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Liverpool A City of Firsts






Liverpool has long been recognised for its pioneering spirit, but are you aware of just how many areas Liverpool has led the way in? From health to education and transport, Liverpool has long been a ‘City Of Firsts’. What follows are just a few!



Liverpool had the first public wash-house, opened in Frederick Street and inspired by the work of Kitty Wilkinson and her husband Tom, during the cholera epidemic.



The very first branch of Age Concern, which is now an international movement opened in the city in 1928 when it was set up by welfare campaigners including Eleanor Rathbone. 80 years after the Liverpool Personal Service Society created its Old People’s Welfare sub-committee.  The charity has more than 750 branches as far afield as Barbados and New Zealand.



Liverpool Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children
The very first charity to prevent cruelty to children was set up by Thomas Agnew in Liverpool in 1883; Agnew who was a Liverpool banker had visited America and was so impressed by the New York Society for the prevention of cruelty to children that he set up similar organisation in Liverpool which became the forerunner of the NSPCC. Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

In addition the first animal welfare society, the forerunner of the RSPCA also began in Liverpool in 1809 at a meeting of the group of stalwarts in a coffee house in Bold Street, Liverpool at 7.00pm on 25th October. The group formed a society "for the suppression and prevention of Wanton Cruelty to Brute Animals". The "Billinge Liverpool Advertiser and Marine Intelligence" reported that a further meeting was held on 27th November 1809. These reports were ill received by certain hauliers and carters who could see that their sick and infirm animals might be prevented from working. This resulted in members of the Society being waylaid after their meetings and as a result meetings had to be held in secret.










Dr Duncan

In health, the world’s first public health officer Doctor William Duncan, a physician at the Liverpool Infirmary was appointed Medical Officer of Health on January 1st 1847. Duncan had realised that there was a clear link between the outbreak of diseases like cholera and the appalling housing conditions Liverpool residents were living in, working with Borough Engineer James Newlands he set about tackling the problem of poor housing and health.

The first purpose built ambulance service was a horse-drawn ambulance based at the Northern Hospital, which began operating in 1884. Two years later the Southern Hospital was presented with a horse-drawn ambulance.  Liverpool also had the very first motorised fire engine based at Hatton Garden Fire Station in 1902.






Another physician at the Liverpool Infirmary between 1770 and 1780, Doctor Matthew Dobson, of Harrington Street, Liverpool was the first to discover a link between sugar and diabetes. In 1776 he evaporated the urine of a diabetic patient and proved the presence of sugar, he also discovered the excess of sugar in blood; this was to lead to pioneering treatment of the condition.
The School of Tropical Medicine also became the world’s first when it opened in 1898, it was successful in discovering  that malaria could be passed on by the bite of the mosquito and in 1902 the school’s professor Ronald Ross won a Nobel Prize for Medicine.
It was in 1896 that another professor, Oliver Lodge of Liverpool University used x-ray photography to assist in surgery, for the first time. Professor Lodge used the x-ray photograph to show a bullet which was embedded in a boys wrist.

The first children’s hospital, Alder Hey was established in Liverpool in 1848 four years before Great Ormond Street Hospital in London opened. Liverpool also trained the first District Nurses in 1862 when the Liverpool Training School for Nurses was established. The system established in the city was then implemented throughout the country.


Speke Airport c.1933



In transport, Speke Airport was the first provincial airport in the country when it opened in 1933 and Liverpool also pioneered the first intercity railway service. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway became the first in the world to run locomotives in 1830. It was sadly, also the location of the first railway fatality when William Huskisson was run over by Stephenson’s Rocket in September 1830. Crown Street was opened as the first ever public railway station on 15th September 1830 and was the Liverpool passenger terminus for the railway. We mustn’t forget the Liverpool Overhead Railway, affectionately known as the ‘Dockers Umbrella’ which was the world’s first overhead railway when it was opened by the Marquis of Salisbury in February 1833.




The Port of Liverpool was the first in the world to install a radar-controlled ferry system and Port Radar in 1948 which when operational could monitor all shipping in the river and its approaching channels.

First Steam roller used on the street of Liverpool


And finally, for now, Britain’s first steamroller was bought by Liverpool Corporation in 1867, weighing 30 tons it was built by Thomas Aveling of Rochester.


So you see, we really are a city with an amazing pioneering heritage and an unquestionable, ‘City of Firsts’.



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