Creator of the dock, Jesse Hartley

A marble bust of Jesse Hartley. Accession number WAG 8239

Jesse Hartley (1780-1860) designed and built the Albert Dock and its warehouses. At the time he was surveyor to the Liverpool Dock Trustees and by far the highest-paid salaried engineer in the country. In the 36 years he spent working for the Liverpool Dock Trustees, Hartley either built or altered every dock in the city. The quality of his work and its longevity suggests that it was more than just a job to him - they are a testament to his dedication and attention to detail.

His position gave Hartley the opportunity to deal with each dock as part of a whole system, rather than simply as a stand-alone basin. He was acutely aware of the importance of good communication between docks, through railways, canals and roads, as well as ease and safety of access for ships. Hartley was certainly thorough, and liked to supervise every stage of design and execution. While planning the Albert Dock and its warehouses, possibly his most famous creation, Hartley built models of the warehouses to test the brick arches.

Workers on the Langton gate at Canada Dock

While not a particularly novel designer Hartley nevertheless created a number of new uses for iron including crane arches on the walls of the warehouses. He also mocked up a large-scale model to observe how a layer of iron beneath a wooden floor helped it resist fire. Hartley's stressed-skin roof structure was the first of its kind and a dazzling piece of innovation. It consisted of wrought iron plates, riveted together to produce a light but sturdy structure that was less of a target for thieves, and in the event of a fire was less likely to cause damage to passers-by. It was also an expensive development, only adopted for the extra security it afforded the building. Hartley's designs were both practical and economically sensible, showing a pragmatic and prudent nature.

Not all of Hartley's designs are as sombre and purely functional as the Albert Dock: the hydraulic accumulator tower at Canada Dock looks more like a castle than a dock structure.

At the far end of Albert Dock is a plaque in his honour, placed by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

The pseudo-medieval Dock Master's office at Salisbury Dock, built in 1848