AN HISTORIC link to the world's most famous ship has been discovered - at a cement works!

For more than 70 years the main reception at Castle Cement's Ribblesdale works in Clitheroe has been home to an elegant staircase.

Now research has discovered that the staircase could well have come from RMS Olympic, the sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic.

The staircase is thought by researchers to be an exact replica of that on the Titanic and is another connection East Lancashire has to the famous ship - along with Nelson man Wallace Hartley who was band master on the doomed vessel.

The Olympic set sail on its maiden voyage on June 14, 1911, and was the largest ship to have ever taken to the seas at that time.

The Titanic set out some 10 months later and then embarked on its fateful journey to New York in April 1912 during which it struck an iceberg and sunk to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean with the loss of 1,500 lives.

The two ships were built by the White Star Line in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Belfast.

The Clitheroe connection has been unearthed by Peter del Strother, of Simonstone, who is general manager (technical) for Castle Cement.

He has been commissioned by the company to write a book on the history of the works and he has been pulling together not just the technical history of the site but the human story dating back over 250 years.

Peter said: "The ship was sold to a Sir John Jarvis in 1935 who in turn sold it to a construction company called Thomas Ward.

"Thomas Ward had a ship-breaking wing to the company and was also the company which that year built the Ribblesdale works.

"The evidence certainly points to the story being true.

"The Olympic was certainly bought and broken up by Thomas Ward in the same year the company was building the Ribblesdale works.

"I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who can shed any further light on the story or who has conclusive proof that the staircase is from the Olympic."

The Olympic had a colourful career on the open waves. In September 1911 the ship collided with the British warship HMS Hawke and limped back in to harbour at Southampton.

Despite this, the Royal Navy went on to call on the services of Olympic for use in the First World War.

In September 1915 the ship was summoned to serve as troopship and was armed with 12-pound, 4.7-inch guns, which served the ship well in May 1918 when she was attacked by a German U-boat.

The Olympic managed to avoid a torpedo before ramming the U-boat and sinking it.

This was the only known sinking by a merchant vessel during World War I.