The biggest regeneration project undertaken in recent years in the Titanic Quarter is nearing completion and is to be officially opened this month during a specially co-ordinated Dockside Festival. The final phase of HMS Caroline dock and built environment gets set to open in March.
The £20m investment in the restoration of the Pump House, refurbishment of Alexandra Dock, installation of a new bridge and the full remodelling of the HMS Caroline (completed in 2017), which now employs 20 people, will be ready to open to the public from 24 March 2018 revealing Belfast’s latest and most imaginative tourism asset.
The Pump House will house an extensive new visitor centre, and a new 25-metre steel and timber footbridge has been installed across the mouth of Alexandra Dock to allow even greater accessibility for visitors to the area.
The bridge, built by Woodburn Engineering of Carrickfergus allows visitors dramatically close access to the ship’s bows and to experience the atmosphere of this historic wharf and associated pump house.
The Pump House will feature much of the original Edwardian era machinery and technology and visitors will see at first hand Alexandra Dock’s refurbished wharves and whose cobbles have been removed one by one, washed and individually repositioned by hand.
The Dockside Festival, launching March 24, will provide intrigue and enjoyment for every member of the family, kicking off with daytime family and community workshops, crafting, actity trails and the chance to handle replica artefacts in the Pump House Visitor Centre.
The evening schedule of events includes movie screenings in the Ship’s Drill Hall, as well as captivating lectures by Dr Eamon Phoenix and Donal McAnallen, speaking of topics including a look at the political environment into which HMS Caroline arrived in 1924, and the impact of the First World War on GAA in Ulster.
Director of the massive regeneration project, Captain John Rees OBE from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, says the area will captivate audiences.
“HMS Caroline is the world’s last remaining floating survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland, and last year was awarded five-star status from Tourism Northern Ireland,” says Captain Rees.
“The completion of the Pump House and the Bridge across Alexandra Dock opens this revived area of Queen’s Island for the public to explore this collection of Victoria architecture, engineering and marine technologies focused around HMS Caroline.”
HMS Caroline has been moored in Belfast since 1924, and in the past four years has been restored and fitted out thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy.
The ship opens to the public seven days a week from 10am until 5pm. For more on the Dockside Festival and the story of the restoration, visit www.hmscaroline.co.uk
Some of HMS Caroline’s attractions open to the public include:
Historic Spaces: The historic spaces on HMS Caroline include the Captain’s Quarters, Marines’ Mess and Engine Rooms, as well as the very important Bathroom Flat, Sick Bay and Galley. All of these spaces have been recreated to look as they did in 1916, the year that Caroline was part of one of the largest naval battles in history – the Battle of Jutland.
Signal School: Learn about communication at sea during the 20th and 21st centuries on state of the art exhibits within this gallery inspired by the 1924 Wireless Telegraphy School. Try your hand at using a First World War signal lamp and see if you can crack a code using techniques like semaphore and flags.
Torpedo School: Ascend into the Torpedo School to explore naval weaponry and dazzle camouflage. Learn all about war at sea, create your own dazzle design and see if you can evade an enemy attack.
Virtual Access Suite: The Virtual Access Suite provides access to remote and hidden areas of HMS Caroline. Learn how the ship works with interactive exhibits and take control of HMS Caroline in the Virtual Bridge. Here you will also learn about Caroline’s impact in Belfast – her home for 90 years.
Outside spaces: Walk along the decks and see the ship’s 6-inch and 4-inch guns. Don’t forget to head up to the Navigating Bridge where you can visit the Captain’s Sea Cabin.
Mess Deck Café: Sailors were generally well-nourished to keep spirits and energy levels high for their busy days on board the ship. At HMS Caroline we continue this tradition, so why not take a break and relax in the Mess Deck Café on the lower deck serving local produce from 10am – 5pm daily. Here you can enjoy a hearty and wholesome drink and snack before you continue your journey through HMS Caroline. The café also showcases a historic recreation of a Light Cruiser’s mess table, ready for the crew to enjoy a meal.
Shop: Mark your visit to HMS Caroline with a special memento from our on board shop. Browse for gifts, clothing and posters inspired by HMS Caroline and Royal Naval Heritage. The shop offers a wide range of quality souvenirs, ideal to bring home for friends and family.