George’s Dock Ventilation and Control Station, Liverpool

George's Dock Ventilation and Control Station

‘Speed – The Modern Mercury’


1 November 2013

Pier Head, Liverpool

SJ 34057 90193; 53.40440°N, 2.99335°W


A railway tunnel below the River Mersey, linking Liverpool with the Wirral peninsula, was opened in 1886. However, by the 1920s there were growing problems with traffic congestion from motor vehicles waiting for ferries to cross the river. Construction of the Queensway Tunnel was therefore started in 1925 with the tunnel opening in 1934. At 2 miles long, this was at the time the world’s longest underwater tunnel. The Kingsway Tunnel was opened in 1971 as a second road crossing in order to alleviate congestion in the Queensway Tunnel, which is currently used by some 35,000 vehicles per day.

George’s Dock Ventilation and Control Station was built in 1931-34 and rebuilt in 1951-52 following wartime damage. It is one of several ventilation buildings for the Queensway Tunnel. The Grade II-listed Art Deco building is situated behind the Port of Liverpool Building — one of the city waterfront’s ‘The Graces’. The exterior of the station was designed by architect Herbert James Rowse and its sculptures were created by Edmund Charles Thompson with George T Capstick. The engineers responsible for the construction were Sir Basil Mott, consulting engineer for the Queensway Tunnel, and John A Brodie, City Engineer of Liverpool.

Massive fans with 3m-diameter blades ventilate the tunnel via the buildings central square-section shaft. The shaft is surrounded at its base by offices of the tunnel control station. The building is finished in Portland stone and its architecture was inspired by ancient Egypt. Above the main doors rises the seven-foot high relief sculpture Speed — The Modern Mercury. Fluted niches to either side of the entrance house the black basalt statues Day and Night, symbolising the 24-hour operation of the tunnel.

Queensway Tunnel (Wikipedia);
George’s Dock Ventilation (Liverpool World Heritage);
The Mersey Tunnel (Twentieth Century Society)