Life in Liverpool during the First World War

Liverpool’s libraries are joining together this summer to present a linked exhibition in five venues as part of the city’s contribution to the national centenary commemoration of the First World War. 

The archives and special collections on display provide an overview of life in Liverpool between 1914 and 1918, revealing some of the experiences and views of the people who lived, worked and studied here.

Fascinating original documents, never publicly exhibited before, enable visitors to explore personal stories, the war efforts of Liverpool’s university and colleges and the everyday experiences of women and children on the home front.

The launch event is being held at Liverpool Central Library on William Brown Street on Friday 11th July at 2.30pm. Recently discovered archival film footage will be shown and samples of the War Cake recipe from the FL Calder School of Domestic Science will be offered with the light refreshments. The event brochure gives details of the five exhibition venues: the Central Library and Archive, the City of Liverpool College, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Liverpool’s Sydney Jones Library and the Victoria Gallery and Museum. A programme of talks and events led by lecturers and curators picks up on some of the main themes running through the exhibitions, and provides additional insights into the items on display.

Jenny Higham, Special Collections and Archives Manager, University of Liverpool said: “It is fascinating to uncover the story of the University of Liverpool’s First World War through its collections, and the personal stories they reveal allow us to view both the institution and the city in a different way. From the staff who sent their sons to fight, the medics, chemists and engineers who found themselves a vital part of the war effort, to the pacifists who dedicated themselves to assisting the casualties of war, the impact of their experiences was profound.

“The exhibition marks the first time the University’s Special Collections and Archives have been brought into the public space of the Victoria Gallery and Museum, home of the University’s war memorial, which provides a fantastic opportunity to widen access to the research collections.”

Roger Hull, Research Officer at Liverpool Record Office in Central Library, said: “The exhibition allows us to show some very rarely seen material including superb posters and demonstrates the role which everyone played in the city during the war, not least women who were asked to take on jobs in munitions factories and elsewhere.

“We have discovered a ration book and also an innovative method of the city council using potatoes to make bread when the supply of wheat flour ran short. Every scrap was used with the peel going to feed animals. Some rare archive film footage has also come to light and will be shown including a short film of a recruitment drive in the Anfield area.”

Valerie Stevenson, Head of Academic Services, Library Services, Liverpool John Moores University: “While planning for this exhibition we made some interesting discoveries in our own collections – the Liverpool School of Art ran metalwork courses for wounded soldiers and although we have no photographs of this, we can show students in the workshops around this time. We have also made the War Cake recipe from the FL Calder College in our archives – perhaps a little heavy by today’s standards but very tasty and guests will have an opportunity to try it at the launch event.”

“You will also be able to find out more about LJMU’s Merseyside at War project. This online ‘living’ archive gives the people an opportunity to record their family’s memories and experiences of the First World War and is creating a unique record of how individuals, communities and the region were affected by the war that many hoped would end all wars.”

Full details of the exhibitions and events are available on the Liverpool Libraries Together web site at

Liverpool Waterfront