‘The Origins Of The Liver Bird’ by Frank Carlyle

In 1206, an antiquary belonging to King John, surveyed areas in the North West of England. After visiting Chester, he travelled further north, and came upon vacant land with a natural harbour! He viewed the area from a hamlet called ’Hiretun’ (Anglo-Saxon meaning High Town). The spot, where the antiquary ‘presumably’ viewed the harbour, is now the site of St. George’s church, Everton (Hiretun).

Reporting his findings back to King John, the antiquary advised him, to acquire the new land and natural harbour for the purpose of embarkation and disembarkation of troops! The importance being, England at this time, had been suffering from xenophobia ever since the 1066 Norman Invasion. To combat any other likely invasions, defences were built round the country! The land and harbour therefore, was, after the advice, claimed by King John for the Realm and importantly, was to be garrisoned!

Chester, on the other hand, had been silting up for 12 hundred years, ever since the AD 43 Roman Claudian Invasion! Therefore, the ‘Realm’ needed a strategic point (compensating Chester‘s silting problem) to mobilize troops rather quickly, if the need arisen.

On the 28th August 1207, King John granted Laver-pull a ‘Royal Charter‘. John used his Royal Seal of approvable, the ’Eagle of St. John to commemorate the new Borough of Liverpool. To garrison and defend the new ’Borough’! Liverpool Castle (Site of Queen Victoria’s Monument, Derby Square) was built by the newly appointed Sheriff, William De Ferrers and completed in approximately 1235.

How did Liverpool get its name? There are different variations to this question, and nobody it seems, has found the right answer! Here’s my version. King John named the new Borough Laver-pull, because locals from the small hamlets dotted round, fished in the ’Pool’ , and there was lots of ‘Laver’ (Seaweed) strewn about the shore! He put the two words together, hence, Laverpull. It was also decided to put ’Laver’ in the beak of the Eagle.

However, over the years the ’Bird’ seems to have changed in appearance on a variety of inscriptions! Whether they be on friezes, cornices, walls of buildings, stained glass windows and floor mosaics and tiles!

The most notable change came during the English Civil War, when the Parliamentarians lost and gained back Liverpool Castle! The majority of Liverpool citizens supported Parliament! The castle therefore, was garrisoned by Parliamentarian Colonel Moor and his troops!

Royalist, Prince Rupert lay siege to Liverpool Castle between May and June 1644. The battle for the castle lasted 18 days in which 2,000 of Rupert’s men lost their lives and 360 Liverpool citizens were slaughtered. It was one of the ’Bloodiest’ episodes in the history of Liverpool!

The following November, the Royalists lost control of the Castle to the Parliamentarians. The consequences of the defeat, had seen the original King John’s Royal Seal being destroyed, some anti-Royalist had ’smashed’ it up!

With the death of Cromwell in 1658, it wasn’t long before Parliament brought back the constitution of the Monarchy! The ascension of King Charles 11 in 1660, meant that Liverpool wanted the original Royal Seal, reinstated. The unknown engraver, did a very poor copy! The Seal, turned out to resemble a ‘Cormorant’ and not the Eagle of Saint John! The myth of the Cormorant, lasts to this day!

The most famous ’Liver’ birds are on the ’Iconic’ Liver Building itself! The sculptor, was the renowned German, Carl Bernard Bartles. The unfortunate Bartles however, was incarcerated in the Isle Of Man, as an undesirable alien, during the outbreak of World War One!

The whole world knows about the famous ’Liver’ bird through films, television, documentaries and of course sport! The most famous sporting ’Bird’ appears on Liverpool Football Club’s shirt. With Liverpool being one of the most successful club’s in Europe and have a huge global fan-base, the ‘Bird’ has become synonymously World famous!

Incidentally, it’s alleged that Everton Football club used a Blue ’Liver Bird’ on their shirt. Long before the ’Reds’ thought of adopting it as their crest! Everton discarded the ’Bird’ in favour of the Everton ’Lock Up’ which is situated in the heart of the Everton District. Hypothetically, what if our famous two clubs were using the City’s crest today?

Yes, the famous ’Bird’ has changed over the centuries! However, it’s still distinguishable today throughout the world, no matter how it changes, or how its changed by sculptor’s hands. There’s one thing that will never ever change! The Bird’s’ image will always remind the world, that, it’s a ’Scouse’ thing, and it belongs to the Proud City of Liverpool!

And nobody, can change that!

Frank Carlyle

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