Recreation of Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices Iconic Naval Architects Photograph
To celebrate the next stage in the history of the former Harland & Wolff HQ Building & Drawing Offices, Maritime Belfast wanted to recreate one of the most famous images of the iconic building. Taken by Robert Welch, who was Harland & Wolff’s official photographer, the image portrays a day in the life of the naval architects and draughtsmen hard at work on ship designs in one of the two drawing offices. Capturing a special moment in time, thousands of ships were designed in the building including the plans for Olympic, Titanic and the SS Nomadic and in later years, naval warships such as HMS Belfast.
Work will shortly commence on the hotel project with a £4.9million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will enable Maritime Belfast to restore the derelict drawing offices and unlock private funding to develop a boutique 4* hotel in the shipbuilder’s former headquarters building.
Taking part in the recreation were key people who have contributed to this important step: Maritime Belfast Trust’s board and staff, Titanic Quarter Limited, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Strategic Investment Board, Consarc and Deloitte, alongside supporters such as local chaplain Chris Bennett, the Dock Café and members of the Belfast Titanic Society. Former drawing office employees were also present to bridge the gap between the past and the future, and descendants of Samuel Donnelly who was in the original Welch image were there to mark the occasion.
Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Maritime Belfast, highlighted. “The entire team that has been working on this restoration project are committed to telling the story of this building and the people that worked here. It seemed fitting that we recreate the famous image captured in 1912 and we were delighted to be joined by the relatives of some of the Harland and Wolff employees in the original photo. We will continue to deliver initiatives that celebrate the past as we restore the Drawing Offices and explore new ways to engage Belfast and Northern Ireland citizens, many of whom have direct links, to this historic space. “
The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will specifically focus on developing the two historical Drawing Offices as spaces for public use. The boutique hotel will also showcase Belfast’s industrial heritage, centring on the authentic spaces – the Board Room, Telephony Room and Entrance Lobby – as well as the fixtures and fittings that relate to the local shipbuilding industry.
Head of NLHF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, added: “Belfast is known throughout the world for its maritime and industrial past, with the drawing offices amongst the most important surviving locations. We truly enjoyed becoming a part of the building’s history through this recreation and look forward to seeing the historic spaces conserved and opened up to be enjoyed by many more people in the future.”
This is a very unique and authentic project for Belfast that could not have happened without the support from the Heritage Enterprise Scheme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable. Grants of £100k to £5million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant buildings into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.
And for all those with an eye for detail – the original Welch Image was taken in Drawing Office 2, but it was later remodelled and the walls changed. Drawing Office 1 is virtually unchanged since it was built in 1886 though it had one less window at the rear of the room than the other drawing office.
Large group – Maritime Belfast and supporters gather to celebrate the next step in the history of the Drawing Offices.
Small group – Members of Maritime Belfast’s Board and Chief Executive Kerrie Sweeney review the plans for the hotel project. (L-R Mark Beattie, Marie-Therese McGivern, Sammy Douglas, Kerrie Sweeney, Nicky Dunn, Noel Rooney, Denis Power)
Original Image – HOYFM.HW.H501 Robert Welch Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland, Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.