Saint Patrick's Cross Liverpool

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Trade & Migration

St. Patrick's Hill is the last street shown on the Chadwick map of Liverpool from 1725 this map has a key listing 60 streets, lanes or alleys

Liverpool wasn't established yet as a port when St. Patrick was said to have visited on his way to Ireland or the Isle of Man. Liverpool was so insignificant in earlier times that it wasn't mentioned in the Domesday Book. The River Dee ports of Chester and Parkgate were more likely places to get a ship to go across the Irish Sea. The silting up of the River Dee eventually caused the use of these ports to go into decline. After Liverpool was established as a port it would have been in regular contact with people from around the Irish Sea. The port's main trade was with Ireland and the Isle of Man. Both of these places had a special reverence for St. Patrick.

Ramsey Muir gives us an indication of the influence of the Irish Sea trade on Liverpool and the Irish presence in Liverpool in the later Middle Ages:-


"There were Irish names among the burgesses as early as 1378."


Any significant Irish presence in Liverpool at this time would have been greater than the number of Irish names. There could have been some Irish-born people in Liverpool with English or Norman names. It's a pity Ramsey Muir did not elaborate on this comment by providing examples of Irish names in the Liverpool records.


John Corry tells us about the Irish merchants coming to Liverpool:-


"At the commencement of the sixteenth century, Leland, in his travels through England, paid a visit to Liverpool; of which he gives the following curious account:-


'Lyrpole, alias Lyverpoole, a pavid town, hath but a chapel. Walton a IIII miles off, not far from the se, is the paroche chirch; the king has a castalet there, and the earl of Derbe hath a stone-house there. Irish marchants cum much thither, as to a good haven; after that Mersey water cumming towards Runcorn in Cheshire, liseth among the commone people the name, and is called Lyrpole.


At Lyrpole is small custume paid, that causeth merchant to resorte: good merchandise at Lyrpole, and much Yrish yarn, that Manchester men do by there'


The trade to Ireland must have been productive of wealth to its inhabitants. The circumstance of its being 'a pavid town', is a proof that the burgesses had made a considerable progress in civilisation; for, in that remote age, a pavement was considered as an ornament, nay even as a luxury.


The linen yarn purchased of the Irish by the manufacturers of Manchester formed, at that time, the principal article of their manufactures; but silk being soon afterwards introduced from Italy, Flanders and Spain, and the art discovered of mixing it with wool, the linen manufacture declined both in England and Ireland."


The burgesses or freemen of Liverpool were in charge of the town's markets and usually regulated trade giving themselves priviledges over other residents or "foreigners" to the town.


Ramsey Muir tells us about the special arrangement which allowed Irish traders and their customers to be excluded from the interference of these middlemen:-


"The freemen intended to have all middleman profits. One exception only was allowed to this rule: sheep-skins and yarns could be sold direct by foreigners to foreigners, because they were chiefly sold by Irish traders to Manchester weavers, who came to Liverpool, to buy them."


Sir James Picton refers to Liverpool's links to Waterford and Wexford:-


"By ancient prescriptive custom the freemen of Waterford and Wexford were held free of the town's customs in Liverpool, with the same immunity for Liverpool freemen in the two Irish ports."


The Stanley family who were later the Earls of Derby were described as patrons of the town. They had burgages in Liverpool themselves so were beneficiaries of the success of the town. They also needed its shipping to support their interests across the Irish Sea. The family had a fortified residence in the town where they would stay when travelling to the Isle of Man. "The Tower of Liverpool" was located on the river side of the town with a view of all the shipping entering or leaving the town.


Ramsey Muir tells us how the Stanleys became involved in Liverpool:-


"Stanley was a man of immense boldness and vigour, and he rapidly made himself the most powerful magnate of South Lancashire. As a reward for his services at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 he received large grants from the forfeited estates of the rebellious Percies. Among these was included the Isle of Man, of which the Stanleys remained kings, owing fealty to the King of England, until 1737.


Desiring a link between his Lancashire lands and his new dominion, and a base for men and supplies, Sir John Stanley, in 1406, obtained leave to fortify a house of stone and lime in Liverpool. This house was the Liverpool Tower, which remained standing at the bottom of Water Street until 1819, and is today represented by Tower Buildings.


