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Bootle civic buildings 2.jpg
Bootle Town Hall
Grid reference: SJ340944
Location: 53°26’45"N, 2°59’21"W
Population: 77,640  (2001)
Post town: Bootle
Postcode: L20, L30
Dialling code: 0151
Local Government
Council: Sefton

Bootle is a town in Lancashire at the mouth of the River Mersey on the Irish Sea. It is northwest of Liverpool along the Mersey shore and the two have grown together in one conurbation. Historically the parish of Bootle was known as Bootle-cum-Linacre. The old village of Linacre has long since been subsumed into the town.

Bootle's economy has long been centred on the docks and their associated industries.

The old civic centre of Bootle contains large Victorian buildings such as the town hall and the municipal baths. East of this centre is a sizable area of large office blocks, to the west is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and large areas of the Port of Liverpool docks, lining the River Mersey.


The name "Bootle" is the Old English Botl meaning "dwelling".[1] It is recorded as Boltelai in the Domesday Book of 1086. By 1212 the spelling had been recorded as Botle. The spellings Botull, Bothull and Bothell are recorded in the 14th century.[2]



Bootle was originally a small hamlet built near the sand hills of the Mersey estuary. The village began to grow as a bathing resort for wealthy residents of Liverpool in the early 19th century. Some remaining large villas which housed well-to-do commuters to Liverpool are located in the area known locally as 'Bootle Village'.


Bootle-cum-Linacre; inscription on the town hall

The Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway arrived in the 1840s and Bootle experienced rapid growth. By the end of the 19th century the docks had been constructed along the whole of the river front as far as Seaforth Sands to the north. The town became heavily industrialised. Bootle was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1868 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and was granted the status of a "county borough" by the Local Government Act 1888. During all this time period the parish and then the borough were formally known as Bootle-cum-Linacre. Orrell was added to the borough in 1905. There are still large areas of Victorian terraced houses in Bootle, formerly occupied by dock workers. These are built in distinctive pressed red brick.

Bootle's town hall and other municipal buildings were erected in the last quarter of the 19th century. The population of the town swelled during this period, boosted by Irish immigration and the attraction of plentiful work on the docks.[3] The wealth to pay for the splendour of the town hall and the gentrified 'Bootle Village' area was generated by these docks. The skilled workers lived in terraced houses in the east of the town, while the casual dock labourers lived in cramped, dwellings near the dockside. Stories about three streets in particular caused great alarm. They were Raleigh Street, Dundas Street and Lyons Street. The last was the scene of a crime dubbed 'The Teapot Murder' by local press. Lyons Street was so notorious that it metaphorically 'died of shame' and was renamed Beresford Street shortly before the Great War.

The Metropole Theatre on Stanley Road played host to stars such as music hall singer Marie Lloyd. The emporia in the Stanley Road and Strand Road areas of the town were filled with goods from all over the British Empire. Tree-lined streets surrounded magnificent open spaces, such as Derby Park, North Park and South Park. Beautiful new churches sprang up all over the town, and immigration from north Wales brought with it Nonconformist chapels and the temperance movement. Local societies thrived, including sports teams, scouts and musical groups. The Bootle May Day carnival and the crowning of the 'May Queen' were real highlights of the social year.

The town successfully fought against absorption by neighbouring Liverpool in 1903. This was a matter of some civic pride to the people of Bootle and the Latin motto of the town, 'Respice, Aspice, Prospice,' (look to the past, the present, the future) was emblazoned on school buildings, stationery, the local press, police uniforms and all manner of other places.

Second World War

The docks made Bootle a target for Nazi German Luftwaffe bombers during the Liverpool Blitz of the Second World War, with approximately 90% of the houses in the town damaged.[4] Situated immediately adjoining the city of Liverpool, and the site of numerous docks, Bootle had the uneasy distinction of being the most heavily-bombed borough in the United Kingdom.

