Salvoweb

Harland & Wolff's iron gates. Symbolic?

Posted on | By Thornton Kay
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Co Waterford, Ireland (Rep.) - One of the three surviving cast and wrought iron late Victorian or Edwardian entrance gates from the Belfast shipyard of Harland & Wolff has been posted as a for sale ad on SalvoWEB. These gates have some unusual and mysterious decoration.

The RMS Titanic was the most famous ship to be constructed by the shipbuilding and engineering works on Queen's Island, the biggest employer in Ireland at the time. Over the ensuing decades the shipyard gradually went into decline and the gates were eventually removed by builders. Sean and Jim Corcoran, of The Salvage Shop, Waterford, bought the gates and moved them to their yard in the 1990s where they set about restoring them.

Overall the gates are 20ft wide by 10ft high, each leaf being 8ft square, forming a 16ft opening. Of the three surviving gates one set within the old Harland & Wolff admin and drawing offices (now redeveloped as the Titanic Hotel Belfast); one set, formerly at the H&W works in Woolwich, was relocated to Lyle Park, West Ham in the 1990s; and the remaining set is now in Waterford. Plainer sets of H&W gates also exist, one of which has been restored and relocated to the Titanic museum.

The three sets of gates contain a couple of intriguing features. Inset in the decorative panels are six small turned or cast baluster shapes. What do they symbolise? And punched into on one of the lock cases of the side gates are punched roundels which could be apotropaic.

The Salvage Shop ceased trading in 2007 when Sean Corcoran became a full time artist and set up The Art Hand in Bunmahon. He wrote that they bought the gates from a builder that had worked at Queen's Island and had them in his yard for many years before he decided to sell them.

"At that time we contacted Harland and Wolff," Sean wrote, "and they confirmed that the gates had come from there and that they were legitimately now in the possession of the builder. So the provenance is sound."

"We also have a few other gems remaining from the old Salvage Shop as well as a truck load of 20 foot yellow pine beams. My cousins Tony and David have continued doing Salvage under the name Kielys Salvage."

The Art Hand runs weekend art courses in stained glass and mosaic, art parties for kids, art workshops, collaborative memorial mosaics in schools, produces films and holds a monthly spoken word event called 'words'.


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Footnotes:
1. Sir Edward J Harland (1831-95), at 23 became manager of Hickson's shipyard, Belfast, which he bought a few years later in partnership with William Pirrie, and Gustav Wolff (1834-1913) who said, "Harland builds the ships, Pirrie makes the speeches, and I smoke the cigars." Both Wolff and Harland became MPs and were respectively known as Teutonic and Majestic in the Houses of Parliament.
2. The White Star Lines' Liverpool to New York liners Teutonic and Majestic at 10,000 tons apiece were at 582ft the longest vessels afloat when they were built in 1889. The ships were had an annual subsidy from the Admiralty because they could be converted in 48 hours to armed cruisers in wartime. Teutonic was the first twin-screw vessel constructed for the White Star Line and the first not to be provided with sails. Both ships broke transatlantic records with Majestic proving the faster. For almost twenty years the pair performed faultlessly, carrying record numbers of passenger and weight of cargo, and earning White Star Line large profits.
3. The 'RMS' of RSM Titanic stands for 'Royal Mail Ship' given to ships which had a contract with Royal Mail to carry post.
4. In 1859 Messrs M & J Allen of Glasgow supplied H&W with wood carvings including ship's figureheads.
5. In 1896 the Mechanics Institute reports that 'complete electric-bell communication extends throughout the building, and there is telephonic communication with the various departments in the shipyard, the engine works, the city telephone exchange, and the post office, and thereby with the principal cities in England and Scotland. Behind the offices comes the joiners' shop, built a few years ago and equipped with all the necessary tools and labour-saving appliances. Here are also the cabinet-makers and polishing shops. The saw mill contiguous to the joiners' shop is likewise of recent construction, commodious and arranged on modern lines, with frame and hand saws of the most recent kind, and pneumatic tubes for conveying chips and sawdust from the various shops, and delivering them in front of the boilers; although to a certain extent in use in America, this arrangement is believed to be at present more or less of a novelty in Europe.'

The Art Hand
SalvoWEB: Titanic Gates

Story Type: News