“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom — Northwestern Europe (the British Isles)

Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2]

Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2] Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., May 13, 2019
1. Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2] Marker

1922 The Shipyards Expand Eastwards

The First World War had been a period of frantic activity in the shipyards of Belfast, with orders for both new warships and running repairs to the fleet. In 1917, both Harland & Wolff and Workman Clark & Company leased additional land from the Belfast Harbour Commissioners to expand their operations further down the jagged peninsula of Queen's Island. Industrious as ever, Harland & Wolff launched the first vessel from their new East Yard, the S.S. Maine, just two years later. In 1920, the commissioners began a programme of land-reclamation on the east side of the Musgrave Channel, just north of Victoria Park, and the following year a series of major oil companies leased oil tank farm sites, linked by pipelines to a purpose-built oil jetty on the newly reclaimed land. While new industries were being created, old connections were being lost. In 1924 Lord William Pirrie of Harland & Wolff, one of the principal players in Titanic's conception, and a colossus within the world shipping industry, died aged 78 while on a visit to the Panama Canal.

1937 An Airport For Queen's

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The land reclamation of the 1920s also sowed the seeds of the future aerospace industry in Belfast. The commissioners had been contemplating an airport from 1928 onwards, as the only formal landing ground in Northern Island was the RAF base at Aldergrave. By 1933, 190 acres of land had been reclaimed and the commissioners took the opportunity to invite the prominent aviator, William Forbes-Sempill (later the 19th Lord Sempill), to fly to Belfast from London. Sempill landed on the embryonic airfield on 31st May 1933, and was warmly received by the senior harbour officials. Belfast Harbour Airport first appears on the map record in 1937, the Air Ministry having granted the commissioners the license to operate daytime flights on the 11th September 1937. Mrs Neville Chamberlain, the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, officially opened the airport on the 16th March 1938, and it remains in use today as George Best Belfast City Airport.

1941 The Belfast Blitz

Belfast escaped the first two years of the Second World War unscathed, but as a major centre of the British war effort the port and harbour were simply too strategic for the Luftwaffe to ignore indefinitely. A small preliminary sortie on 7-8 April 1941 caused relatively little damage to the harbour, but on the night of 15-16th April 1941 the city sustained a massive attack that mistakenly hit residential

Titanic Belfast and Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2] Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., May 13, 2019
2. Titanic Belfast and Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2] Marker
areas, leaving an estimated 745 people dead: the highest death toll from a single night of bombing suffered by any British city outside of London, even Coventry. This map bears the red ink annotations of the harbour's engineers, and records damage to the various installations from a more accurate third attack on 4-5 May 1941. This inflicted significant damage to the harbour facilities, with bombs destroying more than half of Harland & Wolff's establishment and wrecking large parts of the Shorts & Harland aircaft factory that had only been established in 1936, largely due to the convenient proximity of the new airfield.

1959 Expanding Ever Eastward

The red ink annotations on this map of 1959 convey the extent of the land the Belfast Harbour Commissioners planned to reclaim from Belfast Lough in the years that followed. More than 82 acres of the County Antrim foreshore were embanked by 1963, creating yet more space for new enterprise to the east of the city. From its seaward entrance to the turning basin, the Victoria Channel was deepened by five feet and widened by nearly 100 feet on the County Antrim side so that it could accept ships of even greater tonnage. Symbolic of how far the harbour had expanded eastward was the demolition in 1959 of the redundant outer lighthouse that had marked the entrance to the Victoria Channel since 1891. Ever with an eye for the future,

Harland & Wolff Shipyard's <i>Samson</i> and <i>Goliath</i> Cranes image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., May 13, 2019
3. Harland & Wolff Shipyard's Samson and Goliath Cranes
Belfast was preparing its port and harbour for the age of containerisation and the supertanker.

1969 Belfast Builds Bigger

Ten years on, and the red lines on the map of 1959 had become hard lines in the mud and sand showing the land to the east reclaimed from the sea. Completed the previous year, the 1150-foot length of the new Belfast Dry Dock gave Queen's Island's plan its tell-tale gaping jaws. Another important change can be discerned at the end of the Musgrave Channel, where Harland & Wolff were in the process of converting the basin into the Building Dock, ushering in a new era in Belfast shipyard technology. After the dock's completion in 1970 increasing number of vessels were prefabricated in sections, then brought together by the giant travelling cranes Samson and Goliath for welding into a single hull; a change as dramatic as a conversion from cargo holds to shipping containers. Hulls no longer rose up from an inclined slip to be slid dramatically into the waiting Lagan. Instead, the sluices of the dock were opened slowly and the new vessel gently floated off its blocks. The ships grew larger, but the sheer drama of the launch day was diminished.

