Anchors aweigh at Seacombe? No, they can stay

Seacombe Ferry Terminal on the Mersey is undergoing a £7m revamp but the Victorian anchors installed in 1890 are so well preserved they will be staying in place. Tony McDonough reports

Seacombe Anchor
One of the well preserved Victorian anchors at Seacombe Ferry Terminal


Two Victorian anchors installed to hold down the landing stage at Seacombe Ferry Terminal are so well preserved they will remain in place after a £7m revamp of the facility.

Located on the Birkenhead side of the River Mersey, Seacombe Ferry Terminal is currently closed to passengers while a project to replace the giant linkspan bridges, which began in December, is delivered by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

When the bridges were first installed more than 130 years ago, Queen Victoria was on the throne and Liverpool FC would not exist for another two years. The bridges are being replaced and the landing stage revamped but the anchors, installed in 1890, will remain.

Merseytravel’s marine operations manager Ian Hayman said: “We actually had to get out the anchors that hold down the landing stage while carrying out the surveys. What we’ve discovered is that many of them are actually the original ones installed when the linkspan bridges were put in place and they’re in good working order.

The only real changes we need to make is replacing some of the chain, but bar that, they’re a piece of history that’s still doing a good job.”

Mr Hayman added: “The weight of the bridges is around 350 and 290 tonnes each which means they’re outside the lifting capacity of the crane, which means some work has to take place before they can be taken out. For example, on the north linkspan, the roof is being removed and then split into two sections to enable the crane to lift each bit safely.

Seacombe Ferry Terminal

Seacombe Ferry Terminal
Seacombe Ferry Terminal in the early 20th century, top, and as it is today, above


“The new bridges will be considerably lighter thanks to modern techniques and materials. They’ll both be assembled in Garston Dock, lifted onto a barge and then floated down the river and lifted into place using the crane.

“There’s also going to be a refurbishment of the landing stage pontoon and booms. When they were originally installed 20 years ago, the plan was always to get to this initial point and carry out a major revamp to take it through the next twenty years.”

Principal Officer – structural, civils and marine, Gareth Denton, added:  “It’s a real testament to the Victorian engineers that they were able to get such heavy structures in there in the first place, although it’s likely that they assembled most of it on site.”

He said the new bridges would “be quite similar to the one at Pier Head”, but he added: “In the design process we’ve taken into account the heritage elements so externally it will give the appearance of the ‘arch’ that it does currently.”

The project team discovered the original Victorian gangways were hydraulically operated and there was a hydraulic locomotive lift that raised trains onto the floating part of the structure. New hydraulic gangways will be installed on the landing stage, replacing the manual ones. And the original fog bell, which is still operational, will be restored.

Gareth said: “The current gangways aren’t the originals (they were installed in 1970) but the principle is the same as when the linkspan bridges were first installed. We’re looking at whether we can keep one of them, maybe as an historical piece, but we’ll also need them both for spare parts for the gangways at Woodside.”

Services are currently being re-routed to Woodside while the Seacombe Ferry Terminal work takes place.

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