Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 14:56 UK
A reminder of liners golden age
Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2 made her first visit to Liverpool on 20 October, 2009

The arrival of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 on Tuesday, 20 October, 2009 recalled the golden age of liners on the Mersey.

Nestling as the middle of the three graces, the Cunard Building is the most visible legacy of the ocean line's historical links with Liverpool.

Cunard dominated the cross Atlantic passenger trade in the era of luxurious liners.

Queen Mary 2, berthed at the cruise liner terminal for the day, departing to a fireworks display.

The world's largest cruise liner's first visit to the Mersey, berthing at the Pier Head cruise liner terminal, is a link back to the days when grand ships would regularly call in the city.

Liverpool, with its crucial geographical position was the hub of Cunard's operation and 2009 marks the 170th anniversary of the company.

First class opulence

The Cunard building, the last of the three graces to be built, was constructed between 1914 and 1917 in an Italian influenced style.

As well as acting as the company's administrative headquarters the building, with its waterfront location, was used as a passenger terminal and included a booking hall, luggage stowage and first class lounges.

Cunard building
The Cunard building was once the hub of the company's operations

The basement was used to house the luggage that would be transferred to the hold of the ships, symbolic of the company's business American eagles look down from each corner of the building, while on the river side of the building the opulent first class passenger lounge is fitted out in the luxurious style of the ocean liners.

The company consolidated its pre-eminent position in 1934 by merging with White Star, the owners of the Titanic.

Cunard's presence in Liverpool had an important impact on the local economy with many local businesses dedicated to servicing the large liners.

Up to the 1960s Cunard liners would berth mainly in Huskisson Dock, the arrival of a liner was the signal for the start of a frenzy of activity.

Painters, cleaner, plumbers and all varieties of workers would stream aboard the ship as soon as the last passenger had set foot on dry land.

With thousands of sheets, towels and napkins needed for each voyage there was enough work to keep over 300 laundries operating in the city.

Britannic
The Cunard White Star liner Britannic undergoing an annual overhaul in 1938

A major overhaul of a liner could take four weeks employing 2000 people to clean and paint the entire ship.

Until the introduction of oil as fuel in 1919 liners were powered by coal, the liner Mauretania needed 500 railway wagons brimming with coal that took 24 hours to load.

It wasn't just on shore that Cunard had an impact, thousands of Merseysiders went to sea working on the liners, known as Cunard Yanks those who worked on the voyages to New York and Montreal became known as Cunard Yanks because of the fashions and customs they exported back to Liverpool in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

The end for Cunard in Liverpool came in the 1960s when, following the decline in the transatlantic trade due to competition from airlines, the company relocated to Southampton.

Even then Merseyside's Cunard connection continued with many locals continuing to work for the company, most notably Captain Robin Woodall who was in charge of Queen Elizabeth 2 when she visited the Mersey for Cunard's 150th anniversary in 1990.

It was the first time the QE2 had sailed up the Mersey and thousands lined the shoreline to see the ship arrive.




SEE ALSO
Fireworks for liner's departure
21 Oct 09 |  People & Places
In pictures: Queen Mary 2 visit
20 Oct 09 |  People & Places
QE2 leaves port on final voyage
11 Nov 08 |  Hampshire
In pictures: A farewell look at the QE2
10 Nov 08 |  In Pictures
QE2 departs on final world trip
06 Jan 08 |  Hampshire

OTHER RELATED BBC LINKS


BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific