Royal Albert Dock is the most iconic harbour on Liverpool’s Waterfront, boasting a rich history and multiple attractions for visitors.
Royal Albert Dock history
Liverpool’s docks dominated global trade by the late 18th and early 19th century. During much of the 18th century Liverpool was Britain’s main slaving port. Between 1700 and 1807, ships from Liverpool carried about 1.5 million Africans across the Atlantic in conditions of great cruelty.
The sugar, rum, tobacco that was produced in the Americas was transported and stored in the large warehouses located on Liverpool’s Waterfront such as those that can be seen all around Albert Dock to this day.
Royal Albert Dock itself, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick, was only oficially opened in 1846, by HRH Prince Albert himself. The Dock was extremely innovative at the time in that it changed the way the docks worked in Liverpool forever.
Its warehouses were fireproof and secure; traders could do deals before their import taxes were due and hydraulic cranes hauled heavy cargoes across the flagstones. With vast warehouses built directly on its quaysides to securely store goods arriving from across the globe, the speed with which ships unloaded and turned around was cut in half.
The coming of steamships meant that many vessels were simply too big to sail in and out of the Albert Dock. However, during the Second World War, the Dock again became a hive of activity on the Mersey. It teemed with hundreds of small warships, submarines, landing craft and merchant ships. At no time in its history had so many ships berthed at Albert Dock.
The bustling docks and their prized cargoes soon became a target for German bombers. Royal Albert Dock was battered with during the 1941 Blitz as the German Air Force looked to impede and demobilise Britain’s war effort.
Albert Dock today
To this day the Mersey continues to play a central role in the city of Liverpool’s cultural life, with the Dock an integral part of the city’s World Heritage waterfront.
Royal Albert Dock is a prime location to visit whilst in Liverpool, with so many attractions on offer. Visitors can take advantage of the impressive retail and leisure offering at the Dock, as well as multiple historical museums such as the International Slavery Museum, Beatles Museum and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Art lovers will also find much to be enamoured by with Tate Liverpool Art Gallery located quayside and multiple sculptures situated around the dock.
There are multiple restaurants and bars by the dock, with a variety of styles and cuisines on offer.
Getting to Royal Albert Dock
Royal Albert Dock and cannot be missed when arriving at Liverpool’s Waterfront. The site is roughly a 15-minute walk from Liverpool Central Station. There is also a very conveniently placed car park, on the Britannia side of the Dock.
The area is named after three docks – the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock. They are more correctly called the Royal Group of Docks to distinguish them from the Royal Dockyards, Royal being due to their naming after members of the royal family rather than Crown ownership. The three docks collectively formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1.0 km 2 ) and an overall estate of 1,100 acres (4.5 km 2 ). This is equivalent to the whole of central London from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge. The area was designated a special enterprise zone in 2012. North Woolwich is part of Royal Docks ward.
Royal Docks is also a ward of the London Borough of Newham. At the 2011 Census it had a population of 10,679. 
Royal Albert Dock - History
myalbertdock.com has been designed to provide residents with information on the building.
There is an exclusive logged-in area for The Colonnades Residents, where you can access personalised information for your building.
About the Colonnades
Situated at the famous Royal Albert Dock, next to the renowned Tate Gallery, in the centre of the famous Liverpool Waterfront World Heritage site and part of the UK&rsquos largest group of Grade 1 listed buildings, The Colonnades Apartments represent the most prestigious address in the North of England.
Comprising 115 individual luxury apartments and Penthouses, The Colonnades apartments enjoy a 24 hour concierge service, secure underground parking and interior common areas appointed and maintained to the highest standards. Many apartments feature river views whilst the apartments on the highest floor feature roof terraces, balconies and gardens.
To maintain the exclusivity of The Colonnades, all apartments are owner occupied and sub letting is strictly prohibited. Hence there are no apartments available for rent or short term let.
The Landlord at the Colonnades apartments is The Colonnades Residential Ltd which is a company owned by the residents. Being their own Landlord gives the residents an extra degree of security in that the apartment block is always managed for the benefit of the residents. The residents control the level of maintenance spending on the building and the value for money that they are receiving. They also have the advantage of being free from the problems of an exploitative landlord. The company is based at the Colonnades and its directors are residents.
The Royal Albert Dock
The award winning waterfront development constitutes the largest group of Grade 1 listed buildings in the country. Its magnificent 5 storey warehouse buildings of brick and cast iron have been sensitively restored and now house an exciting mix of shops, offices, restaurants, bars, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Tate Gallery Liverpool and 115 prestigious apartments. The Victorian buildings and surrounding 5 acres of water are located on a secure private estate adjacent to the Liverpool city centre with over 1500 car park spaces. The Colonnades Apartments adjoining Tate Gallery Liverpool enjoy an unrivalled location with panoramic views over the river Mersey and the Royal Albert Dock. The apartments are located on the upper floors of the Royal Albert Dock buildings which have been sensitively converted into 115 superb apartments with many unique design features and luxury interior fittings.
Why I love The Royal Albert Dock - A Brief History
I am so lucky to have had the historic site of the Royal Albert Dock as my workplace for many years. Even now I spend most days there as its second nature to me. I basically got the dock ‘bug’ from an incredibly early age. My dad would take me on little history tours when I was a kid and we would often venture to the docks. I was fascinated with the story of the dock system and the area’s history, and it was this that whet my appetite to become a tour guide! I also had the pleasure of listening to stories from my Uncle Tom and Eric about their time working as dockers so the whole thing really stuck with me. I’d like to think they would be proud, and probably quite amused, watching over to see me bringing literally hundreds of visitors to the docks each year.
I started working on the site back in 1997 when I started working for The Beatles Story. This award-winning Beatles attraction was opened in 1990 as the world’s first only permanent exhibition dedicated to the Fab Four. I worked there for just over 21 years and boy did I have fun with both building my career, but also working within the stunning location. It’s also rumoured to have a life of its own! Some of the best times I remember were hearing about the famous ghost stories that often reared their heads from both The Beatles Story premises and within the wider dock area. I’ve heard that they’re not harmful though, maybe this could be an altogether different tour (note to oneself).
I would love to know the thoughts of the original architect Jessie Hartley if he were to take a walk around his Grade I listed site today. When it was officially opened in 1846 by Prince Consort it was totally unique as a dock system. It was the world’s first non-combustible dock and the first ever to have hydraulic cranes, which were added within just a couple of years. This, as you can imagine, rapidly speeded up the process of loading and unloading. Back then, thousands of people worked on the docks daily and it kind of had its own community. The Albert Dock really did put Liverpool on the map globally.
When the dock was opened it became very busy until around the 1860s, when very quickly the cargo ships became too big to fit into the dock itself, so they would dock elsewhere within the 7 miles of dock system that Liverpool offered. The dock rapidly became unused and the only time it became of any use was during the second World War when it was used by many small warships, submarines, landing crafts and merchant ships, but apart from that the dock basically shut at this time!
Today, although very different, the dock has its own sense of community again, comprised of all the current tenants and attractions, many of whom have been on site since it re-opened in the early 80s. Life was pumped back into the structure during the early 80s when the government decided to send an MP to take charge and help the city to transform itself. The government’s environment minister Michael Heseltine had been given the job to regenerate the area, and he became quickly became captivated by the city, its architecture, and its people.
His first big project was creation of the Garden Festival Site which was in the south of the city. It was opened in 1984 by The Queen and coincided with the visit of the Tall Ships event on the River Mersey. As you can imagine it was a sight to behold, I was only eleven, so the sight of such beautiful ships parading up and down the river was just fab! I remember we visited the Garden Festival twice, as it was so big on a site of 230 acres. The festival was a major success and boosted tourism considerably, and so Michael Heseltine’s next major project was hatched. He scented an opportunity on a grand scale – which is where the Albert Dock comes in. The Merseyside Development Corporation was set up in the early 80s to regenerate the dock. And it’s just as well, as I have later found out that there were other plans to bulldoze the whole site and make it into a carpark!
It was not until 1986 that the first of the major tourist attractions made an appearance – the Merseyside Maritime Museum. If you’ve never been you need to, it’s amazing with 5 floors full of the history of Liverpool’s maritime trade. It is also home to the award-winning International Slavery Museum and lots more. This was the first phase of the project and it carried on into 1988 when HRH Prince Charles visited to open both the fully refurbished dock as well as Tate Liverpool. This Tate was unique as it was the first Tate Modern build outside of London – a fact we are still very proud of despite other Tate Moderns appearing across the country. The Albert Dock soon also gained TV backdrops, including ITV’s new daytime show ‘This Morning’ which started to broadcast from the dock, putting Liverpool on TV’s across the nation. Everyone remembers that weather map!
In 1990, The Beatles Story opened its doors to become the third major attraction encouraging both domestic and international visitors to the historical city site. The dock later received the status of UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004 and was awarded the accolade as a mercantile maritime city. It just got better and better for the Albert Dock, as it started to attract around 6 million visitors per year, new tenants began showing interest in floor space in this fabulous location. I have the pleasure on most days of walking around the site on daily walks talking about the history of the dock and recommending many of the cafés, restaurants and unique independent shops, all of whom have their own unique dock stories to tell.
For five years now I have had the pleasure of working alongside The Albert Dock Foundation, which uses the assets in and around the dock for the benefit of children and young children in education. I get such as buzz working with Betty and the team, watching the children enjoy themselves whilst learning so much is really heart-warming. Some of the children have never visited the docks before so for them to learn all about the history and just see the place for themselves is an extremely rewarding experience. You know they are enjoying themselves just by the number of constant questions they ask!
And now to 2020… It’s fair to say it hasn’t started the way we expected. On my daily walks it’s so difficult to see the many shops and attractions temporarily closed due to the pandemic, I just hope that none of them are forced to close on a more permanent basis. I can guarantee that when we get the green light I’ll be heading to the area, to show my support to the many independent businesses housed within it.
I will also have a very exciting new project to announce soon, which features the Royal Albert Dock. So hopefully I will be able to share details about that soon, but in the meantime, if there’s anything I can help with, or if you have any questions then please feel free to contact me. All of the information listed above is included in my usual city walking tours so please ask away! I hope to see you all soon! ❤️
When it comes to creating a new place, it’s important to remember its roots and how a new identity has evolved.
Bigger, deeper and better than anything before, the new Albert Dock is carved out of unused east London marshland. It joins the Victoria Dock, built in 1855, and both are able to accommodate the new iron clad steamships bringing goods into the capital.
The King George V Dock is opened and the trio of docks gets a Royal addition to its name. Cargo ships from all over the world, and huge passenger liners, including the 35,655 ton SS Mauretania, berth here.
Emerging from World War II bombing bloodied but unbowed, the Royal Docks enter a heyday of prosperity. The arrival of container ships sadly signals the start of their demise, and the last ship leaves in 1981.
The formation of the London Docklands Development Corporation brings hope of new life for Docklands. It gradually becomes a place for business and living, connected by the DLR to London’s transport network. Canary Wharf and London City Airport are established.
Work starts on the building of Royal Albert Wharf, as part of the broader regeneration of the Royal Docks, one of London’s most talked about redevelopment projects.
By this date, almost all of the old dock buildings and land will be completely transformed, making Royal Albert Wharf an exciting new destination for living, work and play.
I have heard of the greatness of Liverpool, but the reality far surpasses the expectation.
Prince Albert, 1846
Designed by architect and dock engineer Jesse Hartley (1780-1860) and Philip Hardwick RA (1792-1870), it was officially opened by Prince Albert in 1846.
It is characterised by monumental dockside warehouses grouped around a system of historic docks. Granted a royal title in 2018 to mark its role in the City’s maritime history, Royal Albert Dock is one of the largest groups of Grade I listed buildings in England.
The creation of the docks in this area began in the early 18 th century by infilling the Pool of Liverpool and reclaiming the tidal margins of the River Mersey. The Old Dock of 1715, constructed by Thomas Steers, was the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock. Liverpool flourished as the great world port, at the centre of transatlantic trade.
The success of the Old Dock encouraged further investment:
- Canning Dock (1737) as a dry tidal dock.
- Salthouse Dock (1753).
- Canning Graving Docks (1756).
- Duke’s Dock (1773).
- Canning Half-tide Dock (1844).
Once a hive of industrial efficiency, the area is masterfully regenerated, with commercial and residential uses revitalising buildings and waterways.
The area has been integrated into the physical and social fabric of the city, incorporating the contemporary Mann Island development with the RIBA North WHS hub. It includes the new Museum of Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime and International Slavery Museums and Tate Liverpool.
The former Old Dock, which was infilled in 1826, is now the site of Liverpool ONE. It is possible to look down and see the walls of the Old Dock from a viewing point located outside John Lewis.
RIBA North – Liverpool World Heritage Site Hub
RIBA North is the official information hub of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Discover more about the different areas that make up the World Heritage Site and the Buffer Zone that surrounds them through the Digital City Model.
Royal Albert Dock – Story Within.
Situated on a disused dockyard in East London, close to London City Airport, is Royal Albert Dock. This new 35-acre business hub, designed by Farrells architects for client ABP (London) Investments, will become London’s third business hotspot – but it’s not the location that makes Royal Albert Dock so unique: Phase 1, circa 650,000 ft², of this huge project, was constructed and completed in just under two years. The AKT II project directors, Steve Toon and Ione Varela outline how a project of this scale was constructed with such speed.
Prior to ABP’s purchase of the land from the GLA, the historic east-end waterfront, although left empty and unattended for decades, was previously renowned for its links with trade and commerce. During the Second World War, the docks were heavily targeted in air raids, meaning that the potential risk of encountering unexploded ordnance was high. Foundation construction was carefully managed and monitored throughout by all the teams involved.
Before construction began, it was discovered that one of the UK’s most threatened species of invertebrates were living in rubble mounds scattered across the site. The streaked bombardier beetles were carefully relocated under the guidance of ecologists to other areas of the site, prior to work commencing.
The Royal Albert Dock site is remarkably well connected but at the start of the project it was also isolated: there were only two low-rise unused listed buildings standing in the centre of the 14-hectare site. The client wanted this changed, quickly.
The total site to be developed is 1.2 km in length running parallel with London City Airports’ runway, yet only 150 m wide creating a very long yet narrow plot, which inevitably limits options for the urban design and building massing. Similarly, the proximity to the airport – the centre of the runway is only 200 m from the sites southern boundary – imposes limitations on building height and construction methodologies. In addition to the airport, two DLR stations are on the site’s doorstep, making it incredibly well connected and part of the draw that brought ABP’s interest to the site and its development opportunity.
Being the successful bidder in acquiring the site from the GLA, ABP, led by the ambitious and charismatic Mr Xu Weiping, and with support from their London based development managers Stanhope moved quickly to develop the masterplan, design and acquire planning so they could start to capitalise on their first UK development project.
