Queens Island which is now marketed as the 'Titanic Quarter', was created from the massive spoils of mud and earth excavated during workings to widen and deepen the channel into Belfast. The work was undertaken by William Dargan who literally opened Belfast up as a major port. It was originally called Dargans’ Island after him but was renamed when Queen Victoria visited Belfast in 1849.
The island was developed as a pleasure park with Botanical Gardens and Zoo, it even had bathing booths, people would catch a ferry across from the city side to spend a day in the park. Eventually though the park was overtaken by the developing ship building industry and the focus shifted from the Antrim side of the river Lagan to Queens Island. Today you can still see many remains of this vast industry including:
The Hamilton Graving Dock
When a ship is taken into a dry dock, the process of scraping the hull clean of barnacles and rust is known as ‘Graving’, a Graving Dock had the facility to be emptied of water which allowed this process to take place as well as repairs to ship hulls.
The Hamilton Graving Dock was the first one built on Queens Island and was constructed after much controversy and debate. Harland & Wolff wanted the Harbour Commission to build a new dock on the County Down side of the river Lagan which the Commissioners had Parliamentary permission to do.
The proposal however was challenged by the Belfast Shipwrights Society on the grounds that it would put the lives of workers at risk having to cross the river in boats during the hours of darkness. Prior to this the major focus of ship building and repairs had been on the County Antrim side of the Lagan.
The issue even became an election motion in a ballot for members of the Harbour Commission and to push their case Harland & Wolff indicated that if the dock was built on the County Antrim side then they would move their operations to Liverpool.
The company won its argument for the new dock but the issue rumbled on until a compromise was arrived at when the Harbour Commission agreed to also build new facilities on the County Antrim side which led to the construction of a floating dock and the development of the Spencer and Dufferin docks.
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