After three years Belfast’s HMS Caroline reopens with new historic collection returned
The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) is delighted to announce that HMS Caroline, one of Belfast’s leading visitor attractions and the only surviving ship from the First World War Battle of Jutland, will reopen daily on 1st April 2023 and in time for the Easter holidays!
A key attraction in the city, visitors will be welcomed back onboard following a three-year closure due to the pandemic, and just in time for reopening, one of Northern Ireland’s most treasured historic collections is being returned to HMS Caroline.
Curators from the NMRN have flown into Belfast to oversee the safe return and installation of HMS Caroline’s collections which include historic photographs, period ship furnishings, equipment & tools and personal possessions owned by the ship’s captains, officers and crew. This historic collection will hugely enrich the HMS Caroline experience for visitors, giving them an authentic and compelling insight into what life was like on board this fully restored warship.
Examples of items in HMS Caroline’s extensive collection include:
• Two ship’s bells
• A First World War naval telescope
• A silver plated cigarette box commemorating the building of HMS Caroline in 1914
• A halfpenny coin commemorating the year that HMS Caroline fought in the Battle of Jutland
• A tea set used by HMS Caroline’s first Captain, Captain Crooke
• A silver whistle, shaving kit and cigarette case belonging to a First World War HMS Caroline admiral
The historic significance of HMS Caroline ship’s bells
Ships’ bells have always been deeply significant to sailors in marking time, providing danger warnings and representing a symbol of pride for crews. One of HMS Caroline’s ship’s bells dates from the 1920s. The other, a christening bell, is an intriguing example of a longstanding naval tradition of inscribing the names of those who were christened on board the ship.
Head of Conservation at the National Museum of the Royal Navy is Diana Davis. Originally from Belfast and a Queen's University Archaeology & Paleoecology graduate, Diana has been overseeing the preparation works to the ship and is delighted to be back in the city to help supervise the return of HMS Caroline’s collection to Belfast:
"The National Museum of the Royal Navy Conservation & Collections team are now unpacking the coveted HMS Caroline collection before returning it to the exhibition area in the Pump House alongside the dock in time for the reopening.
"Extreme care is needed when handling and preparing these unique historic items for display and we’re indebted to our team of dedicated local volunteers who are facilitating this crucial work."
Taking his place at the helm is newly-appointed Business Development Manager Kerry Rooney MBE.
Kerry brings over 20 years of experience in the arts, culture and heritage industry to the museum and will oversee the development of a vibrant and inclusive programme of events. HMS Caroline is a firm favourite in the city, where she has been berthed for almost 99 years.
Commenting on his new role and the much anticipated reopening of HMS Caroline, Kerry Rooney MBE said:
"I am immensely excited to have the opportunity to support the re-opening of HMS Caroline and begin another incredible chapter in this remarkable ship’s history.
"Belfast’s reputation as a visitor attraction is growing throughout the world and this is due, in no small part, to our city’s fascinating maritime history. HMS Caroline has been a part of that history for almost a century and we are excited to once again share her story with the world.
"HMS Caroline is a truly unique visitor experience, a real-life First World War light cruiser. Visitors to the ship will have the opportunity to wander around, above and below deck, and experience our newly refurbished exhibitions which tell the story of HMS Caroline’s over 100 years of service through film, digital and stunning recreations. It’s a day out that everyone will enjoy and remember for a long time."
HMS Caroline is moored in Belfast’s Alexandra Dock beside the Science Park in Titanic Quarter and is also part of the Maritime Mile, which stretches from Corporation Street to Donegall Quay, and on to HMS Caroline.
Over the last three years a team of specialist staff has remained onboard caring for the unique 4,000-tonne, 122-metre long light cruiser and she is in remarkably good condition.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy said:
"Her story and place in Belfast’s maritime history is so important and the strides we were making in offering a world-class welcome were justly acknowledged with her shortlisting as Museum of the Year. With the superb team we have onboard, we cannot wait to welcome visitors back and ensure that HMS Caroline is a key part of the tourism and cultural offer in Belfast for many years to come."
Visitors to HMS Caroline will journey back 100 years where they will:
• Experience what life was like at sea during the First World War
• Explore where the crew lived and slept, hear their stories and find out about the incredible mascots that lived alongside them
• Learn to crack codes, launch torpedoes and signal ships through interactive displays
Tickets for HMS Caroline self-guided tours can be booked now at: