Liverpool walls of the old Dock and opened in 1907. This was followed by the largest of all, the Liver building, opened in 1914 and built by the Liver Assurance Company as one of the earliest reinforced concrete-framed buildings in the world. Between them was erected the Cunard building, opened in 1917, which is a more modest structure and architecturally the finest of them all, with an imposing classical Grecian interior designed to serve as the disembarkation office for Cunard’s first class trans-Atlantic passengers. Today, the Three Graces form the architectural centre-piece of Liverpool’s waterfront.
Liverpool is a city where ingenious engineering strategies and ambitious land reclamation have shaped not only the physical geography of one of Britain’s best-known skylines, but also the fortunes of a city and its occupants. This is clearly reflected in the archaeology found during the biggest series of excavations ever undertaken in Liverpool.
It is fair to say that, as a result of the excavation around the Paradise Street development, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of archaeological information about the early Liverpool waterfront, creating a vivid picture of the inhabitants of the city. The sheer density of activity around the first dock serves to highlight the importance of the trade and commerce afforded by the river and the part it played in shaping the city.
Old Dock Information Centre So what does the future hold for the Old Dock? The dock has been preserved thanks to a combination of work by Grosvenor, insightful planning officers, and diligent archaeological research. In the open area outside, beside the new Hilton Hotel, the position of the dock walls beneath is marked out in the pavement of the newly created Steers Way, and a mysterious circular well at the end of this line is, in fact, a glass viewing portal revealing the corner of the old dock secure in its subterranean chamber beneath the development.
The Old Dock Information Centre is nearing completion and has the potential to be made into a wonderful visitor experience. It is proof that culture and retail can be united in a symbiotic harmony in modern society – the two need not be mutually exclusive. The excavated wall will be accompanied by a display of some of the thousands of finds made during the excavations in the docklands, as well as an interpretation of the development of the area. At present, Liverpool’s cultural identity is centred on the Beatles and the Cavern Club in Mathew Street; and on the William Brown Street conservation area, known for its remarkable concentration of public buildings. The Old Dock will soon be open to visitors, and it is hoped that this will allow a new insight into Liverpool's long and illustrious past.
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Sources Jamie Quartermaine Senior Project Manager Jamie.Quartermaine@ oxfordarch.co.uk
Caroline Raynor Project Officer Caroline.Raynor@ oxfordarch.co.uk Oxford Archaeology North