The tidal creek of Bromborough pool has been used as a port since at least AD 44. Stone from Storeton Quarries was dragged to Bromborough and loaded onto boats. The stone was often damaged while being transported to the boats, so in 1837 the owner of the Quarry, Sir Thomas Stanley Massey, commissioned a tramway to safely carry the stone without damage from Storeton to a stone quay at Bromborough Pool. The tramway opened on 15th August 1838.
Bromborough Quay c1850
William Hesketh Lever arrived at this quay on the steam barge 'Warrington' to cut the first sod for the building of his soap factory and village on the 3rd March 1888.
As the soap factory grew, a dock was built at Port Sunlight, to enable sea going vessels to unload their cargo, this opened in July 1895.
Port Sunlight Dock c1903
In the mid 1920s, plans were drawn up for a new, bigger dock to be built on the mud flats at the mouth of Bromborough Pool. A bill was introduced into parliament to enable this. The bill had its first reading on 14th March 1928. On the 7th June 1930 the bill had its third reading and was passed.
This new dock, called Bromborough Dock, officially opened on the 17th April 1931, although the first ship had arrived in February of that year.
The docks primary purpose was to import raw materials for Unilever companies in the Bromborough and Port Sunlight area, these included copra and palm kernels, vegetable oils and fats, whale oil, sardine oil, resin, tallow, palm oil, timber and paper.
Warehouses and an extensive tank farm were built on the quayside to store these materials Barges, with names like 'lifebuoy' 'lux' and 'sunlight' were used to transport them both to the Port Sunlight factories and to the Warrington factory.
In its first four years of operation, the dock handled over 1,600 ships and more than a million tons of cargo.
A private railway was built from the dock to the factories on the Port Estate, with a ‘main line’ going to the Port Sunlight factory. As well as transporting goods to and from the dock, a passenger service was also run to take workers arriving at Port Sunlight station to the dock.
Levers had their own dredger called 'Sand Swallow' which was used to keep the dock and the channel in the Mersey clear of silt.
During the second world war, the dock became strategically important as ,being further up the Mersey, it did not suffer as much bombing as the docks at Liverpool and Birkenhead.
In its heyday Bromborough dock had 3,500 feet of quays, and covered an area of 7.69 Hectares making it one of the largest privately owned docks in the world.
In 1971 the dock was modernised to attract more shipping for both Unilever companies, and other companies on the Port Estate.
By the 1980s business at the dock was falling, with road and rail transport taking over. On 24th June 1986, a bill was presented to Parliament to allow Bromborough Dock to be closed. This bill was passed on 22nd July 1986 and the dock closed in September of that year. In August 1990 approval was given for a landfill scheme at the dock.
Port Sunlight Dock