Belfast’s offering as a maritime heritage destination has been given a major boost today as two iconic attractions – the Great Light and Titanic Walkway – officially opened to the public in Titanic Quarter.
The opening event was also selected to launch The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Northern Ireland.
The Great Light gave Mew Island Lighthouse on the Copeland Islands its traditional revolving light and guided mariners to and from Belfast Lough until 2014. It is the world’s first and largest hyper-radial Fresnel lighthouse lens, installed in Tory Island Lighthouse in 1887 then reconfigured and moved to Mew Island in 1928.
The optic was removed from Mew Island in 2014 as the lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar power.
The Great Light project from Titanic Foundation, the charity committed to preserving Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage, in partnership with the Commissioners of Irish Lights, will see the optic given a new role bringing to life the story of lighthouses, their technological developments, their light-keepers and their role in the maritime and industrial history of Belfast and beyond.
From Friday, 9 March, visitors will be able to walk the new 500 metre Titanic Walkway on Victoria Wharf, which connects the Titanic Slipways to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock, learning about the maritime and industrial heritage of the area on their way to the Great Light. This iconic waterfront walkway has been delivered by Titanic Quarter Limited.
The projects have been funded by Tourism NI, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council, Ulster Garden Villages and the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, said: “At around 130 years old, weighing 10 tonnes and standing seven meters tall, the Great Light is a unique heritage object of national and international importance with links to our maritime and industrial past. We are delighted to have played a role in saving this fantastic artefact and preserving it in Titanic Quarter for everyone to enjoy.”
James Eyre, Commercial Director of Titanic Quarter, said: “We are delighted to see the completion of the Titanic Walkway and the Great Light. They both add new and exciting aspects to our world class public realm to be enjoyed by those that live, work and visit Titanic Quarter. The Titanic Walkway now provides a seamless connection between our maritime heritage assets from the heart of the city centre to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock. We are very grateful for the support and dedication from all of our partners, delivering these magnificent projects.”
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister, said: “We’re delighted that support from our Local Investment Fund is allowing people to enjoy the Great Light. The theme for my year of office is ‘Global Belfast’ and important projects like this one are illuminating the very special visitor experience we offer to people, the world over. We made a commitment in The Belfast Agenda to protecting and enhancing our environment and built heritage, and as well as helping to deliver on that objective, this project will also enhance our ever growing visitor offer.”
Anna Carragher, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, the Great Light has been conserved and given new meaning as the beacon which connects the wealth of maritime and industrial heritage attractions on offer in Titanic Quarter. National Lottery funding has been crucial in transforming this area - HMS Caroline, the Nomadic and Titanic Hotel Belfast amongst those to have benefited –which now attracts both local and international visitors to learn about the former shipyard, its workers and the wider industrial development of the city.
“Today also marks the launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Northern Ireland. The slogan for the year is Our Heritage: Where the past meets the future, and nowhere is this more fitting than here in Titanic Quarter. We are working with the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division, Tourism Northern Ireland, the Arts Council and the British Council to help leverage the potential of our cultural heritage in new and interesting ways.”
The Chairman of Ulster Garden Villages, Dr Tony Hopkins CBE said: “We were pleased to be able to fund this project and to help to save this important piece of maritime history. Lighthouses are among the most visible and interesting icons of our coastline. The “Great Light” located at Titanic Quarter will give citizens and tourists the opportunity to see the workings of a lighthouse up close and to learn about their history and importance as a navigational aid and a warning to shipping.”
Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the body which delivers an essential navigation service around the island of Ireland said: “Irish Lights has been serving the mariner around the island of Ireland, north and south, for over 200 years. Throughout the generations our engineers and lighthouse keepers have been at the forefront of continuous change and technological innovation. The Great Light is a fantastic example of the ingenuity and talent of past and current members of our staff.
“We are delighted to have had this opportunity to team up with designers, architects, historians and tourism interests to develop this amazing landmark project which brings the heritage and story of lighthouses right into the heart of Belfast, a community that has contributed so much to our maritime economy past and present. We are also delighted that today the Great Light not only becomes a stand-out attraction in its own right but also becomes part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland network, promoting lighthouse tourism, north and south.”
The Great Light
The Great Light is one of the largest optics of its kind ever built in the world. It is a unique maritime heritage object with significance to Belfast’s economic, maritime and industrial past. It is totally irreplaceable and is an exceptionally rare maritime artefact, producing one of the strongest lighthouse beams ever to shine.
The huge Fresnel Hyper-Radial lenses of the Great Light served two lighthouses over approximately 127 years. The lenses were originally made in Paris, 1887 for Tory Island Lighthouse, situated off Donegal. In the 1920’s the original optic was sent to England and split into two by the Chance Brothers. One was put back into Tory Island and the other, the Great Light, was fitted into Mew Island lighthouse, part of the Copeland Islands.
It was first lit on 1st September 1928 and was used until 2014 when it was replaced by a solar powered LED. As this optic is of immense historical importance, and guided ships to and from Belfast, Titanic Foundation became involved in 2015, working in partnership with the Commissioners of Irish Lights to secure the optic’s future locally, especially given the international interest in such a rare object. The optic has now been restored and housed in a new interpretive structure, designed to last for 100 years, and providing free public access to the Great Light’s exciting story of innovation, engineering and safety at sea.
