Tours of Liverpool's Old Dock

old brick wall in an underground cavern, with viewing platform

Free tours of Liverpool's revolutionary Old Dock - the world's first commercial enclosed wet dock - are now available and can be booked from Merseyside Maritime Museum.

A Tripadvisor top tip

The Old Dock tours are rated one of the top three fun things to do in Liverpool on Tripadvisor.|

our friendly tour guides, in Liverpool's Old Dock

The internationally-important Old Dock has been carefully preserved under Liverpool One|. For the first time in centuries the bed of the Pool - the creek that gave Liverpool its name - can be seen.

The Old Dock was discovered during excavations in 2001 after being buried since 1826. Developers Grosvenor preserved the dock and have made it publicly accessible as an important reminder of Liverpool's historic status.

Booking information

Public tours are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10.30am, 11.30am and 2.30pm

All tours are free but places are limited so booking is essential - call 0151 478 4499 to reserve your place.

If you are booking for a school group or an adult group (such as an arts or community club) please call our group bookings| team on 0151 478 4788.

Tour details

Guided tours organised by National Museums Liverpool start at the Merseyside Maritime Museum and visitors walk to the nearby Old Dock.

On the tour visitors are taken back in time as they see a large portion of the Old Dock rising more than 20 feet from the bed of the Pool which is clearly visible. The impressive walls are made from hand-made bricks.

A modern bridge and walkways give grandstand views. There is a bricked-up ancient tunnel in the dock wall. This is believed to be hundreds of years older than the Old Dock and may have linked Liverpool Castle with the Pool.

History of the Old Dock

When built, the Old Dock was a huge risk but it paid off handsomely, paving the way to many decades of dock expansion on both sides of the river. It was one of Liverpool's greatest contributions to progress in world trade and commerce.

The impact of this radical structure was immense and London, Bristol and Chester lost significant amounts of trade throughout the 18th century as a result.

The Old Dock was constructed in 1715 at the mouth of the Pool which had been at the heart of the town's successes but, with increasing numbers of ships using the port, it was struggling to cope.

In 1708 the merchants who controlled Liverpool Corporation employed Thomas Steers, one of Britain's leading canal engineers, to find a solution.

He converted the mouth of the Pool into a dock with quaysides and a river gate. It was now possible for ships to load and unload whatever the state of the tide - a revolutionary facility.

The dock was technically very difficult to build and cost £12,000, double its original estimate. The Corporation was nearly bankrupted but its success encouraged further rapid increases in overseas trade through Liverpool.

Among the first to praise the dock was Daniel Defoe, author of many best sellers including Robinson Crusoe, who wrote in 1715:

"This is of so great a benefit and its like is not to be seen anywhere in England".

Excavations

Chris Bliss, Liverpool One's estate director, says:

"Working with Oxford Archaeology North who undertook the initial excavations in 2001, Grosvenor has incorporated the Old Dock into the design of Liverpool One and has developed a visitor facility which is run by National Museums Liverpool.

The driving force throughout the whole process, Grosvenor funded the interpretation centre up to the completion of the building and with support received from Liverpool Vision, the funding for the fit out of the exhibition space and also the design and production of the exhibition was kindly provided by the North West Development Agency."