Manchester Dock, Liverpool

aerial view of a large excavated site

Aerial view shows the entrance lock of the Manchester Dock under excavation in 2007

In 2007 the Museum of Liverpool archaeology department undertook an archaeological watching brief on the site of the new Museum of Liverpool at Mann Island, Liverpool. The footprint of the museum building occupies part of the site of the former Manchester Dock and the southern edge of Chester Basin. 

Documentary and map evidence shows that the area contained part of Manchester Dock, including part of the entrance lock, and the southern wall of the Chester Basin. Manchester Dock was constructed as a tidal basin in 1785 with the entrance lock added in the early 1800s. Chester Basin was constructed in 1795 but remained a tidal basin and was never converted to an enclosed dock. 

large excavated site

The earliest archaeological deposits related to the infill and consolidation of reclaimed land in the late 18th century. A north-south aligned wall about two metres thick and extending the full length of the excavation probably represented the waterfront constructed between 1796 and 1803. The area adjacent to this wall had been infilled to create quayside land. The infilling was done with a wide range of material, principally sands and gravels probably derived from dredging the river, and substantial dumps of pottery manufactured in Liverpool and Staffordshire including a large group of sugar moulds, as well as the first archaeological evidence for the manufacture of clay tobacco pipes in Liverpool. Other finds included small and easily lost objects, small personal items such as buttons, a few coins and tokens, beads. 

Select the images below to see some of the finds. You can see selected finds in a spotlight display about the Manchester Dock excavation in the History Detectives gallery at the Museum of Liverpool.

Tidal gauge set within dock wall. This object is now on display in the History Detectives gallery in the Museum of Liverpool. Transfer-printed ceramic jug. Glass bottles can be dated from the shapes of the lips and string rims below. Highly decorative moulded 19th century clay tobacco pipe bowl. Insignia of George III were present on several scratch-blue vessels including tankards and chamber pots. These items were for export to America just after independence. Some types of ceramics were found in great quantities, including these decorated 'dipped earthernwares'. Ceramic whistles Some of the Staffordshire ceramics found at the Manchester Dock in Liverpool were made to replicate Chinese styles. Slipware cup

Further information