ in the world. It also has the world’s heaviest and highest ringing peal of bells. Entrance is free, however the tower and audio tour tickets are highly recommended.
8. St George's Hall
Located in the centre of Liverpool, St George’s Hall is a Neoclassical building which contains law courts and concert halls. Opened in 1854, it has been described as one of the finest neo-Grecian buildings in the world, though the building also features neo-Roman characteristics. On the west side of the building are the scenic St John’s Gardens.
St George’s Hall regularly hosts a range of live music events across a range of genres. Guided tours, both audio recording and in person, are also popular. Weddings are frequently held there.
9. Williamson Tunnels
The Williamson Tunnels are a series of subterranean excavations, of which their original purpose is unknown. It is thought that they were created by tobacco merchant, landowner and philanthropist Joseph Williamson between 1810 and 1840, possibly for commercial quarrying, a desire to provide employment or simply because Williamson was eccentric.
Though the tunnels were filled with spoil and rubble in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, archaeological excavations in 1995 made them more accessible. In the time since, volunteers have rediscovered and excavated an extensive network of tunnels, chambers and voids, while guided tours are available for the general public.
10. World Museum
Liverpool’s World Museum holds extensive collections covering archaeology, ethnology and the natural and physical sciences. It was originally started in 1851 as a place to hold the 13th Earl of Derby’s natural history collection; however, it soon became clear that its popularity meant that a new purpose-built building would be required, and land opposite the building was purchased, and a new building opened in 1860. A new, purpose-built building was again opened in 1901 to hold the museum’s growing collection.
Today, the museum is a very popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. Particularly special attractions include the Natural History Centre and planetarium.