1985 Bicentenary of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Two centuries and one name change on, the Belfast Harbour Commissioners could proudly survey a map of the port and harbour that

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would have been unrecognisable to their Belfast Board forebears. The winding course of the River Lagan had been tamed and the dredged 'slob' converted into profitable land where shipyards, refineries and airports now stand. Harland & Wolff still occupy the end of the Musgrave Channel, but the yard where Titanic and her sisters were born is now yesterday's technology: the Arrol Gantry demolished, the slipways levelled for use as a workforce car park, and the plating sheds given over to storage.

2012 Belfast's Titanic Centenary

One hundred years after Titanic departed Belfast's shores, Queen's Island witnessed the birth of a new icon for the city. Opened on 31st March 2012, the jutting prows of Titanic Belfast were raised upon the former site of the plating sheds, commanding the head of the historic slipways where both Olympic and Titanic once lay within the pylons of the Arrol Gantry. Belfast's port remained busy, as did Harland & Wolff in their works beside the Building Dock, but the great North and South Yards of Queen's Island had long been silent. Heritage came to replace industry as this post-industrial landscape began its reinvention as a 21st century city centre. Visitors from all over the world could now converge upon the famous former shipyards, walking the site that once resounded to the clamour of hammers and punching machines... the song of the shipyards.

Titanic Belfast marked the start of the new Lagan Village masterplan, and the corner stone of the proposed Titanic Quarter with its shops, offices, hotels and apartments. Together with the redevelopment of the Abercorn Basin, the preservation of the Hamilton Graving Dock, the conversion of Harland & Wolff's historic drawing offices, and the return of Titanic's tender, Nomadic, Titanic Belfast created a concentration of heritage assets that celebrated the famous ship's legacy as a symbol of Belfast's engineering prowess.

2030 One Vision for Queen's Island

In October 2003 Harcourt Developments entered into a partnership with the Belfast Harbour Commissioners to redevelop the former shipyards of Queen's Island. Seeking to breathe new life into this historic waterfront, Harcourt engaged CivicArts/Eric R. Kuhne & Associates in 2005 to create a vision plan that explored the island's full potential. The result was Titanic City: a mixed-use masterplan that recast Queen's Island as a home for 28,000 people, spread across seven village neighbourhoods. The design's elegant geometry of radiating boulevards, avenues and orbital promenades was stitched together with a lyrical pattern of parks and garden squares that placed every home within two blocks of green space or the water's edge. The emphasis was on creating a sustainable model of social integration, with homes, shops and places of employment all within easy walking distance.

The 2030 Vision Plan continues the long tradition of remoulding Queen's Island to meet the city's needs. It presents one way of reclaiming this reclaimed land as a place for communal gatherings, returning parts of this island to their 1840s origins as a precious public pleasure ground. With its 'crystal' atrium ringed by aluminum hulls, Titanic Belfast assumes the role of the city's long-lost Crystal Palace, providing the focus for this quarter's cultural activity. In time hotels, offices and apartments will ring its gleaming exterior as Titanic City evolves in response to the city's needs. At its peak in the early 1940s Harland & Wolff employed some 35,000 people. In 2030 Titanic City may reverberate with a multitude of voices once more as its projected working population reaches 30,000. Once where we built ships, now we build cities.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1922.
Location. 54° 36.465′ N, 5° 54.575′ W. Marker is in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Marker is adjacent to the Titanic Belfast museum. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Olympic Way, Queen's Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT3 9EP, United Kingdom. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 1] (within shouting distance of this marker); Olympic Slipway (about 90 meters away, measured in a direct line); Former Harland & Wolff Headquarter Building (about 90 meters away); Harland and Wolff Shipyard (about 90 meters away); Titanic and Olympic Slipways (about 90 meters away); Titanic Slipway (about 120 meters away); Caisson (about 120 meters away); RMS Titanic Keel Laying Centenary (about 150 meters away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Belfast.
Regarding Shipbuilding & Mapmaking [Part 2]. The maps well show the evolution of Belfast Harbour. However, glass reflectivity makes it difficult to photograph the maps.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Shipbuilding in Belfast. (Submitted on June 10, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. Shipbuilding - Story of Belfast. (Submitted on June 10, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Titanic Belfast. (Submitted on June 10, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)

Credits. This page was last revised on June 10, 2019. It was originally submitted on June 10, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 142 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 10, 2019, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Dec. 10, 2023