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The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to reopen on 7th September 2020
Good news for many Islanders is that the Royal Museums Greenwich have announced the reopening of the National Maritime Museum on 7 September. Visitors will once again be able to explore the story of Britain and the sea through science, trade, conflict, work and leisure in the world’s largest maritime collection.
Entry to the National Maritime Museum will remain free. Time slots will have to be pre-booked online and a one-way visitor route will be in place.
In line with the government’s announcement on 31 July, face coverings must be worn inside the museum. Protective screens in the ticket hall and gift shop will be installed and sanitiser stations will also be available throughout to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff.
Initially, the interactive All Hands Children Gallery and Ahoy! Children’s Gallery will remain closed.
The announcement follows the phased approach to reopening Royal Museums Greenwich announced earlier this summer. Cutty Sark reopened on 20 July, the Royal Observatory Greenwich opened in part on 3 August and the Queen’s House reopened on 10 August.
At the Queen’s House, Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will run until 31 August 2020. This is the first time the three surviving portraits have been displayed together in their 430-year history.
Additionally, Woburn Treasures has been extended until Easter 2021. This exhibition is a major collaboration, which will see significant works from the private art collection of The Duke and Duchess of Bedford on show in the Queen’s House. The collaboration marks the first time significant collection pieces have been on public display in a national museum since the 1950s.
For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here
The Remarkable History of the Cutty Sark
In last week’s post about Millwall Dock, I mentioned that in the early 1950s, the Cutty Sark was bought into the Millwall dry dock for an inspection and repairs.
Cutty Sark is now a major landmark in Greenwich where she has sat serenely for over 60 years. But in the 1950s, her future was not clear cut and she became the subject of a public debate about what to do with the famous old clipper. Cutty Sark was built on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest. She came into service at a time that sail was giving way to steamships.
The Cutty Sark spent only a few years working on the tea trade before being used to bring wool from Australia, quite often she would bring her cargo into West India Docks. The Cutty Sark became famous due to her races against Thermopylae, especially the one that took place in 1872. The Cutty Sark was damaged and finished second but most people were agreed that she was one of the fastest clippers of all time. The ship held the fastest time achieved between the UK and Australia for ten years.
Cutty Sark and HMS Worcester at Greenhithe in 1938
For all her fame, the days of sail were nearly over and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed Ferreira. There she continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman who remembered some of her past glories and he used her as a training ship in Falmouth. After he died, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College which was based near Greenhithe in 1938. There she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester.
By the early 50s, it was considered that this career had come to an end and various ideas were put forward as regards what to do with her.
A number of newspaper reports of the time gives some idea about the debate.
Cutty Sark to Sydney?
LONDON, December 25 1951 (A.A.P.).— A famous tea clipper may end its days in Sydney Harbour.The Evening News’ gossip writer says that sailing enthusiasts are discussing the possibility of sailing the Cutty Sark to Australia. The Thames Barge Sailing Club president (Mr Hugh Vaudrey) said the lowest estimate of the cost of refitting the vessel was £10,000 sterling. Mr. Vaudrey believes that strongly-supported Cutty Sark societies in Australia and New Zealand would help bear the cost. He added : Out there they regard the Cutty Sark the same way as Americans do the Mayflower.
Plan for Cutty Sark to Sail Again
A dispute has arisen over a proposal to reconstruct and refit the world’s only surviving clipper, 83-year-old Cutty Sark, and sail her to Australia and New Zealand. The man behind the idea is a London solicitor, Mr. Hugh Vaudrey, who says the plan has the sympathetic backing of members of Cutty Sark societies in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. Mr. Vaudrey, who founded the Thames Barge Sailing Club, which has the Cutty Sark Preservation committee, believes that the clipper could be made seaworthy and a crew recruited.
The project is strongly opposed as completely impracticable by the Greenwich National Maritime Museum, which considers that the vessel could not make a sea journey of any length and that officers and crew would be unobtainable.
Director of the museum, Mr. Frank Carr, said: — ”We would like to see the Cutty Sark cradled in concrete at Greenwich as Nelson’s Victory is at Portsmouth. This would cost upwards of a quarter of a million sterling, but we are assured of Government, London County Council and private support, and feel sure all Dominion shiplovers would help also.
‘However we feel that the present isn’t the time for such expenditure and are prepared to wait for upwards of four years before launching an appeal. ‘The vessel is at present owned by the Thames Nautical Training College, and is capable of staying afloat at her berth at Rotherhithe for at least that time.
Permanent Home For Cutty Sark
LONDON, Tuesday. — Famous old racing tea and wool clipper Cutty Sark may be preserved for all time as the result of an offer by an “anonymous body.”
AN official of the Thames Nautical Training College, where the clipper is moored, said that she would be taken from Greenhithe to Mlllwall tomorrow for survey to see if she was in suitable condition for permanent preservation.
After that she will either moored in the river or put into dry dock at the college to be kept open for visitors.
The Cutty Sark was taken to Millwall for a survey and repairs but this was not without incident. In January 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark’s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark’s jib boom into Worcester’s forecastle rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester’s starboard side. Cutty Sark’s figurehead lost an arm in the process and the Cutty Sark was towed to the Shadwell Basin for repairs.
In the end the money was raised and the ship was finally bought to dry dock in Greenwich. But as many people may know, even that was not the end of the story with two fires that threatened to destroy the old clipper.
It is always a pleasure to see the old girl at Greenwich from the bottom of the Island and its important to remember that the ship has many longstanding ties with the West India and Millwall Docks.
A Walk around Millwall Dock
One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is it is a great place to walk. Unlike much of London, cars are not found in great numbers and much of the Island has areas to walk well away from the road. Although the promenades next to the Thames are lovely with wonderful views, the walk around Millwall Dock brings you to the heart of the Island and uncovers a number of surprising links to the past.
Millwall Docks 1934
The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and is L-shaped, with a ‘Outer Dock’ running east-west, and a ‘Inner Dock’ running north from the eastern end. Millwall Docks originally contained around 36 acres of water and the site covered 200-acres. Originally as shown from the above photograph, the western end of the Outer Dock was originally connected to the Thames at Millwall.
It is now possible to walk around the whole of Millwall Dock, which of course was not the case when the docks were working docks.
A good starting place is South Quay Station, a plaque on the wall pays tribute to the two people killed by an IRA bomb in the 1996.
Around the Inner Dock is new developments that have grown considerably in the last few years. Across the dock is the new Baltimore Tower and the Lotus Chinese Restaurant that has been on a large pontoon since 1994. Up from the restaurant is Harbour Exchange which has two 1960s cranes standing in front of the glass covered buildings.
Glengall Bridge is where the inner and outer dock connect but also marks where many of the large developments cease and the older developments from the 1980s are in view. These older developments were part of more low level housing that used the space around the dock when it closed down.
The Outer Dock is much more relaxing with plenty of swans and ducks swimming amongst the sailing boats from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is located at the far West end of the dock near where the dock previously connected to the Thames. The centre was set up in 1989 by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council and provides plenty of water experiences to a wide range of people especially young people.
Near to the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was the large West Ferry Printing Works, which was the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built-in 1984–6. It has now been flattened for yet more residential development. Walking on the other side of the dock gives wonderful views of Canary Wharf and allows you to look at many of the new developments at the top of the Island.
If you carry on, you end up the picturesque Clippers Quay housing estate built in 1984–8. Although now filled with water, this was the site of Millwall Dock Graving Dock which was a dry dock for ship-repair which opened in 1868. Many famous ships have been repaired in this dry dock including the Cutty Sark. It was said this dry docks was the best on the Thames, it was one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide with a depth of 25ft. It was closed and flooded in 1968 and is a haven for birdlife with swans and ducks enjoying its quite secluded location.
Walking on round the corner, you come across of a number of houseboats, mostly Dutch in origin , they offer some final interest before we come back to Glengall Bridge.
Unlike West India Docks, the buildings around Millwall Docks were more modest with sheds rather than grand warehouses. Therefore little remains from the estate from the working docks period other than 1960s cranes and a large number of bollards dotted about. But the docks themselves are still full of water and are an important resource for the Island. In the frantic redevelopment of the Island , the docks provides an attractive space and peaceful oasis to sit and watch the world go by.
Autumn in Island Gardens
Whilst enjoying the autumn sunshine, I decided to put on my walking shoes and wander around the Island to Island Gardens. Arriving at Island Gardens it seemed that the Calder Wharf development had progressed but my main aim was to enjoy the gardens.
Anytime is a great place to visit the gardens but my favourite times are spring and autumn, autumn is especially enjoyable because although most of the flowers have died away, there is often an atmospheric mist on the water that shrouds the Old Naval College, Greenwich Park and the Cutty Sark.
Island Gardens is popular with locals and visitors, you often see a tour group wandering around or people sitting enjoying the views. The park is always interesting, you can see children running around the bandstand and people taking their dogs for a walk but you can always find a spot for a little peace and quiet.
One of the most unique features of the gardens is the view across to Greenwich, this famous view is still one of the great views of London and has remained largely unspoiled for centuries.
Island Gardens were formally opened by Will Crooks in 1895, Crooks a local MP considered that the park would be ‘little paradise’ for local people. It is still a ‘little paradise’ thanks to individuals and local groups such as Friends of Island Gardens who work hard to protect the park.
The Viking Sea Cruise Ship around the Isle of Dogs
Cruise Liners are a regular sight making their way around the Isle of Dogs to berth at Greenwich or even occasionally Tower Bridge, however very few ships arrive to be named and christened on the Thames.
