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Thread: Liverpool docks in 1862

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    Member Soreofhing's Avatar
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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    Hello again
    Since my unforgetable trip half way around the world to the town of my forebears (Liverpool) two years ago, I have been mulling over an idea.
    So now I'm starting to write a historical adventure novel which starts off in 1862 in Liverpool.
    My character wants to set off for Argentina. I have a few questions:
    1 I understand that the sailing vessels for South America sailed from Waterloo dock.
    2 Where would the ticket have been bought? From a ticket office? Where? I read somewhere that an Irishman negotiated the price of his ticket directly with the ship's captain. So where would this have taken place? Did the ticket include the passenger's name on it?
    3 Did/do the docks have a wall around them, to restrict entry? If so how high? Stone or red brick?
    4 Where would the cotton porters have gone to be hired on a daily basis? Outside the dock gates? Who hired them? A "foreman" or what was his title?Which docks? What was the going daily rate for a cotton porter in 1862?

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    Sorry to be such a pest but I want to get it right.
    best regards

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    Senior Member knowhowe's Avatar
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    Hi there. That's a fascinating subject and I wish you the very best with it. I hope to get a chance to read the finished masterpiece!

    I wonder if you have ever had the pleasure of reading Herman Melville's early novel, Redburn: His First Voyage which was first published in 1849.

    It tells of a young American from a comfortable home embarking upon a trip across the Atlantic to Liverpool, where his ship, the Highlander, spends some weeks in Princes Dock while he wanders the town and neighbouring countrysiide and describes his experiences in great detail.

    I love this book very much and re-read it every couple of years or so. It is, in my view, the finest 19th century evocation of Liverpool, its docks, shipping and seafaring folk you could wish to find. I'm sure it will prove invaluable in your researches.

    Even better, you can read the whole thing for free here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=k2j...age&q=&f=false

    Good luck!
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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    Melvilles book is a good start. 1862? The US civil war was on. Liverpool was the unofficial home port of the Confederate fleet.
    Civil War

    Waterloo Dock was the dock for the American packets - mainly people. The dock mainly did North America and took millions of emigrants. I would think South America would be another adjacent dock. I would not rule out Waterloo Dock berthing South American bound ships. The cargo determined what docks they used: timber, grain, sugar, tobacco, etc.

    The lines that sailed to South America were: Pacific Steam Navigation, Booth and many others. Booth sailed 1000 miles up the Amazon to Manus and also mapped the river.
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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    Many thanks Knowhowe and Waterways
    I've started to read the book online and I'm sure it'll help me a lot. At the least it has lots of vivid images of nautical characters in moleskin coats, canvas hats, red neckscarves and gold earings. Jews and negroes, drunken sailors and prostitutes, gin sodden mothers....well you get the idea. It was indeed a time of rich images and that book positively reeks of the docks.
    I have read that Liverpool sided with the Southern cause and at that time many a Confederate flag flew over Liverpool.
    I must agree with your comments (in red) Waterways; I think Liverpool could make much more of it's unique dockland past.
    Best regards

    PS I wonder what those tough Liverpool men and women would have said about today's Political Correctness? I'm sure they would have used some choice words.

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    Senior Member ChrisGeorge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    Hello again
    Since my unforgetable trip half way around the world to the town of my forebears (Liverpool) two years ago, I have been mulling over an idea.
    So now I'm starting to write a historical adventure novel which starts off in 1862 in Liverpool.
    Good luck to you with this project. Sounds like a fine idea for a book. I have written several novels myself though they remain unpublished. I have had more luck with historical nonfiction books.

