‘Liverpool gentleman’: meaning and origin

The noun gentleman has been used to characterise a Liverpudlian (i.e., a native of Liverpool [note 1])—especially as opposed to a Mancunian (i.e., a native of Manchester [note 2]).

For example, the following is from Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase (London: George Routledge & Sons, Limited, [1909]), by the British author James Redding Ware (1832 – circa 1909):

Gentleman (Liverpool). There are no men in Liverpool; all are gentlemen.

The following is from The Liverpool English Dictionary: A Record of the Language of Liverpool 1850—2015 on Historical Principles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017), by Tony Crowley:

Gentleman (n.): a Liverpudlian (as opposed to a Mancunian). […] In this specific sense; from the mid-19th-century distinction between Manchester men, who were involved in the making of things, and Liverpool gentlemen, who traded them; it was a form of snobbery by the self-regarding Liverpool merchants.

Liverpool gentleman has therefore been used in contrast to Manchester man—as in The 7 Wonders of Liverpool, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) of Wednesday 29th July 1993:

Academic and author Dr Quentin Hughes picked out his seven favourites to provide a day’s tour of world class architecture.
1 The Oratory […]
“This building really brings the beauty of Greek architecture to the North West. It is a perfect little temple,” Dr Hughes said.
It was constructed when the city’s merchants were experiencing a boom time and wanted to appear refined.
“The phrase, ‘Liverpool gentlemen, Manchester men’ was not without meaning,” Dr Hughes added.

An article published in the Manchester Examiner and Times (Manchester, Lancashire, England) on Wednesday 11th January 1854, denounced:

That particularly ludicrous assumption of superiority which, in estimating the comparative characteristics of two localities, has given rise to the appellations, a “Liverpool gentleman” and a “Manchester man.”

The earliest occurrence that I have found of Liverpool gentleman used in contrast to Manchester man is from The Liverpool Standard, and General Commercial Advertiser (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Tuesday 3rd December 1839:

A Coachman’s Comparisons of Gentility.—Perhaps the following illustration of a coachman’s notions of comparative gentility is worth preserving. It was made by a well known whip, who sported his “bits o’ blood” between Bolton [note 3] and Manchester, and given in answer to a person who asked him what he had got inside?—“A Manchester man, a Bolton chap, a Wigan [note 4] fellow, and a Liverpool gentleman.”—Preston Pilot.

The previous four denominations (i.e., a Liverpool gentleman, a Manchester man, a Bolton chap and a Wigan fellow) reoccur:

1-: In Manchester, by a Manchester Man, published in Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country (London, England) of June 1853:

It is […] a melancholy truth, sanctioned by the infallible authority of the Times newspaper, that we are not a polished people; and the small modicum of politeness that we ever had was consumed, in public estimation, at the Ingersoll banquet. Our breeding to begin with, somehow, is of a hybrid character; and the Manchester school, of which so much has been said, is not one in which there is an extra charge of twopence for manners. Liverpool is placed invidiously by our side; and it cannot be denied that in popular opinion it is our superior in the courtesies and amenities of life. Have you never heard of the old stage-coachman who gravely described his ‘insides’ as ‘a Liverpool gentleman, a Manchester man, a Bolton chap, and a Wigan fellow’—giving us, very unconsciously, our several ranks in the scale of gentility?

2-: In the following paragraph from The Wicklow News-Letter, and County Advertiser (Wicklow, County Wicklow, Ireland) of Saturday 14th June 1862:

Lancashire Men.—Such expressions as the following are sometimes heard—“a Liverpool gentleman,” “a Manchester man,” “a chap from Bolton,” and “a fellow from Wigan,” implying, even in the North itself, a gradation of social refinement (remarks an able writer). But I believe that in a general way, it may be safely asserted that wherever his dock, his warehouse, his mill, or his workshop, be situated—and whether he be from Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton, or Wigan—this northern individual will usually be found possessed of many of the characteristics of nature’s own true gentlemen. It is often playfully said that not one of these merchant princes ever had a grandfather, but few of them a father; and it is most true that in these hives of industry more penniless ragged lads have risen to eminence than anywhere else. But let it not be forgotten that, whatever their ancestry, such men usually turn their success to the best account, and are foremost in every good work. They may occasionally drop their h’s, and err grievously against some of the rules of the “Manual of Etiquette;” but for all that they are the best patrons of art and education, and are the most liberal supporters of every noble and philanthropic enterprise.—“North and South Again,” in the North of England Magazine.

