Taken directly from the ‘Guide to the Records of the Maritime Museum Vol. 2 edited by Dawn Littler.
Shipbuilding developed at Liverpool in the late seventeenth century and was of national importance by 1800. However, by 1830 its prosperity was threatened by high labour costs and unrest, a lack of security of tenure and competition from low cost builders in Sunderland and Canada. The more far sighted changed to building iron ships and four yards survived until the 1890s when lack of demand and the need to rebuild the South Docks ended ship building in Liverpool.
The Wirral shore and Garston also accommodated shipbuilding and the most successful firm was that of the Laird family.
Merchants played a vital role in the successful development of Liverpool in the 18th century. As well as dealing in a wide range of commodities and trading areas they were often involved in other business interests such as insurance, banking and brokerage, ship owning and ship building.
From about 1800 however, Liverpool merchants began to specialise in one particular area or commodity because of the increase in the volume of trade and the rising complexity of commercial mechanisms.
Shipbrokers and agents were the middlemen of maritime commerce. They would bring buyers and sellers of goods and services together in return for a percentage of the agreed selling price. Shipbrokers would arrange for the sale and purchase of ships on behalf of their clients. They would also arrange cargo for vessels. Ships agents would represent ship owners interests while his ship was in port ensuring that customs, port dues, crews provisions etc were all organised.
STEVEDORING AND WAREHOUSING COMPANIES
The stevedores loaded and unloaded cargo. This was called stevedoring, and they also documented, stacked and moved goods on the quayside and in the transit sheds. This was called porterage.
Mast stevedores and master porters were licensed by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.
Warehousing capacity was divided between the Albert Dock and Stanley Warehouses and private owners elsewhere. Towards the end of the 19th century, the provision of warehousing became increasingly specialised with the setting up of specialist warehouses for the cold storage of commodities such as meat, or the bulk storage of grain.