“I HAVE HEARD OF THE GREATNESS OF LIVERPOOL, BUT THE REALITY FAR SURPASSES THE EXPECTATION” – Prince Albert, 1846
A perfect quote to open this post – the ‘dock’ being walked is The Royal Albert Dock, in the Northern English city of Liverpool. These words were said back in 1846, I wonder what Prince Albert would make of the dock that bears his name now, more than 170 years later?
I’m sure it’s changed considerably since the days of the Victorian era, and on this early morning walk, I wanted to see how the old has been taken care of, and how the new has been designed to complement what came before.
The dock has a colourful history, having been opened on 30th July 1846, by Prince Albert himself. Following it’s opening, it enjoyed considerable success throughout it’s early years due to it’s revolutionary design which allowed ships to load and unload directly into and out of warehouses, but within 50 years, usage declined as larger docks were needed. The dock suffered considerable damage as a result of air raids on Liverpool during the second world war, and in the post war years, with the dock’s owner’s experiencing financial difficulties, usage declined further until it was closed in 1972.
However, redevelopment of the area began in 1981 following the establishment of the Merseyside Development Corporation, and the dock was reopened in 1984.
Today, Royal Albert Dock is thriving as one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions, the buildings that once served as warehouses now play host to hotels, offices, bars, cafes, restaurants and exhibitions. The dock contains the largest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings within the country, and on top of all that, it is the perfect location to enjoy a cool early morning walk!
Sunrise over the dock
I was extremely lucky to experience an amazing Autumnal sunrise as I began my walk – the sky was perfect, generally clear, but with enough cloud to add some photographic atmosphere.
At this early hour (on a Monday morning!), the area was fairly quiet – I appeared to be one of very few people crazy enough to be wandering the pathways of the docks; my main companions being dog walkers and the occasional jogger.
The dock is home to a very popular exhibition, ‘The Beatles Story’, which I mentioned in a previous blog post about my only other trip to Liverpool, made in 2007 – Greatest Trips | Liverpool.
The docks border the famous River Mersey – the inspiration and muse for many of the city’s artists, songwriters and poets. The 1965 hit by Gerry and the Pacemakers, ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ is probably the most well known song about the River, although my personal favourite is ‘London Lady’ by The Stranglers – which despite it’s title, features a classic line about The Mersey Tunnel (well, sort of) – but as this is a family blog, please google the lyrics of this 70’s punk song, or follow the youtube link below, if you wish to know more!
The Cultural Side of the Dock
There are a number of artistic works to be seen around the area of Albert Dock, and it is also home to Tate Liverpool. The most recent outdoor sculpture to be displayed by the gallery is ‘Liverpool Mountain’ by Ugo Rondinone, which stands in Mermaid Court, just outside of The Tate. It is similar to works that he has displayed in Miami and Las Vegas.
Paying homage to a Liverpool legend of the past is this striking statue by Tom Murphy – of 60’s pop star, Billy Fury.
Offering a quite different facade to the red brick giants around the dock, is the Museum of Liverpool – which opened in 2011. In fact our main reason for taking this trip was to visit the museum, as it is currently hosting an exhibition called ‘Double Fantasy’. Curated by Yoko Ono, it contains a wonderful insight to her public and private relationship with John Lennon. More about the exhibition, and other Beatles related aspects of our trip in my next blog post!
After some 2 hours walking in the cold morning air, it was time to return to the comfort and warmth of the nearby Hilton Hotel, and a welcoming ‘full English’! We still had more to see and do in this amazing city, but this walk had been a great start to the day, and one that will live long in my memory. I’m pretty sure Prince Albert would be proud of what has become of his dock.