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The amazing history of the Liverpool Mersey Ferries

7 months ago

The amazing history of the Liverpool Mersey Ferries
Mersey Ferries. Credit: National Museums Liverpool. Taken by Derrick William Killington

Liverpool’s Mersey Ferry holds a history that intertwines with the city’s maritime legacy, becoming an enduring symbol of connectivity, resilience, and cultural significance.

Spanning over centuries, the iconic Liverpool Mersey Ferries service has not only transported passengers across the river but has also played a pivotal role in shaping Liverpool’s identity.

The roots of the ferry can be traced back to the early 12th century when Benedictine monks established the first recorded ferry service across the River Mersey.

However, it was in the 1800s that the service began to take its recognisable form, becoming an integral part of Liverpool’s transportation infrastructure.

The introduction of steam-powered ferries in the mid-19th century revolutionised transportation, and the Mersey Ferries became a lifeline for the city, facilitating the movement of people and goods between Liverpool and Wirral.

The iconic ferries, included the likes of the Royal Iris, Royal Daffodil, and Snowdrop. They emerged as symbols of maritime prowess and were deeply ingrained in Liverpool’s cultural fabric.

Mersey Ferry - Snowdrop (Dazzle)
Mersey Ferry – Snowdrop (Dazzle)

One of the most significant events in the ferry’s history was their role during World War I.

The vessels Iris and Daffodil, constructed in 1906, played a pivotal role in the assault on Zeebrugge, Belgium, on April 23, 1918. This covert operation sought to hinder German U-boats from targeting Allied shipping in the English Channel and the southwestern approaches to the United Kingdom.

More than 75 ships and submarines were engaged in the raid, with the ferries specifically chosen for their capacity to transport substantial numbers of Marines and sailors in shallow waters.

During the raid, both Iris and Daffodil suffered considerable damage. Iris, in particular, bore the brunt of numerous shell hits and just about managed to return home.

It was taking part in these heroic acts that granted the ferries their royal status.

Beyond its function as a mode of transportation, the Mersey Ferry became a symbol of Liverpool’s resilience and unity, witnessing the city’s triumphs, challenges, and transformations.

Its significance extends beyond its operational role, capturing the hearts of locals and visitors alike through its scenic cruises, which provide unparalleled views of Liverpool’s iconic waterfront.

Over the years, the Mersey Ferry has also become a muse for artists, writers, and musicians, featuring in various creative works that celebrate Liverpool’s maritime heritage. Its inclusion in popular culture solidifies its place in the collective memory of the city, immortalising its legacy in songs, literature, and artworks.

It remains, to do this day, a cherished attraction, offering tourists a glimpse into Liverpool’s rich maritime past while remaining an integral part of everyday life for locals.

The MV Royal Daffodil was withdrawn in 2012 and has remained idle in Duke Street Dock, Birkenhead, from 2013 – 2019 when it was moved to Canning Dock, Liverpool.

Daffodil Ferry - The guide liverpool
Phil Olivier

A £2.5m project to transform the former Mersey Ferry, MV Royal Daffodil, into a major destination is set for completion in 2024. 

Liverpool City Region entrepreneurs Philip Olivier and Joshua Boyd have spent several years working on the venture. Reborn as Daffodil, the iconic vessel will find a permanent home on Liverpool’s Waterfront with planning granted for a berth at Canning Dock, next to Royal Albert Dock. 

Daffodil is set to become a valuable addition to the city, which attracts tens of millions of visitors every year. It will offer first-rate food, drink and entertainment and will create almost 100 local jobs… You can read more about this HERE.

The Mersey Ferries’ symbol of connectivity and unity continues to thrive, navigating through time while leaving an indelible mark on Liverpool’s history and the hearts of those who have ferried across Mersey.

For more info on the Mersey Ferries click HERE. For all the latest news in Liverpool click HERE.

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