Vital repairs to Liverpool's historic Albert Dock sea wall

Published: Wednesday, 19 October 2022

LIVERPOOL'S historic Albert Dock sea wall will be more resilient to winter storms and Mersey tidal surges in future.

Liverpool Albert DockPreThis is due to the £288,000 repair project by Canal & River Trust that is currently working on a complex eight week maintenance programme along 350 metres of the dock wall, on the river side of the Tate Modern art gallery.

Supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, the project involves fitting new matching granite blocks into 18 holes in the 180-year-old wall, as well as clearing off debris, old grouting, and replacing it with new weather-resistant mortar.

Drone survey

A drone survey has also identified 14 metres of significant cracks and these will be repointed, part of the pedestrian walkway will be re-surfaced, coping stones re-aligned and new protective fenders attached to the Canning Half Tide Dock entrance.

Liverpool Albert DockProjectManagerTwice daily tides and exposed weather conditions make working conditions very challenging for the Kier contractors on the job. With only a four hour working window between low tide and high tide, workers have to abseil over the dock wall, with new materials lowered down to them by a temporary winch and basket.

A special form of quick-drying lime mortar, approved by heritage specialists, is being used to prevent it being washed away when the tide comes back in, with Canal & River Trust Project Manager Curtis Udogu explaining:

Most difficult

“This is one of the most difficult engineering maintenance jobs I have ever worked on. Six metres high tides mean that twice a day the swirling waves of the river rise up to within a metre of the pedestrian footpath, before dropping dramatically away and exposing the mud flats. It is an incredibly exposed site and sometimes gale force winds make it too dangerous to work. Access has also been a challenge.

Liverpool docksAabseiling"This part of the docks is a popular pedestrian walkway, so that meant we couldn’t close off the site, erect scaffolding or install large cranes. We have managed to think of a smart way around the constraints and be more flexible about how we deliver the project, so people can still go about their daily business.”

Albert Dock, opened by Prince Albert in 1846, is one of the iconic sights of Liverpool’s famous waterfront. Its pioneering bonded warehouses were the brain-child of radical Liverpool dock engineer Jesse Hartley, who in the early 1880s created a new dock basin for foreign sailing ships to enable the rapid off-loading of valuable cargoes like brandy, tea, cotton, silk, tobacco, sugar and jute, with Bill Froggatt, a Heritage Adviser with the Canal & River Trust, explaining:

Global cutting edge

LiverpoolOld“Jesse Hartley was at the global cutting edge of world trade in Liverpool. He built or re-built 26 docks and the city’s dock estate grew fourfold from just 18 hectares at the start of his tenure in 1824 to 86 hectares by the time he retired.

“Mindful of the ferocious Atlantic weather, Hartley built his walls to last. In fact they were so well constructed that when Albert Dock was bombed during World War Two, the city fathers decided it would be too expensive to dismantle them
and thankfully just abandoned them. Eventually Albert Dock was beautifully restored as part of the wider 1980s regeneration project and now the trust has the privilege of being their long-term custodian, promoting health and wellbeing and animating the water space with boating, canoeing, paddle boarding, concerts and festivals.”

Last year Albert Dock and Salthouse Dock became the first inland marinas in England to be awarded the international Blue Flag quality mark status—a recognition of clean, safe water, offering the highest environmental standards
for visitors.