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Liverpool was the last city Alan Bowness visited on his tour of potential locations for a 'Tate in the North'. There he was shown various disused buildings that might possibly be converted into a gallery, including a church, municipal hall, a railway building and a hotel, but it was the last site he visited, a warehouse in the disused Albert Dock, which caught his imagination:

At the end of a stormy and blustery day we arrived at the Mersey, had a quick look at the Liver Building (not suitable), and then went into the totally derelict Albert Dock. It was immediately clear to me that this was the place.

Alan Bowness, History of Tate Liverpool early Days, 1988

Not only did the building and dockside location appeal to Bowness, there were other good reasons for choosing Liverpool as a site for Tate's first regional Museum.

Why Liverpool?

Albert Dock lay at the heart of the run down city centre. Once a bustling dock with seven acres of warehouses crammed with rich cargoes from Asia, tea, silk, tobacco and spirits, it now lay disused and rotting, its once busy waterways silted and stinking. It was a very visible reminder of the deprivation of the surrounding inner city, which suffered from high unemployment and racial tensions (these came to a head in the Toxteth riots of 1981).
Letter outlining possible locations for Tate in the North in Liverpool
Letter outlining possible locations for Tate in the North in Liverpool

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Albert Dock
Albert Dock
  © Tate Archive 2003
Various schemes had been proposed for the derelict Albert Docks including demolishing the warehouses and building offices and even filling in the dock! Such schemes would have irreversibly changed the face and history of the area. Luckily the newly founded Merseyside Development Corporation (a government funded body whose aim was to support rejuvenation projects in run down areas) purchased the site in 1981 and encouraged proposals that preserved the feel of the Grade 1 listed buildings in this important historical site.

The Maritime Museum leased one of the warehouses and restaurants and bars opened in other sections of the dock. The once industrial hub of Liverpool was beginning to emerge as a bustling cultural centre. Tate Trustees visited the Dock in November 1981, and although work on the project did not commence until 1985, the site was decided upon as the location for the new 'Tate in the North'.