A 25-metre steel and timber footbridge weighing 14 tonnes has been installed across the mouth of Alexandra Dock in Belfast’s historic Queen’s Island. The bridge will allow visitors to the Pump House to walk across the 19th century dock which is now home to HMS Caroline.
Built by Woodburn Engineering in Carrickfergus, the bridge is made of steel with a timber walk way and is a central component in a major refurbishment programme of the historic Belfast docks.
Director of the £18m HMS Caroline, Pump House and Alexandra Dock restoration projects, Captain John Rees OBE, says the bridge is one of the final pieces of the jigsaw.
“The bridge effectively opens up access to Alexandra Dock from the Pump House for the first time in many decades,” he says. “This will be one of the final pieces completing a complex and very attractive cluster of Victorian architecture, engineering and marine technologies centred around HMS Caroline.”
HMS Caroline is the world’s last remaining floating survivor of the 1916 Battle of Jutland between the German and British imperial and grand fleets. It secured five-star status from Tourism Northern Ireland earlier this year and has also won major tourism awards in the UK.
“HMS Caroline is a living legend. This is a world class heritage asset and the only ship remaining from the Grand and High Seas Fleet of some 250 vessels,” says Captain Rees. “We must not underestimate the value of this ship and the resonance of its history and position in Northern Ireland, so it is a matter of pride for us as well as a contribution to local communities that the ship is brought back to life as a museum and visitor attraction. Naval historians and the general public around the world will be fascinated by this wonderful ship and delighted that they can come on board and see it for themselves.”
Moored in Belfast since 1924 the ship has been restored and fitted out with exhibition areas and exciting interactive suites to provide the visitor with a stark sense of what it was like to be in the middle of a naval battle against the mightiest floating army in the world, the German Imperial Fleet.
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.
The ship opens to the public seven days a week until 5pm. Check www.hmscaroline.co.uk for more information and ticket prices.
The restoration work was completed thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy.