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c. 1955

A voyage to Belfast in color

When global transport meant ocean-going vessels, it was in Belfast that many of those vessels were formed — including the Titanic.

RMS Titanic is the most famous liner of many constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which was then the largest in the world. The first liner launched by Harland and Wolff was the Venetian, and it produced many more ships for the White Star Line including the Oceanic, the Britannic, and the Olympic and the Titanic.

The cargo ship Foylebank under construction at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 1955. The ship was later renamed Patroclos.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Welcome to the city of shipbuilding. When global transport meant ocean-going vessels, it was in Belfast in Northern Ireland that many of those vessels were formed — including the Titanic.

The First World War had created huge demand for the Belfast shipyards, but with the Great Depression of the 1930s, shipyard employee numbers collapsed from 25,000 in 1914 to just 2,750 in 1933. The Second World War saw production peak again, but more than half of Harland and Wolff’s infrastructure was destroyed by bombing in April 1941.

A view down a street towards the Alhambra Theatre in Lower North Street. The theatre was destroyed by fire and demolished in 1959.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Harland and Wolff’s vessels were in demand after the War, as shipping companies restocked. Yet, after the construction of the Canberra in 1960, the shipyard went into a gradual decline. The age of the liner as the default mode of international transport had gone, replaced by the jet. In 2019, Harland and Wolff ceased trading.

This set of photographs were taken by Bert Hardy for the publication Picture Post, and capture Belfast’s streets and shipyards full of life.

Two girls on the corner of Little Ship Street. A chalked graffiti drawing on the building (centre, right) is captioned; ‘This is Ann.’
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A man delivering sacks of coal from a horse and cart.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A boy crouching by a drain in a courtyard.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Pedestrians on a shopping street, seen through an archway.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A group of boys playing football in a Belfast street.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Waste ground behind houses.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A group of children on a terraced street.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Two men on the quayside at the Harland & Wolff shipyard.
Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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