    Note that the time period you have chosen was during the American Civil War (1861-1865). You might know that some of the Confederate blockade runners were built on Merseyside. A plot idea for you might be to have your South America-bound vessel stopped by a U.S. Navy vessel whose commander might suspect the ship is headed across the Atlantic with supplies for the Rebels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    My character wants to set off for Argentina. I have a few questions:
    1 I understand that the sailing vessels for South America sailed from Waterloo dock.
    Waterways has answered you on this. I have no inclination to think that ships bound for South America would only sail from Waterloo Dock. In fact I am sure a number of docks handled ships in the trade with South America.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    2 Where would the ticket have been bought? From a ticket office? Where? I read somewhere that an Irishman negotiated the price of his ticket directly with the ship's captain. So where would this have taken place? Did the ticket include the passenger's name on it?
    The shipping lines would have had downtown offices or agents that sold tickets.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    3 Did/do the docks have a wall around them, to restrict entry? If so how high? Stone or red brick?
    Yes stone walls some 12 to 14 feet high. You should be able to find photographs. I worked as a clerk at Wapping Dock one summer while I was in school in Liverpool. Check out Joe Neary's fine photographs of the Liverpool Docks here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/exacta2a/2050375004/

    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    4 Where would the cotton porters have gone to be hired on a daily basis? Outside the dock gates? Who hired them? A "foreman" or what was his title?Which docks? What was the going daily rate for a cotton porter in 1862?
    The dockers were, and as far as I know still are, "hired" for the day within the dock gates. Common labourers between 1851 and 1869 earned from ten shillings and sixpence to twelve shillings and sixpence a week. See information on Victorian web on Navvymen: Strikes, Truck, Cash (as you may know a common laborer was known as a "navvy"). The site also gives modern money equivalents

    Quote Originally Posted by Soreofhing View Post
    Sorry to be such a pest but I want to get it right.
    best regards
    No problem, Soreofhing! Glad to be of some help with your interesting project. Once more, good luck with it, mate. Keep us posted on how you progress.

    Chris
    Christopher T. George
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    Hi Soreofhing, and welcome to the forum.

    You could also try:

    The Dock Road: A Seafaring Tale of Old Liverpool by J FRANCIS HALL, Liverpool. 1992. Paperback.

    Reprint of the book first published in 1939, a tale of Liverpool during the American Civil War. Fact based, fictional account, set in 1860.
    ----

    Also, Recollections of Old Liverpool, By 'A Nonagenarian'. 2007 Reprint of 1836 original. He's writing of the decades leading up to the Victorian Period [1837-1901], when I think only The Old Dock, South Dock [Salthouse], and St. George's Docks existed? Waterloo, I think, was active from 1834 to 1988. Although it may help you lay some foundations to the earlier town.
    ----

    Both editions quoted are currently avaible on eBay.

    Best of luck with your project, and I hope you will publish a chapter here, to give us all an appetizer when complete?

    Thanks,

    Darren

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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    I haven't checked in for a few days but what a nice surprise today. Thanks ChrisGeorge and dazza, I do appreciate your answers, ideas and suggestions. That's all wonderful stuff and will give me food for thought. My heroes are now in full escape from Waterloo dock on board a sailing vessel! (please don't snitch to the police). Little do they realize what adventures lay ahead of them.
    Thanks again
    Cheers

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    Hello Soreofhing

    Very pleased to help.

    You might want to check out the film posted on YouTube taken from the Overhead Railway in the late 19th century which certainly gives a sense of how the docks looked way back then:

    Liverpool filmed in 1896-1897.

    Begins with scenes filmed on Lime Street with St. George's Hall the classical looking building at the right where the trial of Florence Maybrick was held in August to September 1889. Later on, we see the scenes of the Liverpool docks as filmed from the Overhead Railway, demolished some decades ago (I rode on it as a toddler circa 1953).

    All the best

    Chris
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    Default My novel

    Well, you asked for it, so here's a taster:

