Monday, 15 October 2012

Liverpool Chinatown

Liverpool has one of the oldest established Chinese communities in Europe. There was a line of steamers with a direct connection from Liverpool to China, whose main trading goods were, tea, silk and cotton wool. Indeed it is probably this factor that Liverpool’s permanent Chinese community dates to around 1870 with the establishment in 1868 of a direct shipping service between Britain and China.

By 1880 Liverpool was granted city status by a Royal Charter. At this time Chinese sailors were to be seen regularly around the docks of Liverpool, London and Cardiff.

The Chinese settled around the dock area, most notably on Cleveland Square, Pitt Street and Frederick Street. But this changed when most of the area was destroyed during World war II. This prompted the Chinese community to move out into the suburbs, with a few moving to Nelson Street and George Square, where the shipping company Holts had established a new seaman’s hostel to replace the boarding houses lost in Pitt Street and Cleveland Square. From here Chinatown grew organically to take in much of Berry Street, Duke Street and Upper Parliament Street.

Today, Chinatown is still centred on Nelson Street and Berry Street. It has to be said, Chinatown has seen better times, but then, so has Liverpool. The size of the Chinese community has shrunk with many moving to more economically active areas such as Manchester and Birmingham. Nonetheless, there are hopes of a brighter future. In January 2000 the new Imperial Arch was opened, generating a new phase in Chinatown’s development.

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