Liverpool World Heritage Site

The historic core of Liverpool and its docks became a World Heritage Site in 2004. The inscription states that it is ‘the supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence’. Within it are six areas of distinct character, each reflecting different patterns of historic growth and aspects of mercantile culture. The Liverpool Waters site, encompassing the Central Docks, is within the Stanley Dock Character Area and comprises  about 22% of the World Heritage Site as a whole.

Liverpool Waters Site and its Heritage Value

42% of the Liverpool Waters site is within the World Heritage Site, and is of special value for the group of surviving historic docks, the dock boundary wall and the general dockland landscape. As well as the dock basins, within the site there are important historic buildings such as the Victoria Clock Tower and the Dock Master’s House, as well as original dockyard surfaces incorporating capstans, bollards and rail tracks. Just outside the development site are the Stanley Dock with its massive Tobacco Warehouse, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and the Waterloo Warehouse.   

How will the World Heritage Site be preserved and enhanced by the Liverpool Waters proposal?

The Liverpool Waters scheme will create a unique waterfront quarter as an extension to the city centre with exciting new buildings and public spaces. All heritage assets will be retained and restored, including the former operational buildings, the dock boundary wall, historic surfacing and quayside artifacts. Its archaeology, demonstrating the evolution of the docks, will be protected and explained to visitors. The dock basins will be restored, including the dock gates, and used for recreation so as to recapture the active spirit they enjoyed in their heyday.

How will Liverpool’s existing landmarks be protected?

Visibility of Liverpool’s landmark buildings such as the Liver Building, the Victoria Tower, and the Stanley Dock warehouses are to be protected in a series of key views and vistas from across the River Mersey and within the site. Whilst development will reduce the 21st century openness of the site which is the result of economic stagnation and dereliction, the masterplan will introduce a more focused appreciation of the heritage assets within a new and vibrant urban setting. Viewed from the west bank of the river at the Wirral Promenade, from New Brighton to Seacombe, a sequence of views will be revealed, providing a sense of discovery and an anticipation that the Liverpool Waters site contains something special that is very much worth visiting.

How will the heritage of the site be presented to the public?

The importance of the site is manifested most forcefully in the monumental dock architecture, the surviving dock layout, and its relationship with the river. The Liverpool Waters masterplan maintains the layout of the docks, and reinforces the form of the water spaces by introducing new quayside structures on the footprint of former transit sheds. Although many of the buildings will be taller than those that preceded them, they maintain the overall horizontality that is characteristic of the dockland landscape.  In the central part of the site, where the docks have been altered and infilled in the 20th century, the layout reflects the pattern of the original docks and has been designed to avoid below-ground remains. Tall buildings - both in the extension to the existing city centre commercial cluster and those in a proposed secondary cluster on the site of the former Clarence Power Station - have been set back from the riverfront behind a ribbon of mid-rise development that reinforces the horizontal nature of the dock landscape. This will strengthen the river edge and enclose the water spaces.

The historic importance of the site will also be celebrated within the layout of the public realm, which will encourage exploration via pedestrian and cycle routes connecting a variety of public spaces defined by heritage features and their riverside setting. Physical communication between the Pier Head and the Central Docks will be enhanced by the creation of a riverfront walkway and cycle route that will open up the waterfront and promote access to the dockland for the first time in its history.

What is Peel doing to protect the heritage of the site?

A detailed survey of all the heritage structures and artefacts has been carried out and a Conservation Management Plan has been prepared with a series of actions and a timescale for repairs and refurbishment. Work carried out to date includes:

  • Restoration of the Bascule Bridge at Stanley Dock
  • First phase of repairs to the dock wall at Princes Dock
  • Reroofing and masonry repairs to the 19th century security policeman hut at Collingwood Dock

Work is shortly to start on the removal of modern extensions to the Victoria Clock Tower to restore its original appearance.  A number of gateways through the dock wall and one of the drinking fountains will be repaired and cleaned.

World Heritage Site Steering Group

Peel’s key role in sustaining the values of the World Heritage Site has been reflected in the company’s representation on the overall Steering Group, which prepared the World Heritage Site Management Plan, champions it and carries forward its implementation.