    Chapter 2 1847, Bolton Street, Liverpool
    The steam whistle screamed and he knew it was time to get up. It must be five o?clock already.
    Every morning was the same. That was the trouble of living ?round the corner from the station---the constant chuff, chuff, chuff of the steam engines and the slamming of carriage doors. The piercing whistles. The smoke?thick, black and choking, it descended on all the buildings and people like big, sooty snowflakes. The station had had only opened eleven years ago but already the fine cast iron struts and beams were blackened and grimy.
    Joe Chapman yawned, scratched his straggly, black beard and dragged himself out of his bed. Twenty three years old, he was a strong muscular man with bushy eyebrows and a broad stomach?the result of many a pint of beer. A dark brown wart stood out on the end of his broad nose giving the impression that a fly had arrived there to take an extended rest. Standing in the early morning darkness he muttered ?**** it?s cold?, farted, buttoned on yesterday?s shirt and pulled up his thick canvas trousers over the long woolen underpants that he slept in. Fumbling for the stub end of a candle, he struck a match and lit it. The candle fluttered in a cold morning breeze. Outside it was pitch dark on this miserable November morning.
    ?Are you goin? now??
    ?Aye lass, see you tonight. The foreman told me that a ship?s goin? to dock today so likely I?ll be late. Might stop in for a couple of pints after work.?
    Tom became uneasy and started with those whiny noises that he always made before launching in a full-blown spate of crying.
    ?There, there now little one, your mam?s here.? Elizabeth snuggled up to him, pulled out her breast and gave him her swollen dark nipple??.silence, except for a contented slobbering sucking. ?There, there, there. That?s what you wanted wasn?t it??
    Joe tied up his hob nailed boots, belted up his trousers and pulled on his thick second-hand coat. Leaning over the baby, he ran his fingers through Elizabeth?s long, chestnut brown hair, kissed her on the cheek, started out the door and down the few stone steps onto the slick pavement.
    ?Your cap, Joe! Don?t forget your cap.? He came back, took the cloth cap off the back of the chair.
    ?T?rar Lizzie. See ya?
    ?T?rar m?love.?
    When young Edward heard his pa go he jumped up from bed, ran to the door, called out ?Bye pa!? and scurried back to the warmth of ?his? bed where Elizabeth and baby Tom were enjoying each other?s closeness and intimacy.
    The two brothers were fast asleep on the straw-filled mattress in the same room. Ned and James were inseparable. Identical twin brothers, they spent most of their time together and were confused by nearly everybody except of course, ma, pa and young William, his six year old brother.
    Swirling fog mixed with sooty smoke tasted sharp and foul in his mouth. Damp fog almost blocked out the gas lights outside the curved cast iron roof beams of Lime Street station. He walked a few yards, waited until a horse carriage had clip clopped past and up to the station forecourt where a heavily over coated and bewhiskered gentleman got out, then Joe sneaked behind the old, broken brick wall which partly enclosed a derelict plot of waste land. The long wet grass dampened the bottoms of his thick trousers. The dim gas lamps of the station made a gloomy shadow behind the wall; he undid his belt, dropped his trousers, pulled down his pants and squatted. He shivered involuntarily as his backside brushed against the cold wet grass.
    The train pulled out of the station with one last lonesome whistle and made the long grinding haul up the incline to Edge Hill; Joe strained and ****ted. ?Bloody hell, it?s freezing,? he muttered to himself. His tenement building was old and he preferred to use the waste land instead of smelling up the one room where he and his family slept, lived and cooked. And after all, Lizzie would have to take the night waste down anyway and empty it in the privy; she didn?t like to do that chore in front of her neighbours: much better like this. He wiped his backside with a scrap of newspaper which he had kept in his coat pocket for just this job, threw it down, pulled up his underpants and adjusted his clothes again.
    The damp fog loomed everywhere and hansom cabs appeared out of the darkness. Wet, gloom and choking smoke closed in around Joe. It was dirty weather. Steam engines clanged, whistled and roared into and out of the station.
    Making sure that the coast was clear, Joe emerged onto the pavement, walked up the rest of Bolton Street and up the sloping forecourt to the coffee stall outside the station, wiping his hands on his great coat.
    That was his routine every day. Dress, kiss, ****, coffee and bun, walk to the docks.
    The coffee was weak again. ?Mary, where in hell do you get this coffee? It?s as weak as maid?s water!?
    ?You don?t like it, go elsewhere,? she rejoined, ?It?s all the same though. Worker down at the coffee warehouse told me the **** coffee dealers add ground up, mouldy ships? biscuits. Makes it go further.? Joe and Mary knew each other well and there was a mutual give and take of curt remarks that neither of them took to heart.
    Joe spat in reply. His spittle was green grey with black sooty flecks.
    He knew Mary was right.
    It was common to adulterate food and drink. Bakers added powdered chalk to whiten the bread. Potato flour was added to wheat flour because it was cheaper. And that wasn?t the half of it. Strychnine was added to rum and beer, sulphate of copper to pickles and wine, lead chromate to mustard, lead to cider. But sugar and chocolate were the worst with healthy doses of copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury and Venetian lead added. Joe never had enough money to buy chocolate but he liked bread and dripping, and beer. Yes, he liked beer. In fact he spent three or four evenings a week at one of the hundreds of ale houses that seemed to be on every street corner of Lime Street. Joe never drank milk though.
    The fog closed in around him as he joined the groups of other silent dockworkers making their way down Lime Street, along Ranelagh Street and Hanover Street to the wharves and quays. He coughed and spat up the filthy phlegm onto the pavement.