The drive behind the design of Royal Albert Dock was to transform this disused land into a business district not just for London businesses but also a gateway for Chinese and other Asian businesses that sought to establish headquarters in London.
One of the key challenges in creating a business hub in a regeneration site is that, in order to attract potential tenants, a critical mass of facilities needs to be reached as early on as possible. ABP has a wealth of experience developing business parks in the Far East, where their pace of construction is much faster than in the United Kingdom.
ABP’s challenge for Phase 1 was to populate it with buildings, new streets, car parking, landscaped areas, energy centres, ancillary buildings and all associated infrastructure as quickly as possible. The design team, in collaboration with the Chinese contractor CITIC and their UK partner Multiplex, took on this challenge to deliver the first five commercial buildings with unprecedented speed of construction, and this meant that great emphasis has been placed in standardisation of details, the efficiency of design, modularisation and prefabrication.
The buildings are designed to be as flexible as possible for the future tenants – the Terrace Buildings (or ‘Type A’ buildings) nearest to the dock contain smaller, more compartmented floor plates for small- to medium-sized enterprises, whereas the ‘Type B’ building (Altitude Building) nearer to the DLR station has a larger open-plan floor plate with a central core that can be let as a whole or in a split tenancy arrangement. Demonstrating the diversity in the office floor plates on offer, a smaller Type A floor is as little as 2,400 ft² net, while the Type B floors are cc. 15,000 ft² net.
The key design and structural challenges for the Royal Albert Dock project were around driving efficiency and standardisation. The market position of this new development and anticipated rental values put efficiency at the heart of everything the design team did. For both the Type A and Type B buildings, numerous floor plate/core positioning options were assessed to ensure the design team had left no stone unturned in maximising value with the best design solution and office floor space to offer.
The adopted floor structure solution for both typologies was selected as PT flat slabs. A key design challenge was keeping the building heights below the City Airport instrument landing system (ILS) and emergency flight path envelopes, thereby minimising the structure / environmental floor sandwich whilst hitting required clear floor heights was fundamental. Thin PT flat slabs were proven to be the best solution overall to meet this height demand whilst creating the required grid and clear spans for the office floor plates. These demands in height tended to negate the option for a more prefabricated floor construction, although these were considered in detail.
The buildings themselves are relatively simple structures, as their massing is constrained by the site aspect ratio and height restrictions as discussed above. In addition to this, creating basements on the Type A buildings, which are immediately adjacent to the dock, was not economically viable. Only the Type B buildings, closest to the DLR, have a partial basement.
In order to build the frames quickly, all buildings’ post-tensioned flat slabs had the temperature of the slab curing monitored in real-time in order to determine when sufficient strength gain was achieved to carry out the pre-stressing operation at the earliest possible opportunity. All columns are precast to speed up construction. The ten cores for the four Type A buildings are precast using the twin-wall system, whereas the single-core on the Type B building was constructed in traditional in-situ construction but using a slipform for speed.
The choice of foundation system was dictated by the soil conditions, but given the sheer number of piles to be installed, the strategy was to utilise readily available contiguous flight auger rigs and restrict pile diameters to 750 mm and 900 mm, which are easier to drive into the ground and deal with potential buried obstructions. The building façades are formed from precast panels with brick slips cast on, whereby negating hand-set bricks and scaffold. We developed the panel sizing, load paths and support system with Farrells and the contractor to achieve the best design and value from this system.
The result: five buildings erected within a year from the official groundbreaking to topping out.
Royal Albert Dock - History
Victoria and Albert Docks (Royal).-These docks, which belong to the same company as the St. Katharine and London Docks, commence at the eastern extremity of Canning Town, just below the farthest point of the East India Docks. They are approached by the North Woolwich Branch of the Great Eastern Railway, and reach from Blackwall to Galleon's Reach, considerably below Woolwich - a distance of three miles in a direct line the whole extent covered being 6cc acres, of which 184 acres are water space, and 427 acres land a portion of this latter being intended, according to present plans, to be laid out as building land. The Royal Victoria Dock is approached from Bugsby's Reach by an entrance 330 feet long by 80 feet wide, with a depth on the sill of 28 feet below Trinity high. water mark, and a tidal basin in the form of an oblong with nice corner cut off, and covering an area of 16 acres. Just above the entrance is a landing-place, between which and the Blackwall railway-station a steam ferry plies every quarter of an hour and across the canal, just above the lock, is a swing-bridge, over which passes the Victor ia Dock- road at its junction with the North Woolwich-road for Silverton and North Woolwich. From either end of the north quay of the tidal basin two jetties, each about 300 feet in length, project into the basin, and a five-ton crane, connected with the railway by an elaborate system of sidings, occupies the centre of the quay. Two large jetties, 500 feet long by 150 wide, facing each other on the eastern side of the basin, and furnished like the rest of the system with railway sidings, leave between them a passage way 100 feet in width through which to enter the main dock, an immense area 3,000 feet in length by rather more than 1,000 in width, covering a space of 74 acres, and laid out upon the prin ciple adopted in the East India Import and South West India Dock, but on a somewhat more comprehensive scale. The whole of the North Quay is furnished with jetties, eight in number altogether, four of which, each up wards of 500 feet in length by about 150 in width, run boldly out into the very centre of the basin, affording accommodation on either side for the largest vessels as yet afloat, or, so far as can be judged, likely at present to be afloat, or for two or even more vessels of any ordinary size. The remaining four jetties which alternate with them are somewhat smaller, two of them running to about 350 feet by 100 feet, and the others - those towards the eastern end - about 280 by 120 feet. The space in the middle of the quay, which would otherwise be occupied by the fifth of the smaller jetties, is left vacant, the jetty by which it would be occupied being on the opposite quay. In the centre of the North Quay and fronting the open space are the dock offices, the greater part of the remaining space on this side being occupied by a couple of vast ranges of tobacco warehouses and by an immense extent of coal sidings. The whole of the quays traversed by a system of railway metals, from which sidings are carried off along either side of all the larger jetties, thus enabling goods to be hoisted straight out of the ships hold into the truck whereon they are to be conveyed to their inland destination. The smaller jetties each terminate in a long shed, occupying the whole extent of the quay between the larger jetties on either hand. Upon the Southern Quay the warehouses, which are more numerous and in much smaller blocks, are chiefly devoted to the reception of guano, jute and salt this quay also being furnished with railway communication, though of a somewhat less elaborate description than that on the North Quay.
