Final phase of £20m HMS Caroline dock and build project is set to open

Captain John Rees from the National Museum of the Royal Navy at the newly installed footbridge connecting Alexandra Dock with the new Pump House visitor centre and HMS Caroline

THE £20 million restoration of Belfast's Alexandra Dock, Pump House and surrounding HMS Caroline areas is nearing completion and will open later this month.

The biggest regeneration project undertaken in recent years in the Titanic Quarter formally launches on March 24 during a specially co-ordinated Dockside Festival.

The 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, which now employs 20 people, will be 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, activity 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.

Captain John Rees OBE from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who is director of the massive regeneration project, 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.

“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.

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