Liverpool firsts where our city beat the rest

Just from walking around the city centre and the docks, you can see visible reminders of Liverpool’s storied past.

Liverpool has the most listed buildings in the UK outside of London, so it won’t come as a surprise that the city has a unique and vibrant history.

But what you might not know is just how many historical firsts occurred in our city.

Throughout the last three centuries, the city has witnessed all kinds of historical firsts from the longest canal in UK to numerous footballing records.

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From being the first city in England to issue its own currency to opening the UK’s first ever school for the blind, our city led the way in many different areas of life.

We rounded 38 things that first happened in Liverpool – you may have heard about some of them, but others may surprise you.

1. The first subscription library in England

Founded in 1758, the former library in Bold Street’s Lyceum building is thought to be one of the first libraries to be built in Europe that was funded exclusively by a membership fee or private donations.

The Lyceum Building on Bold Street.

2. The longest canal in England

In 1770, work started on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It was, at the time, the longest and highest canal in Britain.

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It was completed in 1816.

3. The link between sugar and diabetes first discovered

Liverpool was where the link between sugar and diabetes was first discovered back in 1774.

The discovery was made by Liverpool born physician Matthew Dobson.

4. World’s first American consulate

Liverpool was home to the first overseas American Consulate in the world, established in 1790.

A portrait of the first consul, James Maury, still hangs in the town hall.

American visitors admire a portrait of James Maury in Liverpool Town Hall

5. The first city to issue its own currency

In 1793, Liverpool became the first and only municipality in England to issue its own bank notes.

6. First school for blind people

The Royal School for the Blind was the first specialist school of its kind in the UK and is the second oldest in the world behind Paris.

Originally situated on Commutation Row, the originally building was demolished in the nineteenth century but it was the precursor to the modern day school in Wavertree.

7. The first iron clad church

St George’s church in Everton was the first in the world to be built with a cast iron frame.

It opened its doors in 1814.

Merseyside views as seen from Liverpool tall buildings. Views from St Georges Church in Everton.

8. World’s first rugby club

Liverpool Rugby Football Club was founded in 1857, 35 years before Liverpool FC was established at Anfield.

This makes it the world’s oldest open rugby club.

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9. The first shot of the Civil War

The American Civil War began in 1861 at Fort Sumter in North Carolina, but the first shot was fired from a gun made by Liverpool firm Fawcett and Preston.

10. Britain’s first cycling club

The Liverpool Velocipedes became Britain’s first cycling club when they were founded in 1867.

11. Britain’s first public art gallery

When the Walker Art Gallery opened in 1877, it was the first British public art gallery.

Walker Art Gallery

12. First Irish Nationalist MP elected in an English constituency

In 1880, T.P O’Connor became the first Irish Nationalist MP elected to represent an English constituency.

He served as MP for Liverpool Exchange.

13. World’s first overhead electric railway

1893 saw the opening of the world’s first overhead railway in Liverpool.

It was also the first elevated railway, the first to use automatic signals, and had the first passenger escalator at a railway station.

The Overhead Railway’s Pier Head station in the 1920s, a popular boarding point for city dwellers and workers

14. Britain’s first female doctor opens Liverpool practice

In 1884 Britain’s first female doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson opened a Liverpool practice.

15. First use of the x-ray

Charles Thurstan Holland and Sir Oliver Lodge first took an x-ray in 1896 in Liverpool.

The first x-ray procedure was done in Liverpool

16. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is the first of its kind in the UK

The Liverpool School of Medicine was the first of its kind in Britain when it opened in April 1889.

Liverpool Tropical School of Medicine.(Pic Andrew Teebay).

17. First inter-city railway in the world

The Liverpool-Manchester inter-city railway, completed in 1830, was the first in the world to link two cities together.

18. Stanley Dock tobacco warehouse

In 1900, the largest tobacco warehouse in the world was built at Stanley Dock.

It was built of 27 million bricks and had 36 acres of storage space that could hold 70,000 hogs heads of tobacco.

19. First veterinary school in the UK

In 1904, the University of Liverpool was the first university in Britain to establish a school of veterinary science.

20. The first woman Councillor in Britain

Eleanor Rathbone became the first woman councillor in Britain in 1909.

She was elected as an independent member of Granby Ward in 1909 and eventually went on to become an MP.

She was an early campaigner for child benefit and women’s rights campaigner.

21. Europe’s first skyscraper

Completed in 1911, the Royal Liver Building was one of the first buildings to be constructed using reinforced concrete.

22. Britain’s first Woolworths

In 1909, Britain’s first Woolworths opened on Church Street.

F W Woolworth Department Store, Liverpool, Church Street, November 1970.

23. Royal Liver Building clock

The Royal Liver Building clockface – the largest in Britain at the time – started for the first time on June 22 1911, at the precise time of George V’s coronation.

Royal Liver Building. Photo by Ian Cooper

24. The first crossword puzzle

Liverpool’s Arthur Wynne produced the world’s first crossword puzzle in 1913.

The first crossword appeared in New York World.

Crossword inventor Arthur Wynne

25. Britain’s first black mayor

In 1913, Liverpool-born John Archer became the first black man to elected as a mayor in Britain.

He was elected as mayor of Battersea, in London.

26. Britain’s first Youth Court

Britain’s first juvenile court was opened in Crosshall Street in 1925.

27. Everton’s Dixie Dean first to score 60 goals in top division

In 1928, Everton’s centre-forward Dixie Dean scored a record 60 goals in the English top flight.

Dixie Dean

28. First purpose built boxing stadium

The first purpose built boxing stadium in the country was completed on Bixteth Street in 1932.

29. Everton play in first televised football match

Arsenal vs Everton at Highbury in 1936 in the English first division was the first televised football match in British history.

Football fans queuing outside Highbury for Arsenal vs Everton in 1936, the first televised football match shown live on the BBC

30. Britain’s first Chinese newspaper

Hua Chow Pao, Britain’s first Chinese newspaper, was published for the first time in Liverpool in 1944.

31. Liverpool FC’s Jack Balmer is first player to score three consecutive hat-tricks

Liverpool FC’s Jack Balmer became the first footballer in the English top division to score three consecutive hat-tricks in 1946.

Jack Balmer, Liverpool

32. The first package holiday flight

The first ever package holiday flight departed from John Lennon Airport to the south of France in 1952.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport

33. The first British woman to top the charts

Liverpool’s Lita Roza was the first woman to top the UK singles chart, with How Much is that Doggy in the Window? In 1953.

34. The Beatles

In 1969, the Beatles became the only musicians to achieve five diamond albums, signifying U.S sales of more than 10 million each.

The Beatles in Abbey Road, London, 1969, taken by Linda McCartney

35. The first British international garden festival

The first British International Garden Festival was held in Liverpool in 1984.

Her Majesty The Queen is led through one of the gardens by Sir Leslie Young as she officially opens the site on 2nd May 1984.

36. Britain’s largest cathedral

Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, completed in 1979 after 77 years of construction, became Britain’s largest cathedral.

Anglican Cathedral dominating the skyline across Liverpool city centre

37. World’s longest mural

In 2000, the world’s longest mural was unveiled at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Artist George Nicholas puts the finishing touches to his interactive mural at Alder Hey hospital in which he uses fibre optics. December 1997

Painted by George Nicholas, the mural officially broke the Guinness World Record upon completion.

38. First British team to win 5 European Cups

Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in Istanbul

In 2005, Liverpool FC became the first English team to win 5 European Cups when they defeated AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul. They were also the first to win six!

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