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The Port of Liverpool - Study of European Ports (1909)

When one crosses the Atlantic and arrives at the "Princes Landing Stage" (See Photo on P. 24) at Liverpool, he at once realizes that he has reached one of the world's greatest ports.  Up and down the River Mersey as far as they eye can reach is one unbroken system of quays, docs and basins, carefully planned, well constructed, and equipped with the latest and best mechanical appliances.

From the opposite side of the ship can be seen another portion of this great dock system on the Birkenhead side of the River Mersey.  And from the ship there also looms up what is locally known as the "White Palace", the office building and headquarters of the "Mersey Docks and Harbor Board", the Parliamentary Trust witch so ably manages this great Port and Trust (See Photo on P. 23).

The "Princess Landing Stage" is so unusual to Americans that a brief description of its construction and uses seems important.  At Liverpool, there is a range in extreme spring tides in the Mersey River of about 33 feet, and because of this great variation, it became necessary to construct some device for loading and unloading passengers and freight at varying tide levels.

The Landing Stage constructed for this purpose is 2,478 feet long by 80 feet wide, and is connected with the shore by eight bridges with swivel joints at each end and heavy mooring chains fastened near the base of the quay.

This large floating structure is supported by about 200 iron pontoons, each about 80 feet long, 10 feet wide and 6 feet deep.  The deck of the Landing Stage is from six to eight feet above the water level, and lowering the movable gangways are used to reach the decks of the various sized vessels by easy inclines from the small ferry boats plying up and down and across the Mersey, to the largest ocean liners arriving and departing from Liverpool.

One of the bridges connecting the Landing Stage with the shore is 550 feet in length and 35 feet in width.  It is used for highway purposes as well as for pedestrians, and is so constructed that at extreme low water the grade is 1 in 20; and at other stages of the river, less inclined or wholly level.

The northerly end of "The Princess Landing Stage" is used annually by about 6,000 ocean-going and coastwise vessels.  These arrive at and depart from the port at any stage of the tide.  The central portion opposite the floating bridge is used for goods traffic across the Mersey River, and the southerly portion, about 800 feet in length, is appropriated for passenger ferry service, and is used by over twenty-eight million people each year.  Mechanical conveyors are provided and used to handle luggage between steamers, railway trains, and other conveyances.

"The Princess Jetty", a fixed pile structure about 350 feet long has been constructed at the northerly end of the Princess Landing Stage for landing cattle and goods at all stages of the tide.  Adjoining this is a commodious wharf with pens for cattle.

On the shore opposite the Landing Stage is the Riverside Railway Station, a commodious and convenient structure for the arrival and departure of London passengers.  Special four-hour trains are run between Liverpool and London connecting with inbound and outbound ocean-going steamers.

At present, the docks and basins consist of 427 acres of water area and 26 miles of lineal quayage on the Liverpool side of the Mersey River, and 165 acres of water area and 9 miles of lineal quayage on the Birkenhead side, making a total water area of 592 acres, and a total lineal quayage of 36 miles.

The area of the Dock Estate consists of 1,171 acres on the Liverpool side, and 506 on the Birkenhead side, or a total of 1,677 acres.  On the Liverpool side the docs extend from the Hornby Dock on the north to the Herculaneum Dock on the south, a distance of over seven miles, with not a foot of property between these limits the Mersey Dock Estate owns large areas of foreshore property for future extensions of this great system.

The total cost of the great Liverpool Dock System has been over $150,000,000 and the yearly maintenance cost is between eight and nine million dollars.  The board has power to issue bonds from time to time, the amount authorized to date being $154,770,282.  Bonds have been issued at rates of from 4 1/8, to as low as 2 1/2 per cent, and money borrowed to the extent of $122,483,552, leaving a balance of borrowing power on July 1, 1909 of $32,286,754.

The Board's revenue which amounts to about $10,000,000 annually is derived chiefly from rates received on vessels, dues on goods, and warehouse charges.  As there are no dividends to be paid, the income is used wholly for the maintenance of the high standard of the system and for future extensions; and when this becomes more than sufficient for such purposes, the rates are lowered accordingly.

The growth of the Port of Liverpool is well illustrated by the following decade statistics since 1858:

Year       Vessels Tonnage              Total Dues
1858       21,352   4,441,943             1,994,111
1868       20,218   5,497,924             3,238,821
1878       18,841   7,029,082             4,473,596
1888       22,241   9,017,935             4,544,980
1898       24,664   11,815,376           5,022,076
1908       25,739   17,111,814           6,412,007

The docks on the Liverpool side are constructed both parallel with and at right angles to the Mersey.  They extend back from the shore line for distances varying from 800 to over 2,000 feet, ending near a marginal elevated railway, from the trains of which can be obtained a splendid general view of the ceaseless activity of this mammoth undertaking.  Underneath the elevated railway there is a dock railway on the quay level.

Photo 3: Movable Bridges and Mooring Chains Fastening the "Princess Landing Stage" to the Quay.  View at Low Water.

