Historic Govan docks featured in film 1917 to repair ships again

Historic docks which featured in the First World War film 1917 are to be restored so they can repair ships once more.

A £500,000 scheme was announced on Tuesday to re-open the A-listed derelict Govan Graving Dock, just west of the Glasgow Science Centre at Pacific Quay on the south side of the River Clyde.

Govan Drydock Ltd, the company behind the plans, said it was committed to returning the site to being a “fully operational ship repair and maintenance facility” by the end of this year.

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The company hopes to win work for both commercial shipping and historic vessels and said it already had been granted a licence to operate Govan graving dock number one, which is 551ft (169m) long, 72ft (22m) wide and 22ft (6.7m) deep.

The docks have been derelict for 35 years

Restoration work will include on the entrance gates, block repairs, dive surveys, and cleaning.

Re-opening the docks will need planning permission from Glasgow City Council because of the change of use from their current derelict status.

The docks were built of granite in the late 19th century by the Clyde Navigation Trust, part of which was hand carved, when they could accommodate some of the largest ships in the world.

They were used for winter overhauls, repairs and refits of Clyde steamers until their closure in 1987, since when they have remained derelict.

Director Sam Mendes at the docks during the filming of 1917 in 2019. Picture: John Devlin

The grandfather of Glasgow-born screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who co-wrote the 1917 script with Mendes, once worked at the docks.

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Govan Drydock Ltd managing director Peter Breslin said: “We are committed to retaining the heritage and preserving the history of Govan graving dock.

"I am honoured to be returning this historic dry dock back to active service and look forward to progressing with the restoration programme over the next six months.

Actor Mark Strong on the set of 1917 during filming at the docks in 2019. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

“The facility will breathe life into the Govan area of Glasgow, bring employment opportunities and become a much-needed facility for historic and commercial ships and ship owners for many years to come.”

The organisation restoring the turbine ship Queen Mary, at a berth opposite the dock beside the Glasgow Science Centre tower, said it would consider the site for possible work.

Iain Sim, Chairman of Friends of TS Queen Mary, said: “The trustees are very pleased to note that Govan dry dock will be available to Glasgow's historic ships and we wish the team well with the restoration programme.

“Following the recent announcement of the intention to return the TS Queen Mary to active service, we have been exploring options for the restoration of the ship.

"We look forward to discussing the next phases of the TS Queen Mary restoration project with the Govan Drydock team.”

Marine electrical engineering firm the Seaking Group also backed the dry dock plans.

Chief executive Martin Sealeaf said: “Peter's attention to detail and experience within the maritime industry will ensure that the restoration of the historic dock will add value at a social-economic level and provide the docks' long-term future for commercial use.

"The SeaKing Group will be actively supporting the project technically and commercially in the coming months.”

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