Albert Dock, Liverpool – what’s it for?

Albert Dock - 1Having had a questioning but in the end celebratory look at St Georges Hall a few weeks ago, today Sarah and I have come for a sceptical look at another of Liverpool’s architectural gems, the Albert Dock.

Now before we start can I just say I do appreciate it. I’m glad it’s still here. In some ways its renovation in the mid 1980s was the one of the beginnings of a revived Liverpool. Before then I’d grown up barely aware it still existed. And I completely exempt the International Slavery Museum from everything I’m about to say. But beyond that, what exactly is the Albert Dock for?

We cross on the handsome bridge that now so successfully links the Dock to Liverpool One.

Oh no we didn't. There isn't one.
Oh no we don’t. There isn’t one.

It's a monumentally handsome thing.
It’s a monumentally handsome thing.

Well done Jesse Hartley and everyone who built it and got it opened in 1845.

I remember Granada TV moving in here in the 1980s.
I remember Granada TV moving in here in the 1980s.

They didn’t stay too long mind and these days it’s empty I believe. I did hear it was to be a new home for the Slavery Museum but austerity politics has stopped that.

It's good for boat spotting round here.
It’s good for boat spotting round here.
And for the magnificent view of our World Heritage site.
And for the magnificent view of our World Heritage site.

Oh I forgot, those ugly black constructions are still there.

Into the Dock proper we go.
Into the Dock proper we go.
Full of parked up small boats these days.
Full of parked up small boats these days.
We're here specifically to go to the Tate.
We’re here specifically to go to the Tate.
As there's a Matisse exhibition on.
As there’s a Matisse exhibition on.
Containing mostly pieces from early in his career.
Containing mostly pieces from early in his career.
And this centre piece from late in his life.
And this centre piece from late in his life.
L'Escargot.
L’Escargot.

Being a cut out piece, the Tate have thoughtfully provided materials nearby.

For children to do their own.
For children to do their own.
A book of inspirations too.
A book of inspirations too.
And all the time we're in here inspired small children are cutting out their own versions of what they see.
And all the time we’re in here inspired small children are cutting out their own versions of what they see.
Good ones too.
Good ones too.

Apart from these we thought the best thing about the exhibition is a film of Matisse at work. Using his big scissors and doing cut outs of his leaves.Albert Dock - 18 Albert Dock - 19 Albert Dock - 20 Albert Dock - 21

Worth seeing if you're nearby.
Worth seeing if you’re nearby.

The exhibition’s free to get into and it’s on until May. Due to it’s fragility this is apparently going to be the last time L’Escargot is exhibited outside of London.

And obviously there's lots of Matisse themed stuff to buy in the shop.
And obviously there’s lots of Matisse themed stuff to buy in the shop.
So, all good then. But what about the rest of the Albert Dock?
So, all good then. But what about the rest of the Albert Dock?
Relentless tourist tat.
Relentless tourist tat.
Costas.
Anywhere and everywhere brands.
More interestingly, a proper chippy.
More interestingly, a proper chippy.
This is interesting too.
This is interesting too.

A pay per minute coffee house, where the drinks and snacks are free but you pay 8 pence for each minute you’re in here. Clearly aimed at people who want somewhere to come and work, in fact they themselves call it ‘a social coworking space’. So a good idea, yes. Not sure I’d have set it up in the Albert Dock though where the passing trade are mostly tourists? But good luck to it.

We think the Edinburgh Woolen Mill was in here. Nice to see it gone.
We think the Edinburgh Woolen Mill was in here. Nice to see it gone.

Will probably be replaced by more tourist tat though. It’s only that and café bars seem to do enough business to prosper down here.

But it is beautiful.
But it is beautiful.
And the boats look great.
And the boats look great.
Sarah would particularly like a go on this one if some kind soul could arrange it?
Sarah would particularly like a go on this one if some kind soul could arrange it?

So maybe decent cafés, lovely views for looking at while you have a drink, plus the Tate and the Slavery Museum should be enough? Certainly better than the Dock being filled in and used for a 44 storey skyscraper (this really was thought about at one stage).

Ah well.
Ah well.
It made us think.
It made us think.

But we didn’t actually stop for a drink or go anywhere here to eat. We went up Bold Street, where the choice is better and, frankly, where we feel more at home.

The Matisse is worth seeing though.
The Matisse is worth seeing though.

Much more about the Liverpool Docks as docks, as opposed to Visitor Experiences, here.

11 Replies to “Albert Dock, Liverpool – what’s it for?”

  1. It’s certainly better to look at than the ‘before’ version… but it always feels like a bit of a (middle class) morass to me. Then I look at my home city (Glasgow) or at Leeds or Manchester or Dundee or… (insert any Northern post-industrial Victorian-built behemoth of a city)… and am reminded that it’s all part of the same imperative i.e. ‘let’s find it a new way of making some cash’…

    I stayed at a cheap hotel on the Docks a couple of years back and did enjoy my stay. But I think that had more to do with the Liverpudlians I met – who made me feel like I was at home.

  2. We’re of the same thought as you, ok they’re beautiful buildings, and there’s the Tate and the museums but that’s it, nothing else of worth to see or do unless you fancy a coffee.

  3. Another thought provoking blog, thank you. I totally agree with your comments on Albert Dock but at least it has been given something of a use. We were shown the interior of the banking hall in the old Barclays Bank building next to the Town Hall recently, stunning building and a crying shame it is empty.

    Leads me to rail about London. Any museum in London that wants funding gets it, yet in Lancashire it is likely that most of the museums are to close due to funding cuts. If the country was not so London centric Liverpool, Manchester, (insert any Northern city) could become again a fabulous city with old buildings invigorated.

    Rebuild the Tower at Westminster? Nah, HS2? Forget it.

    Liberate The North says I.

    1. Husband used to bank at that branch of Barclays by the Town Hall. Some years ago we went there for him to get some cash, and I was wearing a particularly striking cerise and blue striped blazer that I made from a kit from Clothkits (anyone else who visits here remember Clothkits?). For some reason that blazer always made for amazing experiences! On that day a security guard came over and asked if we’d like to see the Directors’ Room. We ascended in the Directors’ Lift, a thing of mahogany beauty, and then to the huge room. Wonderful plasterwork, on the ceiling, and a carpet made for the room that was the biggest made when it was commissioned. Somewhere I’m sure I still have the pamphlet about the building. I think it was originally a Martins Bank, hence the grasshopper motifs around. Fabulous Deco lamps in the main banking hall too! Surely it will be snapped up for a hotel soon?

      1. Sadly, I guess it would be cheaper to build from scratch. But as you say, a fabulous building and a crime that it is being left to decay.

  4. We went to Albert Dock yesterday. I do agree somewhat about the tourist tat. But I have vivid memories of my dad taking us on the ferry as kids and looking back at Albert Dock and saying what a crying shame it was that it was going to ruin. So on balance I love that it is now being used. I would like to think some thought would go into future usage though

  5. Ronnie, you omit to mention the Maritime Museum in Albert Dock. This really is an excellent place to visit which tells much more of Liverpool’s history than the slave museum.. Liverpool after all is a maritime city whose growth and development owed much more to its port activities than the slave trade.

  6. Thanks very much Ronnie for the link to the article about Martins Bank. Totally missed that, but it was a complicated year last year – hoping this one will be easier… But for a variety of reasons doubt it! LOL. At least I get to see some of what’s happening round our beautiful city by following your blog! Best wishes from Aigburth, home of Liverpool Zoo.

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