2013 is the 25th birthday of the Albert Dock as we know it today, marking the anniversary of its reopening after complete regeneration in 1988 – but its history dates back over 170 years to 1839, when engineer and architect Jesse Hartley submitted plans to the Liverpool Dock Office. The vast 1.25 million square feet site took five years to build, starting in 1841, and was officially opened by Prince Albert on 30 July 1846. Its lofty colonnades and statuesque columns now make up the largest group group of Grade 1 listed buildings in the country.
Its creation is a testament to innovation and engineering feats: before the Albert Dock, the wooden warehouses of the time made fires a huge risk – the Dock was the first enclosed, non-combustible dock warehouse system in the world, and the first structure in Britain to be built entirely of cast iron, brick and stone. It gained its third ‘first’ in 1848, when the world’s first hydraulic warehouse hoists were installed.
Despite its achievements, the innovations were short-lived. The Dock was built to accommodate sailing ships with a cargo capacity of up to 1,000 tons, but, by the turn of the twentieth century – barely 50 years after its completion – only 7% of ships using the port were sailing ships. Its days were numbered, and the Albert Dock was finally closed in 1972.
The docks silted up and the mighty warehouses fell derelict before the Albert Dock’s owner, Arrowcroft Group, completed its refurbishment through its subsidiary, the Albert Dock Co Ltd. Planning began in 1982, work started in 1983 and the first phase was opened in 1984 in time for the arrival of the Tall Ships Race and the International Garden Festival.
Today’s Dock was officially re-opened by HRH Prince Charles on 24 May 1988, and the Albert Dock has gone on to win a string of awards and accolades, both as an area, and through the quality and diversity of our tenants.
Image courtesy of the National Trust.
For more information visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.