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TSS Duke of Lancaster – An abandoned ghost ship turned in to the largest open air art gallery in the UK

David Goran

TSS Duke of Lancaster is a railway steamer passenger ship that operated in Europe from 1956 to 1979. Together with her two sisters, The Duke of Argyll and Duke of Rothesay they represented the ultimate evolution of the type.

Built for the traditional overnight Heysham-Belfast service she was designed to operate as both a passenger ferry and as a cruise ship.

But the ship moved with the times and when passengers vessels passed the mantle to car ferries from the mid-1960s, British Railways converted Duke of Lancaster to carry 1,200 single-class passengers and 105 cars, with a total cabin accommodation for 400 passengers.

The TSS Duke of Lancaster arrived near Mostyn Docks in August 1979 and is currently beached and spend the past 30 years rusting away on the River Dee at north-east Wales. Despite the ship’s outward appearance, her interior  was reportedly in good condition and there were still plans to return the now ghost ship to its former glory.

Her intended use as a static leisure center and market was relatively short-lived; in the early 80s she was known as ‘The Fun Ship’ and it was possible to visit the engine room and bridge as well as the market.

 The 4,450 ton, 1,800 passenger steamer operated as a passenger ferry on the Heysham-Belfast route and as a cruise ship calling at a variety of European ports from Spain to Norway for the better part of two decades. Source

The 4,450 ton, 1,800 passenger steamer operated as a passenger ferry on the Heysham-Belfast route and as a cruise ship calling at a variety of European ports from Spain to Norway for the better part of two decades. Source

 

A floating graffiti gallery. Source

A floating graffiti gallery. Source

The Fun ship is also known for the vintage arcade games covering the whole of the car deck. It turns out The Duke of Lancaster was hiding over 50 arcade machines from the 80s which had been sealed shut inside for years.

In 2012 several local arcade game collectors made a deal with Solitaire Liverpool Ltd and purchased most of the coin-operated machines at the time The Fun Ship closed.

Graffiti detail on the right side of the ship. Source

Graffiti detail on the right side of the ship. Source

 

Graffiti detail. Source

Graffiti detail. Source

Visitors today will find it colored by bright and surreal works by graffiti artist all over the world. The idea is to transform the ship into the biggest open-air art gallery in the UK and so far eight paintings have been added by a host of international graffiti artist including works by French artist GOIN, Fin DAC from Ireland and Hungarian Mr. Zero.