The cruise ship that became a blank canvas for Bristol graffiti artists after being frozen in time

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A 1950s cruise ship that has become a blank canvas for Bristol graffiti artists after being moored on the shores of a Welsh estuary for decades could be brought back to life.

The Duke of Lancaster began life as a ferry and cruise ship in 1956, with his passengers treated to silver service as they sailed the seas of Ireland, Scotland and Europe.

But despite the fact that its first-class quarters were “the best around”, it made its last trip in 1978 after being purchased as a dry dock attraction by a Liverpool-based company.

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Dreams of turning it into a floating leisure and retail complex never came to fruition and the once magnificent ship has been stranded at Llanerch-y-Mor in North Wales since 1979.

The ship’s owner, John Rowley, spent around 30 years trying to start a project that could restore the ship to serve the community and attract tourists, but gave up in 2012 when he licensed an art collective called DuDug to paint it.

Bristol artists got involved in the project and the huge metal exterior was covered in artwork that shed light on the plight of the metal hulk that was once marketed as the Fun Ship.



Bristol-based Bungle painted the ‘Face of Authority’

Bristol-based Bungle painted the “Face of Authority” on the side of the ship and said at the time it was the biggest challenge he had ever taken on,

Snub23 painted a blue futuristic robot figure that appeared to come out from inside the ship.

He said the ship trapped in the Dee Estuary was the perfect base for his massive metal figure and added, “This rusty wreck has an apocalyptic feel.”

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Yet inside the bar, the restaurant, cafeterias and everything in between stayed frozen in time and looked like the days when it was carrying passengers across Europe.

There were even 50 “Golden Age” arcade machines sealed inside the ship.

Now, decades later, John’s son Antony Rowley has big plans to restore it to its former glory and says an event project is finally underway.



The Duke of Lancaster (Fun Ship) at Llanerch-Y-Mor near Mostyn in Flintshire
The Duke of Lancaster (Fun Ship) at Llanerch-Y-Mor near Mostyn in Flintshire

At the beginning of September 2021, a varied day of entertainment was organized on the quay just outside the ship to raise funds which will be used to renovate the ship so that it can be reopened to the public.

Antony, who grew up on the ship, told WalesOnline his first goal was to reopen the upper decks into a functional bar so the public could have a drink while taking in the beautiful scenery. We hope it will be finished in the next 12 months

“The area has been closed for 30 years because we had disputes over access to the vessel which have now all been rectified,” he said.

“That’s why we organized the first event and now we’re going to start doing more events and everything we do will be restored.

“The main objective would be to open the upper decks with a bar, then we will slowly descend.”

Antony said that while they are restoring the interior of the ship to make it fit for purpose, they will make sure to retain its original features for an authentic experience.

He didn’t mention what would become of the graffiti art but said, “It’s been docked here since 1979 and it’s still the same inside, the bar, the restaurant, the cafeterias – everything. is still exactly as before. We keep the original features when we restore it. “

The first two events were to prove the viability of the site and on December 12 there will be a Christmas market on the Quai.

“We have a lot of other people who want to do other events here as well,” he said.



Another piece of art on the ship is said to represent those who stopped the Fun Ship plans
Another piece of art on the ship is said to represent those who stopped the plans for Fun Ship (Image: Hadyn Iball / Trinity Mirror)

“There are people who want to get married here. They can use the bar, the pier, they can set up a marquee or have the wedding here. Any event is possible from next year.

“The neighborhood needs it. “There is nothing in the neighborhood, it needs a tourist attraction. We are trying to do all we can for the local community by bringing more tourists back to the area so that everyone can do well.

“We already have tourists coming down the coastal path just to take a look at the ship, but with the site open it will attract thousands.”



Duke of Lancaster Ship Appreciation Society unveils banner amid bitter dispute
Duke of Lancaster Ship Appreciation Society unveils banner amid bitter dispute

The Duke of Lancaster’s Appreciation Society has around 3,500 members and the local community wants something to happen, he said.

He said, “It took a long time to come. He sat here for so many years empty and we couldn’t do anything and now we can finally start to do something.”

For more information and interest in the events contact: thefunshipnorthwales@gmail.com

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