At the eastern extremity of the South Quay a passage, 500 feet long by 150 feet in width, and closed by a pontoon, leads into the Graving Dock, a splendid basin, 600 feet by 450, with four offsets on the western and four on the eastern side, the former averaging 350 and the latter 250 feet in length. The Eastern Quay is occupied as regards its northern extremity by guano sheds, and as regards the southern by extensive creosote works, between which a canal, 1,000 feet long by 300 wide, leads to a passage 300 feet long by about 70 wide, crossed on a swing-bridge by the road to Silverton and North Woolwich, and leading to the fine basin of the Royal Albert Dock.
According to its original construction the North Woolwich Railway would at this point have crossed the canal on the level, but it was justly considered impossible to carry on the business of a couple of crowded docks, the sole communication between which had to be cut off every few minutes throughout the day for the accommodation of passing trains. It was clear, therefore, that one or other must give way, and as the raising the general level of some 600 acres or so of dock to a height of say 50 or 60 feet would have been rather a serious undertaking, the railway, though first on the ground, had to yield the pas, and at a considerable expenditure of money, and some exercise of engineering skill, was sunk into a tunnel below the bed of the connecting canal, remounting again to its own level on the other side.
The Royal Albert Dock, though at first sight beyond all comparison larger than the old, and actually double its length, is not really quite so large, nor does it afford quite the same extent of quay and jetty frontage, even in proportion to its size. The length of the old dock with its appurtenances is a mile, that of the new two miles, but this ample elbow-room in the way of length has led to the latter being constructed upon another and, as is considered, a much more economical system than the old.
The new dock (which was opened on the 24th of June, 1880, by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, representing the Queen) has a width instead of 1,000 feet of a little over 500 feet, affording in all 72 acres of water space, with about 20,000 feet of exclusively quay frontage in place of the 22,000 feet or thereabouts of combined quay and jetty frontage provided by the old dock. In point of fact the dock presents us with as thorough an example of the plain form of construction, as its neighbour affords of that which calls in the aid of jetties.
The whole extent of the quays on either side - there are practically none at either end - is without projection of any kind, and vessels are moored throughout stem and stern along the wharves.
In one respect, however, the arrangements of the Royal Albert Dock are unique, at all events so far as London is concerned. Along the whole extent of either quay runs a vast series of spacious iron sheds, each capable of storing the cargoes of five or six times the number of vessels that can lie opposite to them, and distributed alternately without regard to the nature of the cargo into "Import" and "Export" sheds. The amount of haulage and of shifting about from dock to dock is thus reduced to a minimum. A vessel enters, steams straight to her appointed berth, alongside of which she is made fast with little more trouble than a river steamer at a London pier, discharges her cargo direct into the shed opposite, and, once cleared, has simply to ease off her fasts and warp along the quay her own length nearer to the point of exit, and finds herself in front of a second shed, adjoining and precisely similar to the first, in which is already stored her outward cargo, only waiting to be hoisted on board. In very many instances, it appears probable that each shed may be used for both export and import purposes, and the vessel, once moored alongside the quay, re main until she leaves for her outward voyage.
On the other side of the sheds is a network of railway metals with sidings into each shed, and additional sidings for the docking of loaded or empty coal trucks. As a general rule the goods will be whisked off as fast as landed to their ultimate destination on one or other of the innumerable railway systems with which these metals are in communication but should their disposal be still undecided there is ample room for them to lie in the sheds for any reasonable amount of time, without interfering with the discharge of the next vessel. With the admirable hydraulic appliances by which the work is facilitated all over the premises, the time which the steamer has to remain in the dock between the moment of her entering with a full inward cargo and her departure, loaded down to her "Plimsoll," on a fresh voyage may be reckoned in days if not in hours.
