£1.5million for Titanic Dock 8 March 2012
DOE invests £1.5million to preserve Titanic Dry Dock
The Thompson Graving Dock, an iconic part of Northern
Ireland’s industrial history and the largest authentic Titanic landmark in the
world, is being given a new lease of life after 100 years.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has announced a £1.5million investment to preserve the historical site based at the Northern Ireland Science Park.
For over 100 years, the existing steel dock gate which measures 150ft at its widest point, 44ft deep and 887ft long has divided the dry dock from the sea. Due to its age, the working gate has been degrading over recent years and there is a real threat of future flooding which could see the historic treasure damaged along with the Dry Dock and Pump–House.
Work has begun to protect the 880–ft long Thompson Graving Dock. This is the largest single investment ever by DOE in support of a scheduled historic monument. The Thompson Dock is a key part of the historic infrastructure of the Belfast Shipyards, and is specially protected as a Historic Monument.
The work involves the construction of a permanent structure in the style of a gate, outside the original dock gate. When completed, this new gate will sit in the ‘Titanic slot’, an outer position in which the original gate would have been positioned to accommodate the sheer length of the Titanic.
A temporary coffer dam is being constructed to provide a dry working area around the original gate and Titanic slot, and to allow the construction of the permanent structure that will safeguard the dock. The work is being taken forward by the DOE’s Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which is funding the scheme, and the Northern Ireland Science Park, who currently maintain the dock.
Alex Attwood said: “The importance of the Thompson Graving Dock should be acknowledged; when it was completed in 1911 it was the largest dry dock in the world and without it the Titanic and its sister ships Olympic and Britannic, could not have been completed.
“The dock is now over 100 years old and it is important that we take action to ensure its long term viability. The work will not only preserve the original dock gate but will also allow better public access to the dock and the working dock floor.
“This work is very timely given that the Titanic centenary is just a few months away and the opening of the Titanic signature project only a few weeks away. When the work is completed, the Thompson Graving Dock will complement other Titanic attractions and help to showcase Belfast’s industrial and maritime history. A lot of us who have visited the dock know of its scale and impact. It is a vital element in the Titanic experience and in itself conveys the achievement of the original build, the devastation of the loss of life and the engineering achievement of the ship designers and builders.”
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: “This a very significant project and will be another important part of our tourism offering.
“It will maintain the dock gates and ensure the Thompson Dock continues to be an integral part of the whole Titanic experience.
“My Department developed the scheme along with the Science Park and transferred the funding to the NIEA so that it could use its built heritage powers to complete it.
“This is an example of joined up government in action and it will help preserve a priceless piece of our history for future generations.”
Director of corporate real estate and facilities for the Northern Ireland Science Park, Mervyn Watley added: “The Science Park is the hub of the knowledge economy in
Northern Ireland and
lies at the centre of a proud tradition of engineering innovation and
world–renowned maritime heritage. To date the Park has invested significantly
to maintain the Dock as
a dry dock however due to funding limitations has only been able to provide
temporary solutions. We are delighted that DOE have come on board to provide a more
permanent measure to prevent the gate falling into disrepair and to improve
access to the historical site.
“From April 2012 the public will be given access to the floor of the colossal Thompson Dry–Dock for the first time ever. This unique attraction will further add to the Titanic experience at the Science Park along with the 100 year old Edwardian Pump–House which includes a state of the art Interpretive Centre.”