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.
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.
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.