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Canning Graving Docks
Port of Liverpool, Merseyside
Canning Graving Docks
associated engineer
Henry Berry
John Foster
Jesse Hartley
date  1756 - 1765, 1812 - 1813, 1828 - 1829, 1842
era  Georgian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  SJ340900
ICE reference number  HEW 1582
photo  Reg N. Norfolk
Liverpool's Canning Graving Docks represent a point in time in the complex development of the city's dock system. They were begun in 1759 and four developmental stages can be identified.
A graving dock is a permanent dry dock where ships are taken for maintainance or repair to their hulls — graving involved burning off accumulated seaweed and then tarring the hull. The earliest facilities at the mouth of the River Mersey were simple jetties and quays. The addition of a graving dock was the next step.
In 1715, the Ler Pool — or 'Sea Lake' — became what is know as the Old Dock under the direction of Thomas Steers. It had an entrance basin and a small dry dock to one side. This dry dock was enlarged in 1730. On the other side of the entrance basin, South Dock was completed in 1750 (by Henry Berry). It was later renamed Salthouse Dock. Old Dock basin and South Dock were provided with gates to hold the water in and keep ships afloat. The dry dock and the entrance channel known as 'The Gut' dried out with the tide.
The first stage in the development of the Canning Graving Docks began in 1759. Engineer Henry Berry created three new graving docks, named Nos. 1, 2 and 3 — though No. 3 was redesignated as No. 1 in 1842. They were constructed by making excavations. Their sides were revetted with masonry blocks set in irregular courses. It can be inferred that ships entered the docks at high water, the docks emptied as the tide ebbed and then the gates were closed against subsequent tides.
The second stage happened in 1813, when engineer John Foster lengthened Graving Docks Nos. 2 and 3 using the same form of construction. It is not known whether pumping equipment was provided for the docks as part of these works. However, there must have been some by 1829 (stage three), since at that time, the dry dock complex was gated and converted into a wet dock named Canning Dock. Jesse Hartley was Dock Surveyor at that time.
In the final stage, Hartley developed the Canning Dock area in 1842 as part of the adjacent Albert Dock projects. Graving Docks Nos. 2 and 3 (now re-designated as No. 1) were deepened and rebuilt. Both were wet docks.
In 1918, the docks' steam-driven pumping equipment was converted to electric power. The machinery was replaced in 1947. Major repairs were needed to the sill of Dock No. 1 (ex 3) in 1946 after a blow-through at foundation level.
The Graving Docks were closed in 1965 and No. 1 was infilled to reclaim land. However, it was excavated and restored in 1979 to form part of the adjacent Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Graving Dock No. 1 is 133m long by 17.6m wide.
Dock No. 2 measures 147m by 18.2m.
Research: PD
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE
Location

Canning Graving Docks