Central Liverpool
Vauxhall and the North Docks
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Last updated 18th April 2013
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The Mersey Estuary and the North Docks from the West Tower
The north docks, from left to right Princes Dock, Princes Half Tide Dock, West Waterloo Dock and East Waterloo Dock. This and the other aerial views were taken from the Panoramic Restaurant in the West Tower.
 
The Waterloo Dock System
The Waterloo Grain Warehouse of 1866-8 by G.F. Lyster is featured in the centre of this view. This and the Waterloo Docks to the left constituted the world's first bulk American grain handling facility. The surviving warehouse, originally the easternmost of three such, has been converted to apartments. At the top of the view is the Victoria clock tower and towards the top right one of the huge ventilation towers for the Wallasey road tunnel.
 
The Stanley Dock Area
The huge building right of centre here is the Tobacco Bonded Warehouse. Along the waterfront from the left are Trafalgar Dock, Salisbury Dock, Nelson Dock, Bramley Moore Dock and Sandon Half Tide Dock. Inland from Salisbury Dock is Collingwood Dock, with Stanley Dock behind the Tobacco Warehouse. Seaforth container port is in the distance.
 
The Waterloo Grain Warehouse from the River  
Leeds and Liverpool Canal Locks at Stanley Dock
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal terminates in a series of four locks, designed by Jesse Hartley, at Stanley Dock. At 126 miles (203 km), it is the longest canal in northern England. Parts of the canal date from 1774, but this final section was not completed until 1848. The railway bridge is of the same date. Commercial traffic ceased in 1964, but the canal is now used extensively for leisure pursuits. The towpath from Aintree into Liverpool is well-maintained throughout its 9 miles (14 km) and makes an interesting and peaceful, if tortuous, walk or cycle ride through the northern conurbation.
Stanley Dock
The Stanley Dock warehouses, designed, like the Albert Dock warehouses, by Jesse Hartley, were opened in 1856. What a contrast, though, here in the north docks, where the site, though a conservation area, is derelict. For the time being, not a smart boutique or gift shop (or, come to that, human being) in sight. Never mind, it is far more atmospheric in its way ('easily the most impressive and the most evocatively derelict dock in Liverpool', according to the Pevsner Guide). The warehouse on the south side of the dock was demolished and the dock partly filled in in 1901 to make way for the huge Tobacco Bonded Warehouse. The area has recently beeen subject to a 130m redevelopment with the north warehouse becoming a 4-star hotel. The next phase, now (2017) underway, will include renovating the Tobacco Bonded Warehouse, creating apartments, bars and shops, and removing the centre of the building to create a garden courtyard.
The North Docks in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England (1848)
The Prince's dock, constructed under an act passed in the 51st of George III, was opened with great ceremony on the 19th of July, 1821, the day of the coronation of George IV.; it is 500 yards in length, and 106 in breadth. On the north is a spacious basin belonging to it, and on the south it communicates with the basin of George's dock: at the north end is a handsome dwelling-house for the dock-master, with suitable offices; and at the south end a house in which the master of George's dock resides. Spacious sheds called 'transit sheds' have been recently built on the west quay, into which a ship may discharge her cargo immediately on her arrival, under the surveillance of the custom-house officers, the goods to be afterwards distributed to the different owners: by this convenience, much delay is avoided. Northward of the basin belonging to this dock are three docks called the Waterloo, the Victoria, and the Trafalgar; the first was opened in 1834, and the two others in 1836: the Trafalgar dock is principally used for steam-vessels. Still further in the same direction are the Clarence dock and half-tide basin, completed in 1830, and appropriated solely to steam-vessels frequenting the port; also two capacious graving docks. Beyond these graving docks, a vast accession of accommodation is now in course of construction, under the provisions of an act passed in the 8th Victoria, consisting of eight separate docks and six graving docks, the former having an aggregate water area of above 60 acres, and quay space measuring 3 miles and 257 yards in length. These splendid docks will be capable of admitting steamers of the largest class, and will communicate, by a series of locks, with the Leeds canal, an improvement of the greatest importance.
Stanley Dock Lift Bridge and Hydraulic Tower
The octagonal hydraulic tower and pumphouse used to provide power for lifting devices, capstans, locks, bridges and tobacco presses. Hartley's frequent use of turrets, arrow slits and other trappings of the mediaeval castle for such buildings was intended to reinforce the impression of impregnability.
Victoria Tower and Stanley Dock Lift Bridge
The hexagonal, castellated Victoria Tower, designed by Jesse Hartley and completed in 1848, is a clock (one per face) and bell tower that used to give time to neighbouring docks and passing ships and ring out high tide and warnings. It also provided a flat for the piermaster. It is seen here from the Stanley Dock lift bridge across Collingwood and Salisbury Docks.
The Dock Wall and Entrance Gates
The docks in this area were all built by Hartley between 1844 and 1858. The massive Dock Wall is of an extraordinarily intricate stone construction, reminiscent of dry stone walling in its dovetailing of irregular blocks. The periodic dock gates with their castellated gatepiers were intended to give the impression of impregnability and hence deter pilferers (not always successfully, according to local folklore).
Hydraulic Accumulator Tower
This structure at Bramley-Moore Dock, now derelict, was once used to provide hydraulic power to drive machinery. A heavy atmosphere of decay still broods over much of the North Dock area.
The Tobacco Bonded Warehouse
The vast Tobacco Bonded Warehouse of 1901 by A.G. Lyster is 12 storeys high and, with 27 million bricks, it is reputed to be the largest brick building in the world. The narrow passage between it and the adjacent warehouse, where the wind howls and the sun rarely shines, was nicknamed Pneumonia Alley.
The Stanley Dock and Tobacco Warehouses
The newly refurbished Stanley Dock Warehouse with work underway on the Tobacco Warehouse (2017).
 
The Victoria Tower and Collingwood Dock  
Bathing from Sandhills to Bootle in Recollections of Old Liverpool (1863), an anonymous author recalling the mid-18th century
For a mile or more [north of the Pier Head] there was good bathing on the shore. The bathing machines were introduced about the end of the last [18th] century. [...] At that time Bootle and Bootle Marshes were wild places, the roads execrable, and as for frogs (Bootle organs), the noise they made at night was wonderful. I recollect all the docks and streets from Bath Street downwards being sand-hills and salt-marshes. [...] Bathers used to be seen in any number on the shore. Decency was so frequently outraged that the authorities were at last compelled to take steps to redress the grievance.
The Bonded Tea Warehouse
Originally the Clarence Warehouses, this was Liverpool's largest warehouse when constructed in 1844. This and the Tobacco Warehouse form the last significant remnant of what was once the characteristic landscape of the dock hinterland.
 
LINKS
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal at penninewaterways.co.uk
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal
The Stanley Dock Conservation Area and its architecture at liverpoolworldheritage.com
Stanley Dock at Open Buildings
The Tobacco Warehouse at Open Buildings
Canalside Park at liverpool.gov.uk
Tourism in Vauxhall
Old photos at Liverpool Picturebook