The liver birds top the clock towers on the Royal Liver Building, at Liverpool's Pier Head. In the early years of the twentieth century, while living and working in Harringay, London, Carl Bernard Bartels entered and won a competition to design the Liver birds which stand on the building designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas. Later, during the First World War, Bartels was imprisoned in an internment camp on the Isle of Man, even though he had been a naturalised Briton for more than 20 years. After the war Bartels was forcibly repatriated to Germany, leaving behind his wife in England. Bartels returned to the United Kingdom and lived and worked in Harringay until his death in 1955, producing carvings for Durham Cathedral, various stately homes and even making artificial limbs during the Second World War. His great grandson Tim Olden received the Citizen of Honour Award on behalf of Carl Bernard Bartels at a ceremony to mark the the building's 100th anniversary, more than 50 years after the German sculptor died.


The bird's species has long been the subject of confusion and controversy, The College of Arms refers to the bird as a cormorant, adding that the sprig in the mouth is of laver, a type of seaweed. The modern popularity of the symbol largely dates to 1911, when the Liver Building was built. This prominent display of two liver birds rekindled the idea that the liver was a mythical bird that once haunted the local shoreline. According to popular legend, they are a male and female pair, the female looking out to sea, (watching for the seamen to return safely home) whilst the male looks towards the city (making sure the City is safe). An alternative version says the female liver bird is looking out to sea for the return of sailors whilst the male liver bird is looking inland to see if the pubs are open.

Website Liverpool Picturebook
Photography Flickr