Titanic Foundation have been delighted to champion Mew Island’s optic. The success of this project is also due to the enthusiasm and support of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, who kindly contributed and restored the optic; Belfast Harbour Commissioners providing the historic site on which it is located and the assistance provided by Titanic Quarter in developing the Titanic Walkway. The project has been funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Belfast City Council and Ulster Garden Villages.
For further information visit www.titanic-foundation.org
About Titanic Walkway
The Titanic Walkway is being delivered by Titanic Quarter Limited and funded by Tourism Northern Ireland. The 500 metres of footpath will link the Titanic and Olympic Slipways to Alexandra Dock, where HMS Caroline is berthed. The path will accommodate pedestrians and will add significantly to the Titanic Quarter public realm. The contractors for the project are McAvoys Contracts Ltd, who commenced work on site in May 2017. Both the Titanic Walkway and Great Light projects will be completed and opened to the public in November 2017.
For further information
Titanic Quarter Limited - www.titanic-quarter.com t: 028 9076 6300
Tourism Northern Ireland - Finola Guinnane, Corporate Communications Officer t: 028 9044 1644
About European Year of Cultural Heritage
The European Commission has designated 2018 as a Year of Cultural Heritage. It aims to encourage people to explore the rich and diverse cultural heritage across Europe, by celebrating, understanding and protecting its unique value and reflecting on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives. The slogan for the year is Our Heritage: Where the past meets the future.
Tourism Northern Ireland, Heritage Lottery Fund, DfC Historic Environment Division, the Arts Council and the British Council are collaborating to leverage the potential of our cultural heritage. Work to date has involved the publication of a Culture and Heritage Strategic Framework and a business case to identify in year opportunities to build capacity within the sector and unlock new innovative opportunities through new and strengthened cross sectoral partnerships.
A registered charity in Northern Ireland, set up in 2007 to preserve Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage, Titanic Foundation’s ambition is to create a dynamic maritime destination where preservation of heritage complements regeneration and where public realm, events and amenities attract, engage and connects everyone in Belfast to Titanic’s narrative - human endeavour, pride, inspiration and innovation. Titanic Foundation owns the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction, Titanic Belfast (World Travel Awards 2016), and the last White Star ship SS Nomadic. With the restoration of the former Harland & Wolff HQ Building and Drawing Offices complete and the Great Light open to the public, we are progressing a number of industrial maritime heritage led projects in Titanic Quarter.
Twitter - @tfl_Belfast
For further information, please contact Maeve Moreland, Destination Manager.
E: firstname.lastname@example.org / T: +44 (0)28 9073 0490.
Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is one of Europe’s largest urban-waterfront regeneration projects.
Master-planned over 185 acres on the site where RMS Titanic was designed and built, Titanic Quarter is redefining what it means to work, live, and play in central Belfast. During a decade of development Titanic Quarter has evolved into a world class tourism destination, an educational and media campus, a residential community, accommodating high quality Grade A offices and premium retail outlets.
Titanic Quarter offers a location that has sufficient space and advanced I.T. infrastructure to maximise productivity benefits for the highly competitive, high value added international financial, innovation and business services. Gateway Offices, located at the entrance to Titanic Quarter, is a template for future developments. Fully occupied by Citi, it has emerged as a symbol of growth of international financial services in Belfast.
Titanic Quarter’s Abercorn Residential Complex of 474 apartment homes is located in the centre of a lively urban community. It represents the modern face of Belfast.
Titanic Quarter’s newest hotel, the Titanic Hotel Belfast (120 bedrooms), luxury boutique hotel and visitor attraction in the former Harland & Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices, has recently opened in September 2017. Three further hotels are planned for Titanic Quarter further strengthening Belfast’s business, conferencing, leisure and heritage tourism growth.
Heritage Lottery Fund Northern Ireland
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk
Follow us on Twitter @HLFNI, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.
Further information Please contact Julie Halliday at HLF Northern Ireland. M: 07733 100674 , E: email@example.com
About Ulster Garden Villages Limited
Over the last 70 years, Ulster Garden Villages Limited has been making a real and lasting difference to the lives of people in Northern Ireland.
In 1983, the Committee of Management of Ulster Garden Villages took the necessary step to convert the Association into a charity and under its amended regulations empowered it to transfer from reserves to a Common Fund such amounts to be available for distribution for general charitable purposes, as the Committee shall from time to time determine.
The Common Fund is the bedrock of the Association’s grant-making to local charities. Ulster Garden Villages has awarded over £29 million in donations since 1983, with over £12 million being awarded in the last ten years.
Belfast City Council, Local Investment Fund
Belfast City Council allocated £85,000 through its Local Investment Fund to restore and display the Mew Island Optic in a freely accessible new glazed structure in Titanic Quarter. The project will also develop skills through volunteer recruitment and training local tour guides on the importance of the optic.
The Local Investment Fund (LIF) supports projects which aim to make a real difference in people’s lives at a neighbourhood level, by addressing local community need. Since 2012, Belfast City Council has committed £9 million to the fund and to date over 80 projects, representing an investment of over £6 million, have been delivered throughout the city. A number of additional projects are currently in development. For more information, go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/localinvestmentfund