Belfast becomes a shipping giant
Douglas Carson from the Titanic Trust tells how Belfast became the home of the biggest shipyard in the world almost by accident. Edward Harland and Gustav Wolff were looking for a place to build ships after receiving financial backing from the Jewish merchant community in Hamburg. They tried unsuccessfully to set up a shipyard in other locations, but in the end they came to Belfast when Robert Hickson offered to sell Harland his interest in the city's shipyard.
Carson suggests that the city had no natural advantages such as iron, steel or coal, so was at first sight an improbable place to build a shipyard. Yet once established, Harland and Wolff steadily expanded and eventually became the Cape Canaveral of world shipbuilding and indeed world technology.
Michael McCaughan, of National Museums and Galleries Northern Ireland, explains that Belfast at this time was an industrial city with a thriving linen industry engaged in worldwide export and other engineering industries in addition to its leading-edge shipbuilding industry. Belfast was an industrial metropolis of international stature, with the shipyard a leading element in this industrial frame.
Available since: Wed 28 Mar 2012
- Clare Delargy
- Ian Kirk-Smith
- Production Assistant
- Barbara Edwards
- Douglas Carson
- Michael McCaughan