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Titanic Pump House is set to be revamped as HMS Caroline visitor centre

By Linda Stewart

Published 03/07/2014

The Pump House is currently owned by the Northern Ireland Science Park - but this could change
The Pump House is currently owned by the Northern Ireland Science Park - but this could change

The historic Pump House that served the dock where Titanic was built is to be transformed into a visitor centre for HMS Caroline.

The listed building is the subject of a new planning application by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is working towards reopening HMS Caroline to public view in 1916.

HMS Caroline is one of the most historic fighting ships in the world and is the last remaining survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the largest ever maritime battle during the First World War.

She is to be restored to her former glory and it is hoped she will reopen in time for the centenary of the battle at the end of May 1916.

Architect Dawson Stelfox said his company Consarc has drawn up plans for restoration work to the Pump House for its client, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, and these have now been lodged with Planning Service.

"It goes alongside the restoration of HMS Caroline," he said.

"The Pump House was originally built for the Alexandra Dock and it serviced both the Alexandra Dock and the Thompson Dock.

"Part of the Pump House will be used as a visitor reception area for HMS Caroline.

"The whole fabric of the building will be restored, the brickwork and the stonework, and internally it will be fitted out as a visitor reception and interpretation for when people arrive at the site.

"The whole of the dockside is going to be restored with cobbles and square setts – it will take away all the tarmac and restore the traditional features."

At present the site is owned by Northern Ireland Science Park, but the planning application has been lodged by the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Eventually the Pump House will be taken over and run by either the National Museum of the Royal Navy or the Titanic Foundation.

Mr Stelfox said: "This is part of an overall plan to get all of the historical assets in the area restored. It started with the Hamilton Dock and the SS Nomadic which was finished last year.

"The idea is that the Alexandra Dock and the Thompson Dock would both be restored and a walkway would be created along the river, connecting the two together."

After HMS Caroline was decommissioned in 2011, there were proposals to move her to Portsmouth, but following a hard-fought campaign, the National Museum of the Royal Navy announced that she would stay in Belfast and be restored to her former glory.

In May 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund announced an £845,600 grant to support conversion work as a museum.

The former boiler room of the Pump House has been converted into a modern cafe and visitor centre which is open to the public.

Background

Originally built to serve the Alexandra Graving Dock when it opened in 1889, the Pump-House was extended in its original design when the Thompson Graving Dock was built, allowing it to serve both docks when the latter opened in 1911. The Pump-House operated all functions of the dock and the size of the Thompson dock necessitated machinery of massive proportions. The majority of the now listed building and its impressive machinery remains in its original condition, standing as an example of grand-scale Victorian/Edwardian engineering.

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