Arrangements are also in progress for promoting the rapid despatch of ships by enabling them to receive their coal at their berths either by land or water - an immense advance upon the old system, based upon the requirements of the old- fashioned sailing fleet - and in all other respects the arrangements of the new dock are most excellent, not the least important feature among them being two magnificent dry docks, one 410 and the other no less than 500 feet in length, and capable of accommodating the largest ironclads yet launched. These two docks are pierced in the western end of the Southern Quay, and between the coal-tips and the mast shears the latter of which, capable of dealing with the heaviest spars, have a private siding of their own communicating with the general railway system.
Another excellent, and in this case altogether novel feature, is the proposed provision of a first- class buffet with sleeping-rooms attached, in which such passengers as may prefer - as most wise passengers will prefer - securing the quiet time of the passage down the river for setting down and making everything fast, instead of coming on board at the last moment to undergo the pangs of sea-sickness in the midst of a rampant chaos of loose furniture and baggage, may sleep in comfort on the night preceding departure, or even take up their abode altogether during the time their sea-going quarters are being prepared.
From the eastern end of the Royal Albert Dock, a passage 200 feet long by 80 wide, leads into the basin, a piece of water of a stunted pentagonal form, and with an area of 12 acres. The open portion of the quay around this basin is occupied by extensive waiting - rooms and from the eastern extremity an entrance lock, 550 feet in length by 80 in width, and with a depth on the sill of 30 feet below Trinity high-water mark, leads out into Galleon's Reach, the entrance being protected by two piers of open timberwork, each between 200 and 300 feet in length, and curving outwards so as to make a bell- mouthed approach.
Every class of foreign produce is dealt with at these docks, but their specialties may be said to be chiefly the larger and heavier articles of commerce, such as the metals, molasses, rice, grain, sugar, guano, and most especially of all, wool, for the lead in which trade these docks are laying themselves out with considerable energy. They also, as will be seen from what has been said above as to the proposed buffet at the Royal Albert Dock, go in heavily for the passenger trade, of which they, with their next - door neighbours the East and West India Docks, have practically a monopoly with regard to all but the comparatively short services performed by the vessels of the General Steam Navigation Company.
The work done in the construction of the new dock has been of a most extensive description. Upwards of 4,000,000 cubic yards of soil have in the course of its construction been excavated and raised to an average height of 17 feet, whilst 500,000 cubic yards of concrete, absorbing 80,000 tons of the finest Portland cement, have been employed, together with 20,000,000 of bricks, in the various foundations, retaining walls, jetties, &c.
One of the heaviest portions of the work has been the keeping down of the water, of which a maximum amount of 43,000,000 gallons was pumped out daily. The number of men employed upon the works varies between 2,000 and 3,000. The whole of the lock-gates, swing-bridges, capstans, cranes, and other mechanical appliances are fitted with and will be worked by hydraulic machinery and the whole dock is enveloped in a complete system of pressure pipes and water mains, fitted with hydrants at frequent intervals, and capable of immediately extinguishing fire on board of any ship, or in any shed or warehouse on the dock premises. Arrangements are also made in connection with this latter system for the prompt supply to vessels of any amount of water required.
The whole of the new dock, as well as the old, is connected with the different railway systems throughout the kingdom, and will run direct from the new, as they already run from the old dock, to the manufacturing districts. A still further development of the railway system is contemplated on the opening of the Royal Albert Dock, in the shape of special passenger trains, which will be run by the Docks Company under private arrangements with the Great Eastern Railway Company, between Fenchurch-street and the quays of the two docks. Passengers booking by these trains from either Fenchurch-street, Liverpool- street, or Victoria Park - at which latter point the Great Eastern system comes in contact with those of the North London and North Western Companies - may thus be conveyed direct to the ship's side, walking on board from their carriages as from the railway-train at Calais or Ostend.
Since July of 1879 the company have developed at the Royal Victoria Dock a new line of business in the landing and transhipment of cattle from such countries as are permitted to send us stock otherwise than for immediate slaughter. For this purpose a special Order in Council had to be obtained, and a very large outlay has been incurred by the company in the erection of the necessary lairage, &c., with the railway sidings and other appliances necessary to ensure the prompt conveyance of newly-landed cattle to their destination. Special permission has also been given for the transhipment in these docks of stock from the United States for Deptford Market, when not licensed for disposal alive.
The tasting of wines is only allowed under an order from the proprietor of the goods, which must be presented at the vault- keeper's office. No persons other than the servants of the company are allowed to perform any work or labour on the premises of the company, whether on board ship, in lighters, or on shore, with the exception of crews discharging the cargoes of their own ships, stevedores and their men stowing cargoes for export, lightermen and carmen delivering or receiving goods, and lightermen navigating their craft.
Neither resin, pitch, tar, sulphur, spirits of turpentine, rough turpentine, nor other similar goods are allowed by the insurance offices to be stored in either of the upper docks. All such articles, there fore, can only be received at the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks.
