(Above) A Prospect of Liverpool (circa 1725). Oil painting by an unknown artist. The Old Dock is bottom right, behind the bridge
A massive quayside gateway which turned Liverpool into the world's leading trading port 300 years ago will reopen as a tourist attraction with a series of insider tours for the public.
The Old Dock provided a revolutionary trading route between the Mersey, America and Africa when it was built by visionary canal engineer Thomas Steers in 1715 as a solution to overwhelming ship traffic.
A full-sized computer-generated image, showing the Old Dock in its 18th century heyday, is projected on to a screen alongside the Old Dock
Featuring enormous river gates locking in 65,000 tonnes of water, the development risked bankrupting owners The Liverpool Corporation, but the port’s instrumental role in drawing trade away from established rivals such as London, Bristol and Chester meant the risk paid off with interest for planners.
Increased ship sizes had rendered the Dock too narrow by the 1800s, and it lay buried under successive building developments after closing in 1826.
The Dock has 20-foot walls
Tony Robinson and his Time Team came to the rescue in a major excavation project with Oxford Archaeology shown on Channel 4 in 2001, and preservation efforts by organisers have recreated portions of the original 20-foot Dock walls alongside a modern bridge and walkways with lofty views.
National Museums Liverpool will oversee the Dock as part of the Liverpool One set-up of shops and historic sites, with free ticket tours starting from Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Public tours start every Tuesday from May 4 2010, school tours every Wednesday from May 5 (extra public tours may be held on Wednesdays during school holidays). Limited places available, call 0151 478 4296.