I’ve been to the Old Docks Experience a few years ago, in 2013. I shared a few pictures, but not a lot of details. After 5 years, and a lot of history related TV shows and books, I was ready to go on the Old Docks Experience tour again. I took advantage of the last time I was in the city centre to book a tour for my husband and I.
The guided tour lasts for about an hour and it’s free (donations welcomed, of course). I think it’s a must see for both people only on a short holiday in Liverpool and for Liverpudlians. Tours can be booked in advance, details here.
The tour starts in the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It’s one of the five museums on the docks. There were two guides and they were speaking in turns, asking questions. It was interactive and interesting. They talked a bit about the history of the docks and of Liverpool. After that we went towards the Old docks.
Liverpool city centre with the well known L1 shopping centre has a lovely architecture. What we didn’t know (or we forgot from the last tour) is that there are many design features that represent a part of Liverpool’s history. Here, in front of Hilton Hotel, the dark tiles represent where the Mersey would have been before the building of the docks. It’s unbelievable how much the landscape has changed in a couple of hundred years.
This is only a tiny part of the old docks. The first wet dock in the world, a marvel of its day. The dock that made possible trade with the Americas, Africa, and other parts of the world. From here goods were loaded to be shipped to Africa, where slaves would have been bought as a commodity. They would have been transported into Americas and the Caribbeans. With the money from slavery, other commodities would have been bought to be brought back to the Kingdom, like sugar.
The part we can see is 1/20 from the dock. The costs of excavating more, while making safe the shops above, makes it almost impossible. The bit that is now open to the public came with a price tag of £20 millions.
I don’t want to go into many details, as I don’t want to spoil the fun for anybody wanting to go on the tour.
The wall below is from a secret passage to Liverpool castle. It would have been used only in times of siege, as the tide wouldn’t have allowed regular use of the tunnel. It was a discovery they didn’t expect to find. How amazing it is, to find that small piece of a fascinating and intriguing past.
A wooden beam used to be there and there is still a small bit left.
The walls were made with bricks, as it was cheaper to build instead of stone. But bricks aren’t that resistant and some safety features were needed to protect the wall from damage caused by the ships docking. It’s quite interesting the things they came up with to make the walls secure.
These are a few artifacts found during the excavation.
Before going into the docks, we were told about some of the features from outside. So, after the tour, I went to take some pictures. Hutchinson made tidal recordings for decades, twice a day, each day. Hence he could predict correctly when the tide would rise, a very important thing to know for traders. His recordings were used until the 1970s. It’s just amazing.
The water feature has a lovely meaning too. I remembered this from the last tour. It represents the liver pool, the Irish coast, and the flow of water.
The big round pool represents the liver pool, from where Liverpool gets its name.
This is the viewing point of the docks. From inside it gives you the direction of what is outside and where exactly you are. Many people stop and look through the viewpoint, but most days you can’t see anything from outside.
I enjoyed the Old docks experience a lot. It’s worth the visit.
The Old Docks Experience tours are organized by the National Museums Liverpool. It starts at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Merseyside Maritime Museum is on Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AQ.