Metropolitan county (pop., 2001: 1,362,034), northwestern England. Located on the estuary of the River Mersey, it comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St. Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool. The areas to the north of the Mersey, including Liverpool, form part of the historic county of Lancashire, while the borough of Wirral to the south belongs to the historic county of Cheshire. In 1986 it lost its administrative functions, which it held from 1974, and it is now a geographic and ceremonial county without administrative authority. During the 17th century many ships sailing from Liverpool, its main harbour, were engaged in the West Indies slave trade. In the 19th century the area benefited from U.S. cotton imports. Merseyside residents possess a distinctive local dialect, scouse, that provides the region with a strong identity. It was bombed heavily during World War II. It is famous for its contributions to national popular culture, from the Beatles to its football teams and its noted golf links.