Photo 4: Massive Gate and Lock at Entrance to One of the Great Docks.  Note Difference of 15 or 20 feet in Level of Water Inside and Outside of Gate.

Photo 5 : Birdseye View of Liverpool Docks from Canada Tower Looking North

Photo 6: Sand Pump Dredger "Coronation" at Work in the River Mersey.  This dredger is a twin-screw steamer of a speed of 10 knots per hour, and a capacity of 70,000 cubic feet.  The "Coronation" is capable of handling 3,500 tons in 50 minutes from a depth of sixty-five feet.

Photo 7: "Carmania" of the Cunard Line in Canada Graving Dock

Photo 8: R.M.S. "Mauretania" of the Cunard Line, the Largest Ocean-going Steamer in the World, passing through Sandon Half-tide Dock Entrance.

In the entire system there are sixty-three wet docks, nineteen dry docks, and four basins.  All of the docks are enclosed by heavily constructed locks and gates to maintain a constant depth of water, while the basins are unprotected by gates, and the water in them rises and falls with the tides.

Of the docs, twelve on the Liverpool, and two on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey have water areas equal to or greater than ten acres, the largest being the Canada Dock with a water area of twenty-four acres.  Thirteen of the docks have a lineal quayage of over 3,000 feet, the largest again being the Canada Dock with over 4,000 feet.  There are also eighteen dry docks at Liverpool and three at Birkenhead, with a total floor length of 12,575 feet.

The Liverpool docks and quays are equipped with every conceivable mechanical appliance for handling business expeditiously and economically.  On the Liverpool side of the Mersey, there are two hundred and sixteen hydraulic cranes and jiggers lifting from one to one hundred tons each; sixteen steam cranes, twelve of which are movable roof cranes lifting from one to twenty-five tons each.

On the Birkenhead side, there are seventeen hydraulic, steam, and hand-power cranes, lifting from one to twenty-seven tons each.

The Langton Graving Dock is equipped with a movable hydraulic crane capable of lifting thirty tons in any of the four chambers of the dock.  In addition there are four floating barge cranes -- The "Hercules", The "Samson", The "Atlas", and the "Titan", capable of lifting respectively, 50, 30, 30 and 25 tons each.  These cranes are continually in demand in the heavy dock and river work in and around Liverpool.

All of the marine work of the Port of Liverpool is carried on by the Mersey Docks and Harbor Board, the following equipment being utilized for the purpose; five sand pump dredges, fourteen ladder or grab dredges, sixteen steam hopper barges, two steam tugs, two survey steamers, two steam launches, thirteen lightships and watch vessels, twenty-six barges, four steam pilot vessels, making eighty-four vessels in all.

A twin-screw self-propelling sand pump hopper dredger, "The Leviathan", (the largest in the world) has recently been built for the Board.  This dredger cost about $750,000 and is capable of dredging 10,000 tons of sand every fifty minutes in a maximum depth of seventy feet of water.  The dimensions of the dredger are, -- length over all 479 feet, breadth 69 feet, draught 23 feet, and speed, when loaded, 10 knots per hour.

The Mersey Board has charge of the pilotage, lighting, and buoying of the channel.  For this purpose there are nine lighthouses, built between 1830 and 1908, equipped with the most up-to-date electric, or gas dipodic lights, both fixed and flashing, which can be seen for distances varying from three to twenty-four nautical miles.  There are also five light-ships equipped with lights visible for ten nautical miles, and fog signals.  Gas lights on buoys are arranged at seven different locations in the various channels with lights visible for three or four miles.  Fire, telegraph, telephone, and semaphone stations are also maintained.

The Mersey Docks and Harbor Board does an enormous store housing business, special warehouses being provided for the principal classes of goods as follows:

Opened               Warehouses      Number of Floors            Quay Frontage
1846-7   Albert Dock Warehouses              Vaults, Quay, 1/2 deck & 4 Floors Above               2,169 Lin. Ft.
1854-5   Stanley Dock Warehouses           Vaults, Quays & 4 Floors Above 633 Lin. Ft.
1856       Wapping Dock Warehouses        Vaults, Quays & 4 Floors Above 753 Lin. Ft.
1858       Birkenhead Dock Warehouses   Vaults, Quays & 1 Floor Above   518 Lin. Ft.
1875 *   Morpeth Dock Warehouses        Vaults, Quays & 3 Floors Above 166 Lin. Ft.
1867-8   Waterloo Grain Warehouses      Quay & 5 Floors Above  1,385 Lin. Ft.
1868-9   Birkenhead Grain Warehouses  Quay & 5 Floors Above  2,176 Lin. Ft.
1869       Composite Warehouses               Quay, Close Shed & 4 Floors Above         276 Lin. Ft.
1877 *   Wallasey Dock Warehouses        Quay, Close Shed & 2 Floors Above         1,200 Lin. Ft.
1896       Wool Warehouse - Gt. Howard St.           Vaults & 2 Floors Above                --- Lin. Ft.
1900       Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse            Vaults, Quay, 12 Floors Above    625 Lin. Ft.
Total 9,901 Lin. Ft.

