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The Derelict Duke Of Lancaster

The Titanic’s builders, Belfast-based Harland & Wolff, built a ship called the Duke Of Lancaster in 1956 to be used as a passenger ferry and cruise liner. The warship was 114 meters long and weighed 11,460 tons.

The ship was immediately set to work after construction was completed. Its main route was Heysham to Belfast, and it was built as a replacement for a 3,600-ton vessel of the same name, built-in 1928, which was operated by Midland and Scottish Railway.


Author: Alex Liivet CC BY 2.0

As vehicle ferries grew more common in the 1960s, the Duke of Lancaster became less popular as a passenger ferry. A significant expenditure was required to renovate the ship and convert it to a car ferry. As a result, the Duke of Lancaster’s cruise ship operations were briefly halted while changes were made.

A stern door for vehicles was fitted and the main deck was converted to take cars. In April 1970, the Duke of Lancaster returned to service. Now, it could accommodate about 1,200 passengers and 105 cars.

The ship’s duty as a ferry and in other roles ended in 1978, and it was put up for a brief time in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria.


Author: Alex Liivet CC BY 2.0

In 1979, the Duke of Lancaster was purchased by Empirewise Limited, a Liverpool-based firm. The ship arrived in August of that year and was stranded on the Dee River in northeast Wales. The ship was renamed “The Fun Ship” and operated as a leisure center in its new home of Llanerch-y-Mor.

However, it was forced to close in the 1990s due to numerous legal challenges. The main entrance to the ship was via a bridge that was supposedly impassable to emergency vehicles, according to one rationale for the shutdown (this fact was subsequently proved to be incorrect).

The ship has been covered with rust on the outside since it was abandoned, but the inside is still in good shape. Kiwie, a Latvian graffiti artist, was commissioned to paint the ship as public art in August 2012. The plan was to turn it into a British open-air art gallery.


Author: Alex Liivet CC BY 2.0

Vibrant and surreal graffiti appeared on the ship from August to November 2012. Other European graffiti artists have joined this project. At one point, there even appeared a portrait of the ship’s first captain John Irwin. The ship was repainted in 2017, with the majority of it painted blank and certain pieces painted white.

In 2018, it looked as if this derelict ship would get a new lease of life. Zombie Infection Events decided to stage a horror survival experience aboard the Duke of Lancaster. Tickets to the event soon sold out. Unfortunately, the organizers had to cancel the event in January 2019 at the last minute. This occurred as a result of concerns highlighted during a discussion with North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.


Author: Paul Lakin CC BY 3.0

The bridge that grants access to the ship was once again to blame for this setback. The emergency services team requested assurance that the bridge could support the weight of their trucks, which can weigh between 12 and 14 tons. A large number of potholes in the surrounding area were also considered unacceptable, causing the rescue service anxiety.

According to a spokeswoman for the Duke of Lancaster Appreciation Society, the bridge’s ability to sustain the weight of such vehicles was validated in 2014. The representative went on to say that obtaining additional confirmation five years later on the safety of a bridge that had already stood for 100 years was “a little absurd.”


Author: Bob Abell CC BY-SA 2.0

Despite this setback, the organizers remain committed to putting on the event if at all possible. Greg Rudman, the man behind Zombie Infection Events, was still confident that the event would take place in the future, according to a Welsh news outlet in September 2019.

Mr. Rudman is reported as adding that they are working with the owners to resolve the issues, and that “we aren’t giving up the effort to see her brought back to life” despite the lack of a specific date for the event.


Author: Ali Harrison CC BY-ND 2.0


Author: Berit Watkin | Flickr @ben124 | CC BY 2.0


Author: Andrew | Flickr @arg_flickr | CC BY 2.0


Author: Ali Harrison CC BY-ND 2.0


Author: Ali Harrison CC BY-ND 2.0


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