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Southport and  Mersey Reporter -  Your free online newspaper service covering the Merseyside region - (Greater Liverpool).
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Issue:- 10 July 2014

...continued... Now, we're going to fast forward to the latter stages of the 19th century, where the Dock was in a state of disrepair. It was more or less deserted, having suffered a serious decline. At this point, the only cargo that was being transported through Liverpool was salt, there was absolutely nothing else passing through the Docks. Following Queen Victoria's death, the initial plan was to have the warehouses demolished, and to merge both Albert and Salthouse Docks to form a 'branch' dock system, that would handle cargo liners. However, following the initial idea, nothing was made of it, and it was pursued no further.

The Dock's mediocrity was not helped at all by the 2nd World War, with the May Blitz of 1941 annihilating in excess of 14% of the Dock's main floor space, and putting it out of action. This damage also proved, after the War, how low the Dock's importance has sunk in the eyes of the Dock Board, who actually opted against repairing the worst of the bomb damage, instead leaving the Dock looking even more dilapidated.

Come the mid 1960's, the Dock's owners were completely out of pocket, and were looking to get rid of the Dock's to get it off their hands, because they saw no future in it. A few years later, things got even worse for the Dock, as things became so bad, that the Dock Board made the decision to shut down the entire South Docks, and sell off the land there. Of course, by the time this decision was made, there was absolutely nothing left.

In September 1972, the Albert Dock was officially closed.

The early 1970's, following the Dock's closure, brought about a plethora of money making schemes, with people wanting to use the land to peruse these ideas… as well as Liverpool City Council; who wanted to use the land for landfill! One such idea came from a company called Pavilion Recreation Ltd, that's' proposal, as leisure and retail development, including a Tesco superstore, was taken into consideration. The new Merseyside County Council came along in 1974, and entered into years of negotiation regarding the Docks with the Dock Board, who seemingly relinquished ownership 5 years later, in August 1979.

Things, however, were not as they seemed. It turned out that the Dock Company were also holding talks with another company. If this wasn't enough of a snag, Liverpool City Council was trying its hardest to scupper Merseyside County Council's bid for the land, as they did not like them at all. To add to the chaos, a man called Michael Heseltine announced on 14 September 1979, that his new group, Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC,) were going to take over the 865 derelict areas of the Dock, and beyond. In 1981, the Docks were finally starting to crawl out of the sludge filled cesspit it had become over its' period of neglect, with MDC planning to get rid of the astonishing 40 feet of sludge that had accumulated over time. The older buildings were being either refurbished or removed; none of the old dereliction of the Dock was to be left by MDC. Half of the 200 buildings in the area were, indeed, removed.

With Merseyside County Council having already staked their claim, having introduced its' Maritime Museum in 1980 (which, to this day, is still available to see for visitors to the Docks!) and Arrowcroft, a London based property developers, showing a keen interest in the Docks, things were finally moving in the right direction. Things got even better in 1982, when talks between both MDC and Arrowcroft commenced, and by September 1983, an agreement between the two was finally in place.

When work was started on the Docks, it was a race to have it ready in time for the Summer's International Garden Festival. Over the course of 4 days in August 1984, a huge crowd of over 160,000 people flooded into the Docks for the International Tall Ships Race, and were able to enjoy the new shops, stroll around the Maritime Museum, and marvel at the ships which adorned the Albert Dock! This drastic boost in popularity spurred MDC on, to make the Docks a very tourism-based area; an idea that proved very popular to this day.

March 1985 brought along the idea of Tate Liverpool, the very start of the magnificent Albert Dock that thousands of people see today. In 1988, it was officially opened by Prince Charles and, by the time its' multi-million pound extension was opened a decade later, had exceeded all expectation, by garnering over 5 million visitors. Since then, there have been some other tourist hotspots that have been opened, including The Beatles Story Museum in 1990, and a steady stream of food and drink establishments over the years. Today's Albert Dock is currently worth more than £230 million.

For more information on the Albert Dock and its attractions, visit:-

References books:-

The Albert Dock And Liverpool's Historic Waterfront, W.R Cockcroft, Print Organisation, 1994, ISBN:- 0 903348 48 9

The Albert Dock Liverpool, Ron Jones, Ron Jones Associates Limited, 2004, ISBN:- 0-9511703-4-1

Mersey Ports Liverpool and Birkenhead, Ian Collard, Tempus Publishing Limited, 2001, ISBN:- 0 7524 21107

Check out our History Pages on our hub website Mersey reporter for lots more information about our regions historical legacy.

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