Liverpool thus became the official point of contact between England and the Isle of Man, and this may have been good for trade."


The Gaelic speaking people of the Isle of Man had a special reverence for St. Patrick. The following extracts from 'William Cashen's Manx Folk-Lore' refer to some Manx traditions involving St. Patrick:-


"'Laa'l Parick arree yn dow gys ee staik dooinney gys e ihiabbee'


On St. Patrick's Day the ox was supposed to be tied to the stake, and the man to his bed at dark. No light was expected to be lighted after St. Patrick's Day. It was supper at dark, and then to bed, both man and beast.


The following prayer, 'Jeeagh Parick orrin! - 'Patrick look upon us!' I have heard said hundreds of times, it has probably been handed down to us from pre-reformation times.


In putting out to sea, once clear of the harbour, all hands on board the boat, at an intimation of the skipper, took their hats off and had silent prayer. One of their prayers was as follows:


'Dy bannee Parick Noo shin as nyn maatey' - 'May St. Patrick bless us and our boat'




'Parick Noo bannee yn Ellan ain, dy bannee eh shin as yn baatey, goll magh dy mie, heet stiagh ny share lesh bio as marroo sy vaatey' - 'St. Patrick, who blessed our island, may he bless us and our boat, going out well, coming in better with living and dead in the boat'".


The Isle of Man has a St. Patrick's Isle containing ruins of a St. Patrick's church. The isle was said to be the first place where St. Patrick set foot when he arrived in the Isle of Man. The island also remembers various Celtic saints in the names of its parishes among them is the parish of Patrick. The Isle of Man and Ireland share an association with St. Patrick and the symbol of the Celtic cross.


Irish people first started coming to Liverpool in large numbers after the turmoil of the rebellion of 1798. A great influx of Irish people of all classes and religions occurred in Liverpool in the year 1798. It marked the beginning of a regular flow of Irish migrants that would transform Liverpool's population, culture and even the local accent.


John Corry mentions the influx of Irish people in Liverpool in 1798:-


"In the summer of 1798, so great was the influx of persons of every description into this town, from Ireland, that house rent, and the price of lodgings were greatly advanced, and have continued exhorbitantly high since that period. Many respectable Irish families, who came over to Liverpool as a place of refuge from the horrors of rebellion and martial law, have settled here, and contributed at once to the wealth and population of the place. At the same time it must be acknowledged, that many very immoral characters of the lower classes have also emigrated from Ireland hither; but the vigilance of a well regulated police will, doubtless, repress the operations of criminality in this town, whether native or foreign."


Richard Brooke comments on Irish migration to Liverpool:-


"With respect to Irish families, there were comparitively few of any class, either high or low, in Liverpool, until the rebellion of 1798; but afterwards the Union caused a considerable change in that respect. When the facility of coming over from Ireland is taken into account, the previous paucity of the Irish, may well seem extraordinary to those who now witness the vast numbers of Irish, of the lower class, who swarm by the thousands in the small courts, alleys, and backstreets of the some of the districts of Liverpool. A number of Irish, of all classes, came to Liverpool in 1798, who had left Ireland to avoid the miseries of rebellion, and the unhappy state of affairs which then prevailed there. That circumstance would, no doubt, add something to the population of Liverpool; but there were also the widely extending commerce of the port, and many other causes which combined to affect it, so that the increase of the population became very considerable before the close of the 18th century."


A lot of the early Irish migrants to Liverpool appear to have settled in the Marybone and Vauxhall Road neighbourhood near to the former location of St. Patrick's Cross. Perhaps they were initially drawn to the area by the existence or memory of a local landmark called St. Patrick's Cross and the folklore about the area's Irish connections. In 1841 Vauxhall Ward could still claim to have more Irish-born residents than any other Liverpool ward. It had even more than the much larger Scotland Ward. By 1851 Scotland Ward had more Irish-born residents due to the population explosion caused by the large influx of Irish famine migrants in the late 1840s.

The geographical distribution of Irish-born residents in fourteen Liverpool wards 1841-51

Irish migration to Liverpool indicated by the number of Irish-born residents of Liverpool