Left to decay in Birkenhead for six years, the former Mersey Ferry is to be turned into a floating food and drink destination by a consortium of Merseyside entrepreneurs. Tony McDonough reports
Former abandoned Mersey Ferry MV Royal Daffodil has begun her journey to a new life as a thriving waterfront tourist attraction.
For the past six years the vessel had been moored in Birkenhead’s East Float dock but now a consortium of local entrepreneurs has come together with a plan to transform the vessel into a floating food and drink destination.
To be known simply as Daffodil, the vessel will be given permanent new home in Liverpool’s Canning Dock, next to one of Merseyside’s most popular tourists destinations, the Royal Albert Dock.
Having been moved off its mooring at East Float and winched out of the water, the vessel is undergoing extensive restoration and re-purposing, with an array of plans to secure her future.
The £600,000 venture is being spearheaded by a number of local visitor economy entrepreneurs, including Philip Olivier, chief executive of Liverpool City Sights; managing director of Orb Events Agency, Joshua Boyd; and managing directors of popular Baltic Village businesses, Alfred McCaughran and Terence Stockton.
The project was initially pitched to Merseytravel in June 2018 before being assessed and eventually approved by Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham and Merseytravel board members in April 2019.
This week, it was given a further stamp of approval by the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, 12 months on from its inception. Joshua Boyd said: “It has been amazing to see all our planning come to fruition and to watch the vessel rise out of the water for the first time.
“The pace of works has been astounding and we can’t thank our partners enough for their professionalism and dedication.
“For me, now the exciting part begins as the new-look Daffodil starts to take shape. Plans for the restoration and interiors are really top-notch and pay homage to its history while remaining contemporary and fresh. It’s going to be an amazing place to meet, drink, feast and celebrate.”
Having been decommissioned and out of service since 2012 with gradually deteriorating condition, this much-loved vessel will be transformed through an investment worth more than £600,000.
It will re-launch as a static, floating venue which features a café, cocktail bar and 106-cover seafood & grill restaurant; alongside an al-fresco promenade deck and event space in the former engine room of the hull. An official launch date is yet to be announced for the opening.
In addition, plans for 11 bedrooms of on-board guest accommodation are set to be developed in the near future to create the region’s largest floating hotel.
Key heritage aspects are also carefully preserved throughout, with plans to create a mini-museum exhibit to the history of the 800-year-old Mersey river crossing in the wheelhouse or bridge, offering visitors a first-hand look at navigation consoles and the original 19th century compass, among other exhibits.
Major engineering works are being project-managed by Bromborough-based Carmet Marine who have more than 40 years’ experience across three generations in their family-owned business. A broad range of contractors from the Liverpool City Region and across the North West are being used for all other key refurbishments, furnishings and interior design work.
The venture will eventually result in the creation of over 16 new jobs and is expected to become a key feature in the ever-transforming waterfront zone, likely becoming a major tourist attraction.
Originally built at Cammell Laird ‘The Daff’ was given her maiden voyage in April 1962 where she went on to carry passengers across the River Mersey in service to the people of the Liverpool city region – right up until December 2012.
The ferry has a wealth of heritage as both a working cross-river vessel as well as being used for functions, parties and special cruises with famous local nightlife brands over the years.
Owners are now uncovering an exciting history of famous faces, personal stories and have been unravelling a swathe of legendary moments with the kind help of Mersey Ferries Heritage Society and local enthusiasts, which they hope to begin sharing with the public very soon.
Philip Olivier added: “Everybody has a story to tell about the Mersey Ferries. Whether its memories of trips over the river, to all those who’ve worked on or built and maintained the fleet over the generations, to stories of people meeting and marrying partners on the Daff herself.
“We’re all honoured as proud Liverpudlians to have been granted the opportunity to keep this vessel within the city region and the team is working hard to ensure that it can become a real destination for visitors and local people alike.”