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Albert Dock Liverpool

Liverpool history: The rise and fall of Albert Dock

One of the best spots to eat, drink and shop is Liverpool’s famous Albert Dock. But do you know the story behind it?

If you’re visiting Liverpool, you can’t miss Albert Dock, one of the city’s most beloved hangouts. Located on the Liverpool waterfront, Albert Dock is a historic a complex of piers and warehouses. Today, you’ll find the legendary music museum ‘The Beatles Story’, dedicated to all things Beatles, as well as the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Tate Liverpool. Albert Dock is also a night-time hotspot with restaurants, bars, pubs and shops. But before you visit, let’s learn a little about the Albert Dock history.
A 19th century marvel
Designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick, Albert Dock took five years to build, with construction starting in 1841 and an official opening on 30th July 1846. Considered even today to be an engineering innovation, it was the first non-combustible dock system warehouse in the world that was built without using wood. Completely fire-proof, it was the first structure in Britain to be built from cast iron, brick and stone. Albert Dock was designed to accommodate sailing ships and had a revolutionary system where ships could be loaded and unloaded directly at the warehouses. This also meant the dock was more secure than other docks in Liverpool and it became a favourite place to store precious cargo, such as brandy, cotton, tea, silk and tobacco. However, Albert Dock’s popularity didn’t last.
The Dock in decline
Within 20 years of its opening, Albert Dock had started to struggle. Originally designed for sailing ships, the times had changed and steam ships became the new way to transport goods. By the beginning of the 20th century, nearly all commercial shipping activity had stopped, although its warehouses continued to be used for storage. When World War II came in 1939, Albert Dock found a new use – a base for the British Atlantic fleet with vessels such as submarines, small warships and landing craft. Albert Dock fared badly during the war and was bombed several times, the worst of which was in the 1941 May Blitz where German planes caused extensive damage. At the end of the war, Albert Dock had lost 14% of its floor space. Over the post-war years, Albert Dock remained unrepaired and unused. In 1972, Albert Dock was finally closed.
Good news on the way
However, that wasn’t the end of Albert Dock. In 1982, plans began to revive the dock and restore it to its former glory. The warehouses were renovated and the damage from the bombings was repaired. Two years later, work was completed in time for the 1984 Cutty Sark Tall Ship Race (which brought 160,000 visitors to the Albert Dock) and the International Garden Festival. In 1986, the Merseyside Maritime Museum relocated to Albert Dock and sales on apartments, offices and shops skyrocketed. In 1990, the city’s only Beatles-themed attraction, The Beatles Story Museum opened just over the water to the Maritime Museum, cementing Albert Dock’s place as one of the most visited attractions in Liverpool.
Moving forward
Fast forward 30 years and Albert Dock is Liverpool’s most important tourist hotspot, welcoming over four million visitors every year. Today, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Tate Liverpool and The Beatles Story still call Albert Dock home, as well as plenty of waterfront restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, all which cater to every budget and taste. There are also several Liverpool hotels near Albert Dock, such as the Hotel Ibis Liverpool Centre Albert Dock, located just over the road.
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