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A Visit to the Duke of Lancaster

Photographs  John H. Luxton & Adrian Sweeney 2006

Irish Sea Shipping - The Online Shipping Magazine would like to feature photographs taken on or around the ship whilst it was open to the public at Llanerch-y-Mor. There appears to be a dearth of material covering this period - which would prove to be of great interest to many. Likewise any publicity material for the fun ship would also be of interest. If anyone has material and could provide scans at a reasonably high resolution - 1024 x 768 Irish please email .

From Abakahn Car ParkApproaching the Duke from the footpath.
Most of the gangways have been cut away.
The starboard screw is just visible breaking the surface of the mud. However, the port side propeller is much more visible. The concrete barge used as a wedge against the stern to hold the ship in place can also be seen in the far right photograph.

During the autumn of 2006 rumours have persisted that the breaking up of the former British Railways passenger ship DUKE OF LANCASTER is imminent. Though your web master has passed the DUKE many times, one never actually managed to get round to stopping and taking a closer look. Reports in the maritime press of guard dogs and unpleasant security guards probably resulted in the failure to stop. It was, however, decided that a photographic expedition to the Duke was required in case demolition commences and then it would be too late to secure photographs of the ship intact.Therefore on Saturday December 02, 2006 your web master accompanied by "Ships of Mann" editor Adrian Sweeney paid a visit to the DUKE at her Llanerch-y-Mor mud berth. Parking in the nearby Abakahn Mill Retail Park we set off  down the path leading from the main road to the ship. As we set off down the public footpath towards the ship a watchman on the adjacent Sunday Market site called for us not to enter the dock. He must be on permanent look out for ship enthusiasts as he saw us, before we saw him.

Walking down the path to the gate one passes under a very low railway bridge, walking on the raised pavement to avoid the wet patch, one has to duck - the bridge is that low! There is only sufficient headroom to allow cars to pass underneath.

The gates to the dock were firmly locked so we were wondering why we had been asked to keep out. Recent reports in the press and on Urban Exploration sites on the internet had indicated that security on the dock itself had been withdrawn by early 2004.

To avoid the dock, the public footpath has been routed round the north side of the dock; it's quite a tricky path which leads up and down a bank. In a couple of locations one's eye level comes very close to some rusty barbed wire or some more recent razor tape. The path is also clearly used by people exercising their dogs as I found out to my cost when I detected an unpleasant smell coming from my shoes! Given the state of this so called path and the need to keep an eye on one's proximity to the barbed wire and razor tape its easy not to concentrate on where on is putting one's feet!

As one walks along the path in front of the ship, the metal framing of a long row of market stalls can be seen.

The Dee estuary end of the path opens out onto a laneway which ends at another gate leading into the dock. The laneway runs alongside the Dee and crosses the railway line by bridge about a mile towards Mostyn. There is an old buoy by the left hand gate leading into the dock carrying a roughly painted warning that the guard dogs bite!

At this point it is interesting to note that the Ordnance Survey Map shows the public footpath as running along the laneway and through the dock! One wonders if the owners of the ship really received permission to close off this right of way?

Passing down the path one could see that all the gangways bar two had been removed from the ship. One of those remaining looked decidedly unsafe.


The fencing does not continue from just beyond the laneway gate and it is possible to gain access to the beach and approach the ship from the stern as can be seen from the photographs above. Perhaps this is what the watchman meant about not going into the dock?

After obtaining photographs of the ship's port side we made our way back to the road crossed the small river, and down the path which runs down the side of the Sunday Market site, Beside the dock wall were the rotting remains of an old motor launch. One wonders just how long that had lain there also lying nearby was what looked like one of those old mine casings used to collect money for maritime charities.

An excellent view of the ship can be obtained from this south side path, also clearly visible was the sunken concrete barge which was obviously positioned to hold the DUKE in place.

From this side of the ship a fairly good view could be had with binoculars through the windows. Slightly strangely, what looked like a blue Domestos bleach bottle could be seen on the bridge! Through one of the port side windows one could the door of a Gent's toilet clearly visible and an emergency assembly notice - all looking in "as new condition" The DUKE's port side also revealed quite a lot of red-leading - not recent work - but clearly someone had started trying to do some maintenance years ago. In places some of the white paint could be seen to have peeled revealing her BR Sealink blue hull livery beneath.

Since returning from the trip I have been searching round on the internet for further information. There is an interesting BBC Wales comment page [CLICK HERE] on the DUKE OF LANCASTER which contains much interesting information including the apparent reason for the ship being closed to the public.

A correspondent states that this was due to the fact that emergency vehicles could not pass under the low  railway bridge and therefore had to be closed to the public. How accurate this is is not known.

One must ask if the reason for closure was the inability for the emergency services to access the site because of the low bridge why was it not acceptable for the route across the railway to be used and approach made along the laneway running alongside the Dee? Obviously this was the route by which large vans, visible in some of the on-line photographs of the Duke of Lancaster, must have made their way round to the site.

Also revealing on the BBC Wales site is the comment from someone who claims to have been inside recently. There are quite a few reminiscences and also comments that the ship is haunted with mysterious figures being seen on deck and strange sounds emanating from the vessel! Guess there has got to be a good ghost story somewhere.

The BBC web site has a link to the Solitaire Liverpool Ltd web site. [CLICK HERE].  The web site features the ship as "our unique warehouse" on the River Dee.

However, the picture clearly dates from a much earlier time - no rust visible on the ship and funnel colour is white and blue and not the current blue / red. The web site bears a copyright date of 2005 - but this would appear to be a date after the ship ceased to be used as a warehouse.

Also it appears slightly strange that as the ship had been used for secure storage of retail fashion stock would one really want to advertise its purpose?

Further online investigation revealed the following:

Lloyds World Shipping Directory [CLICK HERE] returns Empirewise Ltd as the owning company of the ship. Empirewise being listed as a ship operator!  Here are the details: Llanerch-y-Mor Dock,  Llanerch-y-Mor, Mostyn, Holywell, United Kingdom . Telephone +44 1745 843

A visit to the Companies House web site reveals that Empirewise Ltd is a dormant company registered to a Derby address, the same address as that of Solitaire (Liverpool) Ltd.

Hope you find this material interesting and if anyone can provide photographs of the DUKE OF LANCASTER when she was open to the Public and scans of any publicity material it will be added to this page.

John H. Luxton - December 09, 2006


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