The Sea Defence?

I’ve spent a lot of time around the docks and the river here in Liverpool lately. Separately walking the North and the South Docks and a fair bit of time at the Pier Head.

And I was sat at the Pier Head on Christmas Day when I sent Sarah this picture from my phone.

The Pier Head, Christmas Day.

The Pier Head, Christmas Day.

With hardly any people around the bleak expanse of the hard landscaping here looks particularly brutal.

Then in my New Year’s Day post I cited this landscaping as one of Liverpool’s worst bits of architecture.

Harsh landscaping with a wasted canal in the middle of it.

Harsh landscaping with a wasted canal in the middle of it.

Then yesterday the high tides and storms that have been happening with increasing frequency hit the whole of west coast Britain.

Turning the peaceful river of Christmas Day...

Turning the peaceful river of Christmas Day…

Into this.

Into this.

And changing my mind about the landscaping of the Pier Head. Sure, it’s harsh and ugly if you view it as an extension of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

But not if you see it for what I think is its primary purpose, as a sea defence.

But not if you see it for what I think is its primary purpose might well be, a sea defence.

Think about it. From Seaforth to Herculaneum the city is effectively protected from the high tides and storms of global warming by its huge docks system. It wasn’t built for that, but that’s effectively what it’s doing now. Except for right here at the centre of the city, until very recently.

Early in the 20th century the George’s Dock here was filled in for the building of our Three Graces. Cutting the link between the North and South Docks and, accidentally, making the centre of the city vulnerable to flooding.

So, a few years ago, when the City announced that a new ‘extension’ of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal would be constructed at the foot of the Three Graces, most of us thought ‘That’s nice’ and looked forwards to seeing barges sailing across our Waterfront. In the autumn I duly took these idyllic pictures of a couple of people sailing their barge along the canal ‘extension’ on a gorgeously sunny, still, day.

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Nice pictures, if I do say so. But that’s not a canal ‘extension’ is it? That’s the Princes Dock.

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal originally terminated at Leeds Street.

After passing through the industrial lands of Vauxhall.

After passing through the industrial lands of Vauxhall.

The canal is still there.

The canal is still there.

Though most of the industry is gone now.

Though most of the industry is gone now.

And since 1846 the canal has entered the river at Stanley Dock.

And since 1846 the canal has entered the river at Stanley Dock.

So the new ‘extension’ is nothing to do with the original canal. But it does join the North and South Docks back together. Here’s how.

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But forget idyllic vistas of barges on the Waterfront. As it gets close to the Liver Buildings the ‘canal’ enters something that looks increasingly like a drain. And that’s what I think it is.

The Sea Defense.

The Sea Defense.

For draining floodwaters away from the historic buildings, museums and shops of the city centre. Draining it away into the vast basins of the North and South Docks, once again linked up by this ingenious bit of drainage.

Or maybe I'm wrong and it's purely accidental?

Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s purely accidental?

I don’t think so though. So well done Liverpool City Council for this far-sighted piece of global warming planning. And I now understand why the hard landscaping at the Pier Head looks like a piece of industrial drainage, because that’s what it is, isn’t it?

Thanks to fellow Liverpool historian @Liverpool1207 for the storm photos, published yesterday on Twitter.

sss

3 thoughts on “The Sea Defence?

  1. karenlawrencephotography

    Ronnie, i have to say i dont like the new ‘grace’ such a shame to plop a square building next to three beautiful iconic buildings. I havent had a look at the new canal but it did a good job of saving the square blob and the shops. We luckily didnt have too bad a time either this time, not as much damage thank heavens, though one poor family on the front in West Kirby were busy re-building their garden wall only to have it washed away yesterday lunch time.
    I liked your photos of the canal by the way.

    Reply

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