Greenwich history weekend Part 1: Cutty Sark

Last weekend I was explored Greenwich and her history. I had been to the Maritime Museum several times before when I worked as a volunteer at the fan museum around the corner. I had been to the Royal Observatory and nearly died walking the hill up but I had never seen Cutty Sark as while I was at the fan museum it was still being restored after the 2007 arson attack.

Basts of Cutty Sark By L Linehan

Basts of Cutty Sark By L Linehan

Previously I had seen a white spikey tent where the last remaining tea clipper was docked. To come out of the DLR and see a mast and all the rigging is quite a glorious sight.

This is where I got disgruntled the entry fee, £12. The ship was in fairness beautifully refurbished rebuilt and finished after the arisen attack. There was a very interesting video on the mid deck (constructed for the tourists as originally this space would have held its various cargos of wool from Australia, tea from china or coal).

Image By L Linehan

Image By L Linehan

So here are some facts I leant while on board Cutty Sark:

  • She made 8 journeys to china for tea,
  • she set world record speeds for her voyages to and from Australia,
  • she was in fact a Scottish ship she was built in Clyde in 1869,
  • She was sold to a Portuguese company in 1895 and renamed Ferreira.
  • She was then brought in 1922 by retired seaman and Captain Wilfred Down man and docked in Falmouth. She was used to train the next generation of seaman ironic due to how close she is to the Naval College today.
  • After Captain Downman’s death she became part of the Thames Nautical training college until they retired her from training duty in 1954. She then came to Greenwich.
  • Her maximum speed recorded in her log book was 17.5 knots.
  • She is cared for by the Cutty Sark trust and the Duke of Edinburgh is the president of this trust.  

Next on the tour is the mid deck, this contain a few exhibits a star of India, a ships bell but nothing that would keep you captivated for more than 10 minutes. The exhibits were more aimed at children rather than a general museum going audience.

Star of India from Cutty Sarks Tea Trad days

Star of India from Cutty Sarks Tea Trad days

Then up to the deck. The view of the Thames is great as you can see Canary Wharf and the Shard. The deck is lovingly restored. But there is very little information. Then there is the cabins which are beautiful fitted out but again very little information and only takes a few minutes to have a look around.

Finally you exit and go down a new building to see the stunning cooper case. There was a tea room (I didn’t indulge as it was fully of buggies and small children screeching) however the goods on offer especially the cakes looked stunning.

Image by L linehan

Image by L linehan

The base of the boat is lovely, but the open space seemed like lost space to me. There were places people could perch and sit and a few cases with memorabilia items such as cutty Sark whiskey on show (turns out the whiskey was just an advert for goods in the shop!)  at the far end there was an interesting and colourful collection of ship heads. Not all of which were busty women or mermaids.

The whole experience was less than 45 minutes at a slow pace. The exhibits were poor for what you paid for and I was left deflated and disappointed.

Am I glad I finally made it to Cutty Sark? Yes but there is a BIG however, I would not recommend it, they have priced themselves out of the market, if they halved the price I wouldn’t feel as if I had been held up by Long John Silver. For a Saturday afternoon, with good weather I would have expected the place to have been buzzing at 3.30pm not like a gallery in the middle of the week. When you consider all the places in London that you can go for free I resent the fact that I paid £12 for so little. There was very little I as a historian I felt I could get just there and not through hunting the internet. And they have forgotten those of us you visit places such as this regularly with a discount such as art fund and with most of the exhibits aimed at 5-12 year olds. All in all it was a disappointment.  More of my adventures to come in future blogs.

All Images in this Post are by L Linehan

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3 Responses to Greenwich history weekend Part 1: Cutty Sark

  1. gpcox says:

    Great post, very interesting.

  2. I agree it’s pretty pricey. Lovely to look through the sails on a sunny day though. Tell us about the fan museum – I have yet to go. Funnily enough, I’ll be reviewing the maritime museum coffee shop soon.

  3. Pingback: Royal Naval College Greenwich | Laura Brennan, A Historian

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