The Viking Sea taken down to Greenwich yesterday ( Photo by Eric Pemberton )
Yesterday saw the arrival of Viking Ocean Cruises latest ship, the Viking Sea which slowly made its way to Greenwich to take part in its naming and christening ceremony. At a weighty 47,800-ton, the Viking Sea is the largest ship to be named in London and the ship was welcomed by 48 able seamen, who manned the yardarms of the Cutty Sark – the iconic 19th Century British clipper ship which is in dry dock in Greenwich.
Fireworks at Greenwich ( Photo Laureen Katiyo )
Last night as part of the celebrations, a short and dramatic firework display lit up the sky above Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs.
Fireworks at Greenwich ( Photo Laureen Katiyo )
The Viking Sea is one of the largest ocean liners to visit Greenwich which is a popular berth for cruise ships, the ship boasts 465 cabins and can accommodate 930 passengers.
Viking Sea at berth in Greenwich ( Photo Laureen Katiyo )
Viking Sea is the second of six ocean cruise ships currently planned for the fleet. The third and fourth ships, Viking Sky and Viking Sun are under construction and will be delivered in 2017.
This afternoon, the ship made its way back up the Thames to set sail for Bergen, and from there she will continue on to Oslo, Copenhagen, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm.
If you missed the opportunity to see the ship, it will be returning in June as part of Viking’s new Into the Midnight Sun itinerary that sails between London and Bergen and explores the Arctic Circle.
The Great Days of the Clippers – Joseph Conrad in West India Docks
West India Dock ( New South Dock) National Maritime Museum
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Joseph Conrad wrote a series of essays under the title of the Mirror of the Sea about the various aspects of a nautical life. Conrad had for nearly 20 years worked on a variety of ships starting as a steward before working his way up to the rank of Captain. He had left Poland when he was 17 and then worked on French ships for four years before transferring to the British merchant fleet.
In 1894, Conrad he gave up the nautical life to pursue a career as a writer. Although it took a long time to gain success, many of his stories often with a maritime theme are now considered classics especially Heart of Darkness.
In the following piece, Conrad remembers the great days of the Clippers that used to be moored in the South Dock of the West India Docks.
To a man who has never seen the extraordinary nobility, strength, and grace that the devoted generations of ship-builders have evolved from some pure nooks of their simple souls, the sight that could be seen five-and-twenty years ago of a large fleet of clippers moored along the north side of the New South Dock was an inspiring spectacle. Then there was a quarter of a mile of them, from the iron dockyard-gates guarded by policemen, in a long, forest-like perspective of masts, moored two and two to many stout wooden jetties. Their spars dwarfed with their loftiness the corrugated-iron sheds, their jibbooms extended far over the shore, their white-and-gold figure-heads, almost dazzling in their purity, overhung the straight, long quay above the mud and dirt of the wharfside, with the busy figures of groups and single men moving to and fro, restless and grimy under their soaring immobility.
West India Dock ( New South Dock) National Maritime Museum
At tide-time you would see one of the loaded ships with battened-down hatches drop out of the ranks and float in the clear space of the dock, held by lines dark and slender, like the first threads of a spider’s web, extending from her bows and her quarters to the mooring-posts on shore. There, graceful and still, like a bird ready to spread its wings, she waited till, at the opening of the gates, a tug or two would hurry in noisily, hovering round her with an air of fuss and solicitude, and take her out into the river, tending, shepherding her through open bridges, through dam-like gates between the flat pier-heads, with a bit of green lawn surrounded by gravel and a white signal-mast with yard and gaff, flying a couple of dingy blue, red, or white flags.
In the New South Dock there was certainly no time for remorse, introspection, repentance, or any phenomena of inner life either for the captive ships or for their officers. From six in the morning till six at night the hard labour of the prison-house, which rewards the valiance of ships that win the harbour went on steadily, great slings of general cargo swinging over the rail, to drop plumb into the hatchways at the sign of the gangway-tender’s hand. The New South Dock was especially a loading dock for the Colonies in those great (and last) days of smart wool-clippers, good to look at and—well—exciting to handle. Some of them were more fair to see than the others; many were (to put it mildly) somewhat over-masted; all were expected to make good passages; and of all that line of ships, whose rigging made a thick, enormous network against the sky, whose brasses flashed almost as far as the eye of the policeman at the gates could reach, there was hardly one that knew of any other port amongst all the ports on the wide earth but London and Sydney, or London and Melbourne, or London and Adelaide, perhaps with Hobart Town added for those of smaller tonnage. One could almost have believed, as her grey-whiskered second mate used to say of the old Duke of S-, that they knew the road to the Antipodes better than their own skippers, who, year in, year out, took them from London—the place of captivity—to some Australian port where, twenty-five years ago, though moored well and tight enough to the wooden wharves, they felt themselves no captives, but honoured guests.
One of the most famous of the Wool Clippers was the Cutty Sark who regularly made the London to Australia trip often starting off from the West India Docks, it is somewhat ironic that a ship known for its speed in the water would end up ” captive” in dry dock in nearby Greenwich.
In October, the hulk of one of the oldest clippers The City of Adelaide will towed to Greenwich for a few days before being transported to Australia to be totally renovated.