Major Archaeological Dig for X-Museum Site; EXCLUSIVE Historic Lock Gates to Be Unearthed

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), September 8, 2006 | Go to article overview

Major Archaeological Dig for X-Museum Site; EXCLUSIVE Historic Lock Gates to Be Unearthed


Byline: BY DEBORAH JAMES Daily Post Staff

ONE of the biggest archaeological digs in Liverpool's history is to start next month to clear the way for construction of the city's controversial new X-museum.

Part of the existing Museum of Liverpool Life is to be demolished and excavated to uncover the city's earliest surviving lock gates, which date back to 1803.

The seven-week dig will pave the way for construction of the pounds 65m Museum of Liverpool, which has caused controversy because of its unconventional shape, to start in December.

It comes as the Victorian Society last night urged the council to reject plans for Neptune's multi-million pound development on adjoining Mann Island.

They fear three proposed granite-faced buildings designed to house futuristic apartments, leisure and commercial units, would seriously harm the historic Pier Head waterfront. The museum excavation will be the second largest the city has seen. The largest was Grosvenor's Liverpool 1 development, which exposed the city's oldest dock wall, dated 1715.

Archaeologists employed by NML will dig four metres deep to reveal the former Manchester Dock, which dates back to 1780 and uncover an ancient set of lock gates inside. It is also hoped to unearth the adjoining Chester basin, built in 1795, and nearby quaysides.

The team of six hope to discover artefacts including sugar moulds, ceramics and tools that should reveal secrets about Liverpool's history as a port in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The site currently lies buried under the white 1980s extension to the museum's red-brick Pilotage building, which closed in June but will be preserved as offices.

Last night Mark Adams, lead archaeologist on the project, said it could shed light on commercial production in Liverpool during the Industrial Revolution.

"This is going to be a really exciting dig for us," he said. "It's about the second biggest excavation ever done in the Liverpool docks.

"It's the last chance for us to see the site before it's covered up again. These things haven't been exposed since the 1930s and so it is a pretty big deal in terms of the city's heritage."

The entrance to the Manchester Dock wall is one of the earliest surviving lock gates in Liverpool, and currently lies under the museum's existing car park.

It was initially a tidal basin, opened in the 1780s, and so could only be used in high tides. The lock gates were added sometime between 1803 and 1813.

The entrance lock measures about 12 metres by 50 metres, and the dock covers about 5,000 square metres. It lies about 100 yards south of the Chester basin, constructed in 1795.

Mr Adams said: "They used to take river traffic, mainly barges that were transporting all sorts of goods, mainly coal and other goods manufactured in Liverpool like sugar and pottery, but also for corn and cotton. …

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