In the following from The Westmorland Gazette, and Kendal Advertiser (Kendal, Westmorland, England) of Saturday 25th October 1851, Liverpool gentleman is used in contrast to Manchester man, and ladies and gentlemen refers to the Liverpudlians while men and women is applied to the Mancunians:


On Friday evening, Mrs. Dexter, whose name is now tolerably familiar to the public as a lecturer on the new style of ladies’ dress, known as the Bloomer costume, made her appearance before a Liverpool audience, in the Concert Hall, Lord Nelson-street. The hall was crowded in every part, and at least one-third of the audience consisted of respectable females.
At a few minutes past eight o’clock Mrs. Dexter appeared on the platform, amidst a tumult of equivocal and discordant noises […]. When silence was restored, Mrs. Dexter proceeded to say […] she had been told that in Liverpool the people were “ladies and gentlemen,” and in Manchester “men and women.” (Hear, hear). Her reply was, “Then I am sure to receive a respectful and quiet hearing in Liverpool; for, I said, in Manchester, if they be called men and women, they behaved like ladies and gentlemen.” (Hear, hear, and cry of “Gammon” from the person who was interrupting all through. This was followed by a cry from the body of the hall, “This is a Manchester man in the corner.” Great applause, and cries of “No, no.”) I do not think (continued Mrs Dexter) from the attention I received last evening, I should say that person is no Manchester man, and I am certain he is not a Liverpool gentleman. (Great applause, followed by cries of “Turn him out”).

Both Liverpool gentleman and Manchester man occur in the following from The Lancaster Guardian (Lancaster, Lancashire, England) of Saturday 29th December 1855, but, here, the scope is not limited to Lancashire:

Local Designations, Peculiarities, &c.—Every district in England is distinguished by some inherent peculiarity in persons, customs, dialects, proverbs, &c.: thus of the inhabitants of the county of York it is observed “a Yorkshireman will bite either dead or alive,” and though the natives assert, “Yorkshire, but honest,” their neighbours add an important clause thereto, “with good looking after.” Respecting the people of Derbyshire, it is affirmed in the adjoining portion of Lancashire and Cheshire that “every one coming across Whaley Bridge (the division of the counties of Chester and Derby) has hooked fingers,” i.e. he is careful and close-fisted. “A Darby is slow and easy, but goes far in a day.” Although the Cestrians pride themselves in “Cheshire, chief of men,” yet their Lancashire brethren say:
     “Cheshire bred,
      Strong i’th’ arm,
      But weak i’th’ head.”
It is often observed that Lankies (Lancashire folk) on entering a room, whether in the heat of summer or in the cold of winter, invariably rush to the fireplace. The natives of this shire pride themselves,
     “Quick at meat, and quick at work,
      For lat (slow) at eating’s good for nought.”
Whilst in other places the lords of the creation are the “London Gent,” the “Glasgow Callan,” the “Paisley Body,” &c. Lancashire denominates her sons as “Liverpool Gentleman,” “Manchester Man,” “Owdum (Oldham) Mon,” or “Owdum Chap,” “Ash’n (Ashton-under-Lyne) Fellow,” “Ratchdaw (Rochdale) Felly,” and “Bowton (Bolton) Billy.” Again many of the towns and villages confer unique appellations on their residents, as “Bolton Trotters,” “Bury Muffers,” “Gorton Bulldogs,” “Middleton Moones,” “Oldham Rough-heads,” “Rochdale Gawbies,” “Radcliff Nippers,” and such like.—Many of the towns and villages of Lancashire [and Cheshire] have been or are famous for some production or manufacture, whether edible or textile, as “Manchester cottons,” “Congleton points,” “Cheadle swingers” (a peculiar shaped coat), “Bowdon downs” (potatoes), “Warrington Ale,” “Ormskirk gingerbread,” “Everton toffy,” “Eccles cakes,” “ Stretford black puddings,” “Bury simlins” (simnels).—J. G. Bell’s Bibliographer’s Manual.

1 Historically situated in Lancashire, a county of north-western England, on the Irish Sea, Liverpool developed as a port in the 17th century with the import of cotton from America and the export of textiles produced in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and in the 18th century as an important centre of shipbuilding and engineering.
2 Historically situated in Lancashire, Manchester developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as a centre of the English cotton industry.
3 Historically situated in Lancashire, Bolton developed as a centre of textile manufacture, particularly during the Industrial Revolution.
4 Historically situated in Lancashire, Wigan developed as a centre of coal mining and textile manufacture, particularly during the Industrial Revolution.

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