The Royal Docks
The area is named after three docks – the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock. They are more correctly called the Royal Group of Docks to distinguish them from the Royal Dockyards, Royal being due to their naming after royal personages rather than Crown ownership. The three docks collectively formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1.0 km2) and an overall estate of 1,100 acres (4.5 km2). This is equivalent to the whole of central London from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge.
The three docks were completed between 1855 and 1921 on riverside marshes in East Ham and West Ham (now the London Borough of Newham). The Victoria and Albert docks were constructed by the London & St Katharine Docks Company, to provide berths for large vessels that could not be accommodated further upriver. They were a great commercial success, becoming London's principal docks during the first half of the 20th century. They specialised particularly in the import and unloading of foodstuffs, with rows of giant granaries and refrigerated warehouses being sited alongside the quays. The docks' great size and provision of numerous finger quays gave them a collective span of over 12 miles (19.3 km) of quaysides, serving hundreds of cargo and passenger ships at a time. Following the opening of the Royal Albert Dock in 1880, giving the Royals access to Gallions Reach, 11 miles (17.7 km) below London Bridge, the rival East & West India Docks Company responded with the construction of Tilbury Docks even further down river. The ruinous competition led eventually to all the enclosed docks being taken over by the Port of London Authority (PLA) in 1909. The PLA completed the King George V Dock in 1921 and reserved land to the north for a fourth dock, never built.
The Victoria dock in 1973
The General Strike of 1926 hit the Royal Docks hard, with 750,000 frozen carcasses threatened by the docks' electrical supply being cut off. Fortunately for the dock owners, the Royal Navy were able to save the day by connecting the generators of two submarines to power the warehouses' freezers.
Although the Royal Docks suffered severe damage from German bombing in World War II, they recovered after the war but suffered a steady decline from the 1960s onwards, following the adoption of containerization. Nonetheless, they survived longer than any of the other upstream docks, finally closing to commercial traffic only in 1981. The docks' closure led to high levels of unemployment and social deprivation in the surrounding communities of North Woolwich and Silvertown.
Because of their relative remoteness from central London and poor transport links, the redevelopment of London's Docklands has proceeded more slowly in the Royals than in the other former docks. The London Docklands Development Corporationundertook much work during the 1980s and 1990s to improve local transport and promote new residential and commercial developments in the area. Thousands of new homes were built at Beckton, just north of the Royal Docks.
An extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in 1994 to provide direct links to the City of London and Canary Wharf. This was later extended round the south side of the docks with the link to London City Airport opening in December 2006. The line was later extended to Woolwich. Crossrail will serve the area from 2018.
Several other major projects have been proposed or implemented since then. Many residential complexes have been built most notably the architecturally progressive Eastern Quay on the south side of Royal Victoria Dock, Capital East on the north side of the dock and the large complex of Gallion's Reach in the extreme east of the Royal Docks. A series of major developments have seen the construction of a new university campus (for the University of East London) and the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, among much else. The Royal Docks have also seen the development of London City Airport (code LCY), opened in 1988 on the quay between the Royal Albert Dock and the King George V dock. While the docks themselves have been preserved largely intact, little remains of the old infrastructure, although some historic warehouses and cranes have been preserved.
In 2011 the one hundred and twenty five hectares of the Royal Docks were granted Enterprise Zone status to help attract jobs and businesses to the area.
In 2014, Singapore listed Oxley Holdings together with leading developer Ballymore UK have a Joint-Venture to set up a new waterfront township of Royal Wharf, with 3,385 new homes housing over 10,000. This will be a mixed-use development comprising shops, restaurants and even office complexes. The final phase is known as Mariner's Quarter which has the tallest building standing at 19 storeys, overseeing the river Thames and Canary Wharf.
There is now a multi-disciplinary team working on the Royal Docks development and regeneration. (https://www.royaldocks.london)
1972 . Royal Victoria dock cranes
The old warehouses to the left and the entrance to Pontoon dock and the flour mills on the right. The docks were still operating, just!
2003. Victoria dock cranes
Now replaced by decorative non-functional cranes with the new Excel exhibition centre completed and hotels being constructed with the new residential "Britannia Village" to the right with access across the dock using the new Royal Victoria footbridge linking to Excel and the London Dock Railway station.
2018.Royal Victoria Dock
New residential developments left and right, and at the end the Sunborn floating hotel in front of Excel exhibition centre and the pedestrian Royal Victoria Bridge. The old flour mills remain to be developed by the Silvertown Partnership whose planning application in 2019 has been approved.
1971. Royal Victoria Dock
Now ending its operational life for commercial shipping with a few barges and some warehouses still in use.
2000. Royal Victoria Dock
Excel exhibition centre construction well under way and the new Victoria dock footbridge now open. Sailing boats replacing the cargo ships and barges .
Royal Victoria Dock 2018
2018 Royal Victoria Dock with many new hotels including Crowne Plaza, the floating Sunborn Hotel and the Good Hotel, on the left the Emirates Cable car station. Excel exhibition centre is beyond Sunborn and the Royal Victoria footbridge is also visible.
