Liverpool History Society Questions

A selection of Liverpool history questions submitted to the Liverpool History Society

>Liverpool Court Dwellings


my relatives once lived in a Liverpool Court dwelling. Could you please let me know some information relating to this type of property as I have not heard of this before.


Betty Dyer

1840s Map of Liverpool showing numberous courts off Milton,
and Harrison Street

15/10/2009 - Posted by | Liverpool Court Dwellings


  1. There's a link on this site to an 1863 report by the engineer's department that has a very detailed and readable section on Liverpool's courts at the time. If you go to page 24, the following pages tell you all you'd want to know about the terrible conditions that such a large proportion of the population had to endure at the time. And the whole report provides a real insight into how the municipal authorities began to get to grips with the problems.

    Report to the Health committee on the borough of Liverpool on the sewage, paving, cleansing, and other works, under the Sanitary act , from 1856 to 1862 inclusive (c1863)

    Comment by Steve Platt | 24/10/2009 | Reply

  2. Hello Steve,
    many thanks for the link. It is a very interesting and informative article/book.



    Programme Secretary/ Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Comment by Liverpool History | 24/10/2009 | Reply

  3. Hello Betty.

    Court dwellings were the mass housing medium, they appeared in Liverpool during the early part of the 18th C as the town grew from the influx of people drawn to Liverpool for work and through immigration. They were very basic dwellings usually two or some times only one room. They had a communal toilet and water stand pipe. By the 19th century, many people in Liverpool lived in dirty and crowded cellars or courts. These unsanitary conditions led to disease and many people died. In 1847 Liverpool appointed Dr William Duncan as the city’s (and Britain’s) first Medical Officer of Health. He campaigned against poor living conditions and for the provision of clean water supplies. By 1841 as many as 50% of the towns population lived in courts with St Paul, Exchange and Vauxhall having the highest percentage of this type of dwelling.

    In the 19th century Liverpool had some of the worst housing conditions in the country. The lack of clean running water, effective sewerage and refuse disposal systems and overcrowding was a serious cause for concern. Many people lived in overcrowded courts, cellar dwellings or lodging houses. A court was a series of houses grouped around a narrow paved yard and set at right angles to the main street. Access to the court was through a single, narrow entry from the street.

    There could be several courts off one road and the houses of one court would back on to the houses of another court. These court dwellings became places where sickness and disease spread. There was often only one water pump or tap for each court and one lavatory to be shared between the houses which were badly overcrowded. A number of families lived in one house and sometimes whole families would live in one room or even in a cellar. Dr William Duncan , put together a report on this accommodation. In it he said:

    “The cellars are ten or twelve feet [three or three and a half metres] square; generally flagged – but frequently having only the bare earth for a floor, and sometimes less than six feet [1.8 metres] in height. There is frequently no window, so that light and air can gain access to the cellars only by the door, the top of which is often not higher than the level of the street. . . There is sometimes a back cellar, used as a sleeping apartment, having no direct communication with the external atmosphere, and deriving its scanty supply of light and air solely from the first apartment.”

    Currently there is only one remnant of a court dwelling remaining in Liverpool, numbers 35 and 37 Pembroke Place, As these types of property are very rare in the United Kingdom they were listed in September 2009 by the Department of Media, Culture and Sport. The current owners are the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.


    Rob Ainsworth

    Programme Secretary/ Web Administrator
    Liverpool History Society

    Web Site:

    Comment by Liverpool History | 27/11/2009 | Reply

  4. I am carrying out some family research and have just found out that my great-great grandparents lived in Harrison Street at about 1871, so seeing the map above was very interesting. If anyone has any information or pictures of Harrison Street or nearby I would be very grateful. Thank you, David.

    Comment by David Wardle | 02/12/2010 | Reply

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