Bootle played an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic.[5] The famous U-boat hunter the Royal Navy's Captain Frederic John 'Johnny' Walker, would rest in the Mayor's Parlour of Bootle Town Hall and his ship, HMS Starling, sailed out of Bootle and the ship's bell and flags signalling the General Chase can still be seen in Bootle Town Hall's council chamber today.

Post war

After the Second World War large council housing estates were built inland from the town centre, including the area of Netherton, which was built on new town principles. The Liverpool Overhead Railway and Liverpool Tramways Company closure in the 1950s reduced Bootle's connection to Liverpool.

Bootle did share in the postwar boom. The centre of the town was redeveloped and the 'Bootle New Strand' shopping centre was opened in the late 1960s. At the same time, new offices were built in the town centre. The town lost its access to the beach when neighbouring Seaforth Sands was redeveloped in the early 1970s, but the Seaforth Container Port brought new jobs into the area. The local authority, and other 'social' landlords, saw to it that new housing was built and older stock renovated. Bootle did not go down the route of massive housing clearance, and many local communities remained intact.

The borough celebrated its centenary in 1968 and civic pride was much in evidence.


The docks declined in importance in the 1960s and 1970s,[6] and Bootle suffered high unemployment and a declining population. The establishment of large office blocks housing government departments and the National Girobank provided employment, filled largely by middle-class people from outside the Bootle/Liverpool area. In the early 1970s local government reorganisation saw Bootle lose its borough status, to be absorbed into the new local authority of Sefton. More fundamental than political change was economic change. The very reason for Bootle's existence, the access to the Mersey, became almost irrelevant as the docks closed and the new container port required far fewer workers than the old docks had. This in turn affected practically every other industry in the town. The problems slowly gathered pace until Merseyside hit crisis point in the early 1980s. Even by 2006 the area was one of the poorest in the country and had high levels of unemployment.[7]


Originally a Conservative seat, Bootle elected early MPs such as Andrew Bonar Law, a future Conservative Prime Minister. The seat was briefly Liberal in the early 1920s. Labour first captured the seat in 1929, in the personage of local hairdresser John Kinley, but lost it in 1931. Although Kinley recaptured it in 1945 it did not become safely Labour until the long tenure of Simon Mahon. It is now impregnable, politically, and since 1997 the Bootle constituency has been the safest Labour Party seat in the whole of the United Kingdom.

During the Thatcherite reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, the area's decline was biting hard and Bootle developed a reputation as a stronghold of Militant tendency and opposition to Thatcherism, as epitomised with Bootle's enthusiastic support of the Liverpool dockers' strike from 1995–1998. Today, Conservative Party support in Bonar Law's old constituency is minimal.


Bootle is undergoing a massive regeneration project, which has already begun with the new Health and Safety Executive buildings and the new-look Strand Road. Many old houses are being demolished to make way for new housing projects and lots of regeneration projects for existing properties and council buildings are to begin shortly.

A number of other development projects have recently been submitted for planning permission and should commence development within late 2006 or 2007 after being accepted. These include the significant refurbishment of Oriel Road Station, promoted by Merseytravel, the creation of a new block of flats on the site of the Stella Maris building and a Lidl store on Stanley Road. Walmart stores inc, owners of Asda superstores have invested in building a new superstore on Strand Road. It is perhaps in this new spirit of optimism, that banners have appeared, adorning the town centre with the Latin motto of the former borough: 'Respice, Aspice, Prospice.'

In 2008, the town centre management programme was introduced, via the Stepclever initiative, to support SME businesses and drive the regeneration of Bootle as a retail destination. The programme has delivered a new brand image, and a website, [].


The economic recovery in South Lancashire since the 1980s has meant that Bootle is ranked as only the tenth worst area for unemployment in Britain, and all other parts of the region have lower unemployment - a stark contrast to the 1970s and 1980s when areas of Lancashire dominated the list of Britain's least economically active areas. As of 2009, in the depth of a recession, unemployment stands at 12%.[8]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bootle)