The world’s oldest enclosed commercial wet dock in Liverpool, North-west England is celebrating its 300th anniversary. Known locally as the ‘old dock’, it opened for business on 31 August 1715, providing a blueprint for the development of other trading ports.

For the first time in history, the design of the dock allowed ships to load and unload whatever the state of the tide. It helped Liverpool to become one of the globe’s most important ports, with ships being able to turn around in under two days, rather than the two weeks needed previously. Thanks to the ‘old dock’, by the end of the 19th century 9% of the world’s trade went through Liverpool.

Able to accommodate up to 100 ships at a time within its 3.5 acres, the dock took five years to construct at a cost of £12,000 ($19,000) at a time when the average labourer would have earned £20 per year ($30). The undertaking was a high risk commission for Liverpool as it would have led to bankruptcy for the city if unsuccessful.

Mark Whitworth, chief executive of Peel Ports, said: “Liverpool is undoubtedly one of the leading ports of modern maritime history and we’re excited to be celebrating this important milestone in the city’s contribution to shipping. The anniversary comes at a significant time as we progress with the construction of our new container terminal Liverpool2, which will help 

create a new chapter in our story by establishing a new international gateway between the UK and international trading communities.”

Peel Ports, operators of the Port of Liverpool, is celebrating the anniversary by calling on local residents to share their images and memories of the city’s rich maritime history, with the contributions and images from the company’s own archives being turned into a book and online exhibition.

The dock was filled in in 1826, having been superseded by larger and deeper ports built into the river Mersey, on which Liverpool sits. It was rediscovered during excavations in 2001 and the remains of the dock have been preserved as part of Mersey Maritime Museum.