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Do you know why this porthole is important?

22 August 2018 by Sarah

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on the Walk of Remembrance, including this porthole over the Old Dock.

Are you joining us on the Walk of Remembrance this year? Every year thousands of people come together with us to make a special journey through Liverpool city centre.

People from all walks of life join the procession of reflection and take part in a public Libation service at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool to mark International Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August – the date of the first successful revolution of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (Modern Haiti) in 1791. This uprising led to the founding of an independent free country and inspired the fight for abolition across the globe.

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on our Walk. Here, our Visitor Host, Daniel Wright, talks about the porthole in Liverpool One:

As I attend the walk of remembrance on 23rd of August (I hope to see you there! ) I will be very aware that the majority of people making the walk through the city centre may not know the significance of what is below their feet when they walk past the little porthole next to John Lewis.

On this journey toward Liverpool’s waterfront, people will pass the small porthole outside the store. It actually provides the viewer with a glimpse of the Old Dock, the world’s first commercial, enclosed wet dock.

Liverpool’s Old Dock was designed by 18th century civil engineer Thomas Steers. The importance of this dock is not to be underestimated. When it opened in 1715, due to its revolutionary gate system it was the most efficient dock on the planet. A ship could load or unload its cargo within a day and a half and be ready to go back out to sea. This was a vast improvement to the usual two week turn over period at the time. As a result commercial trade increased quickly and Liverpool became a major world trading port.

The new efficient dock system strengthened Liverpool’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This unfortunately meant that Liverpool became a main port within the ‘Transatlantic Trade Triangle’. This horrendous triangle of trade was the foundation to the town’s prosperity and development.

Slaver Ships would leave Liverpool and journey to  West Africa where traders in enslaved Africans were responsible for Liverpool seizing over 50% of the British trade. From there, millions of Africans were enslaved and transported to the Americas in horrific conditions. On arrival, the enslaved Africans would be sold and forced to work on plantations.

Liverpool slaver ships would return months later, carrying expensive and highly sort after commodities. These included sugar, tobacco, cocoa, cotton, coffee and rum.

Legacies of Liverpool’s links with the transatlantic slave trade are still around today. Street names such as Gildart Street, Bold Street and even the famous Penny Lane are all named after Liverpool traders. A detailed list can be seen in the International Slavery Museum on the third floor of the Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool.

It’s quite poignant that our route toward Liverpool’s waterfront will echo the exact same route slaver ships followed centuries before…

If you would like to join the Walk of Remembrance, we are meeting at 11am on 23 August at the Church street bandstand (Liverpool City Centre). The Walk will finish at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building, Royal Albert Dock, where we will hold a Libation, an ancient spiritual ceremony, at 12noon. Full details of this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day events.

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