The Maritime Library
The reference library covers all aspects of maritime history, with specific emphasis on the Merchant Navy and the port of Liverpool. The library contains substantial collections of several benefactors, shipping companies, merchant ships' libraries and business associations. These include the Liverpool Nautical Research Society's collections which feature the Captain Beard and Cochrane collections (alphabetical compilations of sailing ship histories and steamships respectively). Both are available on microfiche.
The library also includes many rare and unique items including first editions. There are substantial slavery and emigration collections, with printed bibliographies available for purchase. There are also books, pamphlets and extensive runs of periodicals, including a selection of house magazines and newsletters on shipbuilding and shipping companies. The library has the second most complete series of Lloyd's List 1741-1974 in England, Lloyd's Register of Shipping from 1764, Lloyd's Captains' Registers, 1874-1887, and the national set of Customs Bills of Entry for Britain and Ireland, 1820-1939.
The Maritime Archive
Use these links to access further information or visit the Information Sheet section and search for yourself.
- Records of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company, the port authority, dating from the early 18th to mid 20th century, including Minute books and dock plans
- Liverpool Registers of Merchant Ships, 1739-1988, recording the owners of Liverpool- registered merchant ships
- Records of all the major shipping companies operating out of Liverpool, including Alexandra Towing, Bibby Line, T and J Brocklebank, Ellerman Line, Ellerman Hall Line, John Holt, Lamport & Holt, Ocean Transport and Trading Ltd, (Blue Funnel Line), Elder Dempster, China Mutual SS Co, Glen Line and Pacific Steamship Navigation Company. We also hold the technical records from Cunard Line's Naval Architects and Marine Engineering departments.
(Please note: Cunard's administrative records are held at Liverpool University Archives, Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool, PO Box 123, Liverpool, L69 3DA. Telephone +44 (0) 151 794 2696)
- Records of slave traders and abolitionists
- Records of Seamen's charities such as the Liverpool Sailors' Home, and education establishments such as the training ships HMS Conway and TS Indefatigable
- Liverpool's one time importance as the second largest port of the British Empire, and its long connection with the Merchant Navy is reflected in the many career and personal papers of seafarers held in the Archives. They relate to all ranks including captains, officers, engineers, boatswains, surgeons, stewards and stewardesses, pursers, carpenters, ordinary seamen and apprentices, and feature letters, diaries and photographs. We have particularly good representations from the two World Wars and famous vessels such as the Titanic and Lusitania.
We do not hold any official records of seamen's careers, but sources held elsewhere are described in Information Sheet number 43: Tracing Your Seafaring Ancestors. For further information please contact the Archives.
- Although no official pre-1890 records of emigrants survive in Britain, the Archives has many personal records from the mid 19th century, such as voyage diaries, letters written from the New World etc. We also have related documents in our business and shipping company archives. Please see Information Sheet number 64: Liverpool and Emigration for information. For advice on tracing emigrants and sources held elsewhere please see the information sheets covering Mormon emigration, child migration and emigration to the USA and Canada, and to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
- Shipping and trade associations, for example Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association
- Liverpool merchant and family records
- Records of shipbuilding on Merseyside
- Photographs including the McRoberts collection of British merchant ships and the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board collection of port construction and operation
- Ship plans, maps and charts
- Port of Liverpool at War
- Non-maritime business records relating to trade and industry in the Liverpool area, including BICC Plc cable manufacturers; Fawcett; Preston Engineering Ltd; Vulcan Foundry Ltd, Locomotive Builders; Meccano Ltd, Mechanical Toy Manufacturers; Liverpool Warehousing Co Ltd; Danson family collection (marine insurance); Bryson collection of archives and business ephemera; Stewart Bale photographic collection and records of Liverpool Museums and Art Galleries. These records are stored at the reserve store and are available by prior appointment only.