Manchester Dock Uncovered – In Liverpool!

manc-dock-1.jpg manc-dock-2.jpg

Archaeological project exposes Liverpool’s industrial heritage

We had a fascinating tour of the site for the new Liverpool Museum today. work started a few weeks ago on stripping off the old car park tarmac and carrying out a full archaeological survey of the area.
A viewing platform has been built on the promenade for passers-by to take a look through the railings but we were able to get up close as Mark Adams and Rob Philpott, National Museums Liverpool archaeologists explained what its all about.
Pictured here are the lock gates and below you can see the tide gauge reaching up to 20 feet and a dig uncovering various finds from Liverpool’s industrial past.

Although Manchester Basin was originally constructed in the 1780s as a tidal basin for river traffic, the dock visible today was created by the addition of an entrance lock around 1810 to 1815. The dock was in use until the 1920s when it was filled in, using rubble from the construction of the Mersey Tunnel. The dock was originally used as a depot for barges belonging to the Shropshire Union Canal Company and later the Great Western Railway. In the 19th century it played an important role in Liverpool’s import and export trade – handling coal and manufactured goods out and corn and cotton in to the city.

Manchester Dock lock is now one of the earliest surviving entrance lock in the Liverpool docks complex, other examples of late 18th and early 19th century locks having either being extensively modified or destroyed.

The excavation has uncovered the early 19th century lock, as well as the outline of the western part of the sandstone wall of the Manchester Dock, which has evidence of mason’s marks on individual blocks reflecting the construction method of the dock. The wooden lock gates, made from what is thought to be a tropical hardwood, have survived and are visible.

Any finds recovered during the archaeological dig will eventually form part of displays in one of the museum’s key galleries Port City, which will explore Liverpool’s role as a port city and the development of its architecture, infrastructure, people and commerce. It will follow the story of the industrial revolution, the development of the dock system and the people living and working underneath the rails of the Overhead Railway.

For up to date information on the dig or Museum of Liverpool visit

manc-dock-3.jpg manc-dock-4.jpg


  1. Thanks for the detailed explanation of the “dig” at Mann Island with detailed images of the old Manchester Dock. It’s a fascinating subject but sadly all will no doubt be lost when building works commence on the Liverpool Museum site. Or am I mistaken?

  2. Certainly almost all will be covered by the new museum but I heard there was some discussion with the architects about including some sort of small glass panel in part of the floor to view part of the area below. I don’t know what the outcome was.
    Some of the finds will eventually be on show in the museum.

  3. Congratulations on a fascinating account of the dig, which I am following with interest. Would the dock gates have been operated by hydraulics, or by capstan? Is the dig going to continue until the bottom is reached? There must be some fascinating bits of debris down there!

  4. The Manchester Dock has now been virtually destroyed to make way for the foundations of the new museum. The remaining section of the Chester Basin is now completely destroyed. Unfortunately due to the fact that the new museum is well behind its original schedule and there probably isn’t enough money to complete the existing project, this important and tangible piece of Liverpool’s heritage is now another victim of corporate vandalism. Where are English Heritage in all of this? Very firmly on the sidelines. Although an application was made to preserve the Manchester Dock and incorporate it into the new museum, English Heritage chose not to ‘rock the boat’ and now there is practically nothing left to list. Go and take a last look at the ruins before they disappear under the ugliest building to grace the dock frontage.

  5. I disagree. I think the new development looks and will be fantastic.
    Have you seen the photos above? The dock is a hole in the ground with a few bits of wood and bricks! What do you want to preserve that for. Its mildly interesting from a historical point of view I suppose but its all documented now.
    Are you saying we should never ever get rid of anything that’s old just because its old and never build anything new? How boring.

  6. I think one has to question the mental state of someone who is excited by a white concrete block and would probably describe Hadrian’s wall as a pile of old bricks spoiling the view of the countryside. I personally have always believed that the new should have some respect for the old and developers should not be allowed to sweep everything old away in the name of progress. It is unfortunate that Ian’s attitude is the one that has normally prevailed and consequently why most of this nation’s architectural heritage no longer exists. Lets hope Ian, that future generations agree with your point of view, that as long as we have a picture of it, we can get rid of it.

  7. Well, obviously I could throw the mental state accusation straight back at you but there’s no need for such personal attacks. Yes I like new stuff but I’m not as extreme as you suggest I just question this idea that we have to preserve absolutely everything. Especially when its used as an excuse to try and stop a new build because you don’t like the look of it.

    If they had just stuck the new museum on top of the car park which has covered the old dock for many years without uncovering it first then very few people around here would even have known about it. Would we have really been so much the poorer in our ignorance? We’ve lived quite happily all this time without being able to see this wonderful old dock and now at least we’ve had a glimpse of it


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here