1972. Royal Victoria dock basin
Looking West to old entrance and the Thames, the meat warehouses to the right with barges still present. Beyond the Greenwich Peninsula awaiting its new occupant, The Dome.
2001. Royal Victoria dock
The old entrance is now closed. Looking west to the Dome, the new HSBC and Citibank towers alongside Canary Wharf to the right and to the left the nearly completed "Western Beach " apartments.
Royal Victoria Dock basin 2018
The floating “ Good Hotel London” which was towed all the way from Amsterdam with to the right the twin towers of “Hoola” a residential development by Strawberry Star. Over the top of the hotel and just visible the O2 Dome.
1972. Royal Victoria Dock warehouses
Looking East the functional warehouses about to disappear with the old tobacco warehouses beyond.
2002. Royal Victoria Dock car park.
Warehouses have become an Excel car park and a site for new hotels.
2018. Royal Victoria Docks
New apartment blocks and hotels now replace the old warehouses. The sign shows where the old car park still stands hidden behind the new developments and Excel is visible at the end of the road.
1972. Royal Victoria Dock warehouses
A view West to the old meat sheds.
2002. Royal Victoria Dock warehouses
Looking West with "W" warehouse retained as a store for the London Dockland museum but the remainder already demolished to make way for the future.
2018. Royal Victoria Dock warehouse “W”
W” now to become apartments with a new memorial statue in the foreground by Les Johnson funded by charity to remember the Royal Docks communities since 1855. Beyond are the newly finished residential blocks and hotels, with the floating Sunborn Hotel to the left.
2002.Royal Victoria Dock
From the recent Victoria Dock bridge a view north west of w warehouse and the cranes with land prepared and ready for developments to follow.
2018. Royal Victoria Dock, Sunborn Hotel
The luxury floating hotel and spa alongside the Excel centre, with further down the Austin David holiday lets and the Emirates Airline. W warehouse, one of the last original buildings has been converted to luxury apartments.
1972. Royal Victoria Dock warehouses
On the quay looking west with on the other side the old flour mills.
2002. Royal Victoria Dock
Looking West from Excel the Royal Victoria footbridge, Canary Wharf towers and the Britannia development can be seen on the south side of the dock.
2018. Royal Victoria Dock looking East
Excel Exhibition Centre is on the right with the luxurious floating Sunborn Hotel beyond, Royal Victoria pedestrian bridge spanning the dock with completed residential apartments on the other side.
1971. Royal Albert Dock
Presently still at work but time is running out for the old dock.
2003. Royal Albert dock
The airport is to the right and construction work on the University almost finished to the left. The docklands light railway can be seen on its return journey to the city from Gallions Reach and Beckton.
2018. Royal Albert Dock
New developments alongside Albert dock include London Borough of Newham Office Block, further extensions to the University of East London and new hotels and offices to be constructed.The London City airport continues to increase flights and improve facilities.
1971. King George V dock
Viewed from the east entrance, still at work.
2003. King George V dock
A plane landing at London City Airport which opened in 1987. The dock itself is now used for many water sports although commercial yachts arrive for the annual boat show now taking place at Excel.
2018 King George V dock, Docklands Airport
The airport continues to expand, whilst I stood there there was almost a plane very 10 minutes landing or taking off. To the south of the dock another large new development has started and on the other side of Albert Dock to the north the expanded University of East London is flourishing and new hotels and offices are appearing.
1972. Pontoon Dock
Home of Spillers and CWS mills for flour storage with an entrance to Royal Victoria Dock. This site is awaiting redevelopment by the Silvertown Partnership whose planning application in 2019 has been approved for phase one of construction.
2003 . Pontoon Dock
Mostly demolished ready for a development plan that failed. Another plan has now been approved by the Silvertown Partnership with the old graving dock, a listed building, being retained.
2002. Pontoon Dock, Grain Silo "D"
The grain silo is now a listed structure. It was restored in 1995 and could be a feature of the “Silvertown” development of Pontoon Dock.
1971. Gallions Hotel
2018 Gallyons hostelry
The old establishment has been refurbished and now flourishes in the centre of residential apartments and marinas.
2003. Galleons Hotel
Apparently to disappear for good as new developments are beginning for a shopping centre, housing and the University.
2018 Galleons Reach, Royal Docks
the pub has now been restored and is surrounded by new residential blocks and a further new developmet still under construction.
Map of the Royal Docks 1972
There were four entrances from the river and multiple mega sized dry docks still working when I paid my first visit to these docks, being downriver a few miles they were the last to be developed apart from the new London City Airport which would soon find a home here.
An All In One Destination.
The Royal Albert Dock really is an all in one destination that should be on every visitors itinerary when they are visiting Liverpool, whether you stay here and use it as a base to explore the city or simply come here for a mini break to focus solely on the heritage, history, shopping, dining and cultural experience of the Albert Dock itself, you will not be disappointed by a visit here.
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