The Great Light
Titanic Foundation are working with the Commissioners of Irish Lights to find a home for Mew Island Lighthouse’s Optic lens
Mew Island Lighthouse Optic is one of the largest optics of its kind ever constructed, and is around 130 years old. Weighing 10 tonnes and measuring 7 metres tall, the optic is a unique heritage object with significance to Belfast’s economic, maritime and industrial past.
Mew Island lighthouse, on the outermost of the Copeland Islands, is one of the tallest lighthouses in Ireland. The island was an important Aid to Navigation at the southern entrance to Belfast Lough, built at a time when Belfast was the world-centre of linen, ship-building and rope-making, and one of the most important ports in the world. The optic was removed when the lighthouse was updated and automated in 2014/15. Titanic Foundation and the Commissioner of Irish Lights are now working together to bring the optic to Titanic Quarter, the home of maritime heritage in Belfast.
Titanic Foundation has now been awarded a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund for saving, restoring and displaying the optic. This award, along with early support from Ulster Garden Villages, and more recently a commitment, in principle, of £85,000 from Belfast City Council’s Local Investment Fund will allow the project to progress to the second stage of the HLF application process.
The optic will be restored and housed in a new interpretive structure, designed to last for 100 years and made to resemble a lighthouse lantern room where it will add a remarkable element to the Titanic Quarter public realm. It is estimated that at least 100,000 visitors per annum will view the optic. With free public access it will tell the story of lighthouses, their technological development, their light keepers, and their role in the proud maritime & industrial heritage of Belfast and Ulster.
In May 2016 Titanic Foundation, in partnership with the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, ran a Design Competition for an iconic structure to protect and preserve the Mew Island Lighthouse Optic. Twelve firms submitted proposals with Hall McKnight, a Belfast & London based Architectural Practice, named as the winners of the competition. Hall McKnight’s design was selected as the judging panel felt it clearly caught the vision of the project, and allowed the craftsmanship and beauty of this unique object to be clearly presented to a new audience.
The optic’s new location will be on the Titanic Walkway, being developed as a pedestrian walkway located at the bottom of the Titanic & Olympic Slipways and connecting them to the Alexandra Dock, home to HMS Caroline and the Thompson Dock. The optic building will be completed during the autumn / winter of 2017.
Do you have any Mew Lighthouse stories?
We are learning about the history of the Lighthouse Optic, which was originally on Tory Island in Donegal before moving to Mew Island, so if you have any stories or images to share relating to the Optic, please contact us.
We recently appeared on Northern Visions TV (NVTV) to discuss the project.
The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) are an all-island body, providing an aids to navigation service.