Old Dock Experience opening in Liverpool One

Michael Hunt

Grosvenor and Oxford Archaeology North will be opening the world's first commercial enclosed wet dock to the public in May.

Prior to the new tourist attraction opening to the public, known as the Old Dock Experience, partners involved in the preservation of the Old Dock, and the development of the interpretation centre, will celebrate the completion of a visitor facility this Friday.

The visitor facility can be accessed in Thomas Steers Way, which is a large cavern consisting of a small exhibition room including pre-recorded documentaries and storyboards, the exposed Old Dock, walkways, and a large screen showing a reconstruction of the dock with a sailing ship (as shown in the main picture).

The dock has been carefully preserved under Grosvenor's £1bn Liverpool One redevelopment and was discovered during excavations in 2001 after being buried since 1826.

Chris Bliss, Liverpool One's estate director, said: "Working with Oxford Archaeology North who undertook the initial excavations in 2001, Grosvenor has incorporated the Old Dock into the design of Liverpool One and has developed a visitor facility which will be run by National Museums Liverpool.

"The driving force throughout the whole process, Grosvenor funded the interpretation centre up to the completion of the building and with support received from Liverpool Vision, the funding for the fit out of the exhibition space and also the design and production of the exhibition was kindly provided by the North West Development Agency."

Old Dock bridgeA bridge and walkways are being incorporated to give views of the Old Dock. There is also a bricked-up ancient tunnel in the dock wall, which is believed to be hundreds of years older than the old dock.

The Old Dock was built on the River Mersey in Liverpool from 1709 and completed in 1715, by enlarging a previous natural tidal creek, known as the 'Pool' that Liverpool was named after.

National Museums Liverpool said that when the dock was originally built it was a huge risk but it paid off handsomely, paving the way to many decades of dock expansion on both sides of the river.

NML said that the impact of the structure was immense and London, Bristol and Chester lost significant amounts of trade throughout the 18th century as a result.

In 1708 the merchants who controlled Liverpool Corporation employed Thomas Steers, one of Britain's leading canal engineers, to find a solution.

He converted the mouth of the Pool into a dock with quaysides and a river gate. It was now possible for ships to load and unload whatever the state of the tide, which was then a revolutionary facility.

The dock was technically very difficult to build and cost £12,000, double its original estimate. The corporation was nearly bankrupted but its success encouraged further rapid increases in overseas trade through Liverpool.

The private event on Friday 26 March will be held at Café Sports Express on Thomas Steers Way and will commence at 3pm.

Jamie Quartermaine from Oxford Archaeology North is delivering a short presentation on the history of the Old Dock.

Public tours start on Tuesday 4 May this year, followed by school tours on Wednesday 5 May. NML said public tours will be held every Tuesday and school tours every Wednesday. Additional public tours may be held on a Wednesday during school holidays.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

Would it really be so hard for this to be open to the public every day, instead of the one day being proposed ? I guess it is going to be tough luck for any visitors to the city with an interest in the subject who don’t happen to be around on a Tuesday.

By Sam Richards

fantasic that the dock can now by viewed by the public albeit one one day per week ,it deserves to open more than on day a week to the public, it was this dock that kick started the growth of one of the great cities of the world, tourist’s need to be shown this place and explained to how we began as a trading city of world reknown

By Arthur

I would like to say yes it is to difficult to open on more than one day a week as the people from NML who conduct the tours, also have other jobs involving visitors during the week.

By David

I agree it’s a great shame that the dock is to be open only on one day each week. This is especially a problem for tourists to the city as the tours are fully booked until June. No chance then for the day visitor or holiday maker. However, the fact that the tours are free is very laudible.

By Pejay