    That's the beginning of chapter 2.
    Best regards

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    Senior Member ChrisGeorge's Avatar
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    Hello Soreofhing

    Glad to read the sample from your novel. The period details and atmosphere appear solid and you have well captured the period on the evidence of this sample section.

    If I might say so, though, I think some of the conversation and sensitivity toward the other sex seems a bit too modern. I mean specifically the remark which sounds a bit too "today":

    "Aye lass, see you tonight...." then the statement "Joe and Mary knew each other well and there was a mutual give and take of curt remarks that neither of them took to heart." There may be a bit too over-analyzing and modern thinking in this thought... just let the action unfold without adding such a statment, I think.

    Good luck, Soreofhing.

    Chris
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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    Your comments are well taken ChrisGeorge.
    I'll try to be more.....macho!
    All comments are very useful for me. This is my first ever book and I've got a lot to learn.
    Best regards

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    Senior Member knowhowe's Avatar
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    Yes, great stuff mate. Enjoyed it greatly and wanted to read more...

    Unlike Chris, I didn't mind the interactions between man and woman- running his hand through his wife's hair was a nice touch and early on sets Joe up as a 'decent bloke'...

    I felt there was a bit too much padding though... "a strong muscular man" etc..
    The food adulteration bit was interesting but too long. KISS is the golden rule of gripping fiction (and much else)- "Keep It Simple Stupid"... haha- your yarn's got a long way to go yet and you don't want to wear your reader out with excessive detail.

    Get the whole book sketched up in very basic form- the skeleton upon which the muscles and flesh will later hang. The details will come later. Get the characters nailed down- you've done a good job with Joe; we feel like we know him already. Keep it coming!

    All very inspiring though, almost makes me want to blow the dust off some of my unfinished yarns!
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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    Thanks Knowhowe. Point taken, I was also doubtful about the food adulteration paragraph. I think I'm temped to show off what I have learned--I don't want to talk down to the reader or waffle though. I think I've overdone the spitting as well. I'll pare down what I've written.
    Joe is a simple character from Thornton Hough who came to Liverpool to work.
    (very loosely based on my great great grandfather, plus a lot of imagination).
    I'm up to chapter 10 now.
    Sounds like you chaps are now getting itchy to continue writing!
    cheers

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    Default Liverpool docks in 1862

    ChrisGeorge wrote:
    "a plot idea for you might be to have your South America-bound vessel stopped by a U.S. Navy vessel whose commander might suspect the ship is headed across the Atlantic with supplies for the Rebels."

    Chris, I understand the Liverpool/South America route was Liverpool, Lisbon, Cape Verde Islands, then down to Rio in the Argentine, and on to Montevideo in Uruguay.
    Would the Yankees have been so far east?
    regards

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    Senior Member knowhowe's Avatar
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    Thornton Hough eh? Nice part of the world and not far from me. There's a few bob round there now, not many lads running off to sea anymore!

    This writing business is bloody addictive. I never thought I could do it until I started chucking my websites together. Can't get enough now.

    But fiction- storytelling- is another matter entirely. I've started many a yarn only to give up in frustration. So don't take my words as any sort of expert criticism!
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