* The whole of the Morpeth Warehouses and Blocks B & C of the Wallasey Warehouses now form part of the Birkenhead Foreign Animals Wharf and are not available for general traffic.

At the Wellington, Canada, Bramley-Moore, and Herculaneum Docs on the Lancashire side, and the east and west floats on the Birkenhead side, every facility, even to floating elevators, has been provided for adequately handling the coal trade.

Two cases taken from the Liverpool handbook well illustrate the facilities for the rapid handling of cargoes and clearing the quays at the Liverpool Docks. "The Lake Champlain arrived in Liverpool on a certain Sunday, and in forty-eight hours had discharged 12,000 tons measurement of cargo, and sailed again the following Wednesday morning with 2,000 tons of coal and cargo, and a large contingent of troops"

Photo 9: New Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse.  This warehouse contains 12 floors, each having an area of three acres.  The storage capacity is about 55,000 casks of tobacco.

Photo 10: Ground Floor of a Double Story Shed Showing Inward Cargo.

Photo 11: View Showing One of the New Docks with Modern Fireproof Sheds on Edge of Quays.

Photo 12: Two-Horse Tandem Hitch Transporting Goods from Docks to Warehouses.  These horses are said to haul loads of 12 tons per horse over the Liverpool pavements.

Photo 13: Three-Horse Tandem Hitch Hauling a Loaded Freight Car Around the Liverpool Docks.

Photo 14: Traveling Roof Crane with a Maximum Capacity of 15 Tons.

"The S.S. Irada from Galveston, with 30,000 bales of cotton, 640 tons of wheat, and 2,800 bags of flour, commenced to discharge at 1 PM on the 5th of November, 1900, and finished at 10 PM on the 9th of that month, the working time being sixty hours.  The steamer took in about 2,500 tons of bunker coal, and sailed again at noon on the 10th of November, 1900.  Nearly the whole of the cotton was weighed as landed, and removed by the consignees within three days."

The new Stanley Dock Warehouse for the storage of tobacco is one of the largest storehouses in the world.  It is 723 feet long, 165 feet wide and 13 stories (about 125 feet) high. It is of fireproof construction being built of brick and steel with concrete floors.  Over 27,000,000 bricks and 6,000 tons of iron were used in its construction. It has a capacity of over 60,000 casks of tobacco in single tier without piling. 

The Mersey Board also maintains a Lairage (foreign animals wharf) at Birkenhead, with a ground area of over 900,000 square feet and a capacity of 6,172 oxen and 16,000 sheep.  Connected with this wharf are slaughter-house accommodations for over 6,000 head of cattle and sheep, and chilling rooms for handling about 3,000 carcasses per day.

While the Mersey Dock Estate possesses over eighty miles of railway track around the great docks, it is interesting to note that over 90 per cent of the traffic of the port is handled to and from the ships and warehouses in horse-drawn drays or "lurries".  From early morning till late at night there is one continuous procession of these four-wheeled, heavily laden drays travelling along the border highway of the great estate.

The platform bodies project over the wheels, giving a large loading surface.  The horses are powerful beasts, and are usually hitched up in tandem style with from one to three horses to each dray.  It is said that some of these powerful Clyde horses draw loads of ten tons each, over the Liverpool pavements.  this requires, especially on the heavy traffic streets, surfaces which are hard and durable with low tractive resistance and good foothold for the horses.  Most of the pavements on such streets are of granite or the famous Liverpool stone sets (small cubes of granite or whinstone from three to six inches square on each surface).

After studying the great docks of Liverpool, which, as a system, stand without a rival, and noting how skillfully and smoothly they are run, one naturally wants to learn something about the Trust which so successfully manages them for the benefit of the public.

Prior to 1857, the Liverpool Docks were managed by the Liverpool Corporation, and the docks on the Birkenhead side by a private company later purchased by the City of Liverpool.  By an act of Parliament passed in 1857, the ownership and management of all the docks and works connected therewith on both sides of the Mersey River became vested in a public trust known as "The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board."

This Board consists of twenty-eight members, twenty-four of whom are elected by the Dock Ratepayers (persons paying rates and dues on ships and goods), and the remaining four are appointed by the Mersey Conservancy Commissioners consisting of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the President of the Board of Trade.

The members of the Board are men of the highest character and attainments, and serve without compensation.  The Board with its large staff of officials and employees is now housed in a magnificent new office building located near the Princess Landing stage.  The central portion of the building is octagonal in shape, and on the panels between the first and second floors is the following inscription which those who have crossed the Atlantic for the first time can fully appreciate.

Anno Domini MCMVII
They that go down
To the sea in ships
And do business
In great waters
These see the works
Of the Lord and His
Wonders in the deep.

Photo 15: Powerful Hoisting Crane Putting Coal in Steamship

Photo 16: Floating Barge Crane "Hercules" with a Maximum Lifting Capacity of 50 Tons.

Fig 17: Plan of Liverpool Docks in 1909. Birkenhead Docks on Opposite Side of Mersey River Not shown.

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