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Liverpool ONE Underground Attraction Booms-Visitors flock to Old Dock
A Prospect of Liverpool, about 1725. Oil painting by an unknown artist. The Old Dock is bottom right, behind the bridge. © National Museums Liverpool.
LIVERPOOL.- More than 1,000 visitors have toured Liverpool’s revolutionary Old Dock just one month after opening as the city’s latest historic attraction.

They have been able to soak in the atmosphere of the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock which was the birthplace of modern Liverpool. Ships from many parts of the world tied up at the quayside following the dock’s opening in 1715.

Free ticketed tours for schools and members of the public started from Merseyside Maritime Museum on 4 May 2010. Visiting schools receive a free Old Dock resource pack of lesson plans and activity ideas.

Three public tours are held every Tuesday at 1100, 1300 and 1430 hours with school tours on Wednesdays. The Tuesday tours are now fully booked until September.

During the summer holidays there are public tours at 1100 and 1300 hours on Wednesdays 4, 11, 18 and 25 August 2010. These are rapidly filling up.

Visitor host Yazz Vanducci says: “The tours have been a big hit with visitors fascinated by the dock and its history. There’s a great wow factor when they see this unique survival of old Liverpool.”

Chris Bliss, Liverpool ONE’s estate director, says: “Grosvenor incorporated the Old Dock into the design of Liverpool ONE and developed the visitor facility being run by National Museums Liverpool. We are delighted with the public response to the tours.”

The internationally-important Old Dock has been carefully preserved under the new Liverpool ONE. For the first time in centuries the bed of the Pool – the creek that gave Liverpool its name - can be seen.

The Old Dock was discovered during excavations in 2001 after being buried since 1826. Developers made it publicly accessible as an important reminder of Liverpool’s historic status.

Guided tours organised by National Museums Liverpool start at the Merseyside Maritime Museum and visitors walk to the nearby Old Dock. Schools and members of the public can book places, which are limited, by calling 0151 478 4296.

Visitors are taken back in time as they see a large portion of the Old Dock rising more than 20 feet from the bed of the Pool which is clearly visible. The impressive walls are made from hand-made bricks.

A modern bridge and walkways give grandstand views. There is a bricked-up ancient tunnel in the dock wall. This is believed to be hundreds of years older than the Old Dock and may have linked Liverpool Castle with the Pool.

When built, the Old Dock was a huge risk but it paid off handsomely, paving the way to many decades of dock expansion on both sides of the river. It was one of Liverpool’s greatest contributions to progress in world trade and commerce.

The impact of this radical structure was immense and London, Bristol and Chester lost significant amounts of trade throughout the 18th century as a result.

The Old Dock was constructed at the mouth of the Pool which had been at the heart of the town’s successes but, with increasing numbers of ships using the port, it was struggling to cope.

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 – 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.

Among the first to praise the dock was Daniel Defoe, author of many best sellers including Robinson Crusoe, who wrote in 1715: “This is of so great a benefit and its like is not to be seen anywhere in England”.

Liverpool ONE Underground | Chris Bliss | National Museums Liverpool |

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