Research

Research guides

Helping you delve further into our resources

We hope that the following bitesized guides will help you to interpret and understand the collection. The HEC team are continuing to create insightful explanatory content, to help you to get the best out of the online ship plans and survey reports as they are released. If you have a question please get in touch. 

  • How the collections were formed

    Lloyd's Register Plans & Survey Reports  

    From 1834 Lloyd's Register (LR) surveyors were required to use pre-printed forms for all surveys. These were sent out from London and were probably printed by C F (Christopher Frederick) Seyfang in Fleet Street. LR opened its own printing house in 1891 after which all reports were printed by them and mailed all over the world.  

    Some of the earliest Annual Survey reports have two survey reports to one form. In some cases these forms have been split in the middle and appear in the collection as two separate items. Others were not cut and appear as two ships to one page. Each ship is catalogued separately and given its own unique identifier.  

    What has survived? 

    Lloyd's Register has a large number of plans and survey reports dating from circa 1834  to circa 1970 (some material is closed post 1950). The entire collection equates to over 549 linear metres, an estimated 1.25 million items, and is held in 4,284 foolscap size boxes 

    The material held is that which has survived three culls of the Archive, 1900, 1946 and circa 1968 (prior to the material being consigned on loan to the National Maritime Museum). The collection is now cared for by the Lloyd's Register Foundation at a commercial storage facility in Woolwich.  

    The 19th century material contains surviving First Entry and annual survey reports. The later material retained usually consists of first and last survey report i.e. First Entry for both hull and machinery, and the last survey undertaken before the vessels disclassing (such as a ship that was re-classed by another society) or demise (in the case of loss, wreck, broken up etc.). Interesting or unusual survey reports are sometimes kept, such as those where the ship has been converted or suffered major damage and subsequently repaired.  

    Some plans are retained and the most common is the boiler plan (due to the propensity for problems with boilers in the early days), also the midship section, profile and deck, and general arrangement plans are common.  

    The collection includes many important, interesting or famous ships such as the Aquitania, the Empress of Britain, Volturno and Empress of Canada 

    All of the 19th century reports for Aberdeen, Glasgow and London were kept. The span of each 19th century outport within the collection depends on when the first office was opened by LR. 

    The plans and survey reports were passed to the National Maritime Museum (NMM) once the ship had either been disclassed or out of service for a minimum of seven years. 

  • Provenance & scope

    Scope of the Ship Plans and Survey Reports: 

    Three separate series of Lloyd’s (Register) Survey Reports are held, each series covering a different period and arranged in distinct and different ways: 

    19th Century Ports of Survey boxes: 

    UK ports of survey reports  

    Usually First Entry, or whichever annual survey or report of repairs that may have survived if the First Entry did not. Arranged in survey report number order within port, based upon the port contraction used i.e. Lon for London and dating from 1834 (dependent on when a surveyor was appointed to that port) until the end of the 19th century.  

    There are some plans within the boxes, mainly dating from the 1860s onwards when LR required plans to be submitted, and more often than not the boiler plan. Sometimes there is a sketch by the surveyor to draw attention to a particular point concerning the build of the vessel under survey.  

    The plans for Aberdeen, Glasgow and London are held separately within the series and the majority of the 19th century survey reports for those three outports kept. All three were major shipbuilding areas in the UK during the 19th century hence the decision to keep so much of that material.  

    Overseas outports survey reports  

    Usually First Entry, or whichever annual survey or report of repairs that may have survived if the First Entry did not. Arranged in survey report number order within port, based upon the port contraction used i.e. Cpn for Copenhagen.  

    Lloyd's Register (LR) began to open overseas outports from 1852 (Quebec) and continued to open offices throughout the latter part of the 19th century. There are some plans within the boxes, mainly dating from the later period, and often a boiler plan. The series also contains some surveyor sketches.  

    Iron vessel survey reports  

    The reports and plans for iron ships were separated out and are held in two series (Iron Ships and Iron Ships Plans). Iron was an entirely new material and LR undertook a great deal of research and discussion with shipbuilders in order to formulate new rules, keeping those particular survey reports and plans separate so they were readily available for research by the staff. LR did begin to publish Rules for the Building of Sea-Going Iron Ships from 1855 but kept the rules quite open to debate as opinions on the use of iron in construction were changing all the time. They published basic Iron Rules before this in circa 1844. Based upon many years of research, 1870 saw the publication of the definitive Rules for Iron Ships and the first use of 100A1 as a class notation.  

    Wreck Report series W1-W1654 

    In the early 20th century, Lloyd's Register decided to arrange the plans and survey reports alphabetically according to ship name. This series is known as the Wreck Reports as the final report gives information on the ship’s demise if lost or broken up, or transfer to another classification society. Details from the shipowner and a newspaper clipping from Lloyd’s List are often included on the Wreck Report if the ship was a loss.  

    All of the reports for each ship are glued together along the left edge, sometimes making them difficult to read or scan into the margin. They tend to be quite dirty as they were kept unboxed in the sub-basement of 71 Fenchurch Street for many years. The earlier boxes contain reports in alphabetical order of ship name. The series appears to cover the 1900s to mid-1940s including war losses. They have not been investigated thoroughly enough to yet determine when the alpha order ceases.   

     Reports 2000/2012 – 17151/21339 

    From the mid-20th century (probably 1940s) LR filed the reports in a unique report number (not LR/IMO number) order which may be the final report number of the vessel, and all the reports for a particular ship are glued together similarly to the Wreck Report series.  

  • Boiler Plans

    Of special note within the collection are the vast numbers of boiler plans.  

    Lloyd's Register decided to forge its own path with regard to boilers and machinery, and because of the high risk involved, retained many of the boiler plans. From 1834 certified engineers inspected the machinery onboard LR classed vessels and from 1874 the inspection of engines and boilers became an integral part of the survey for classification.  

    Background 

    On April 4th (Good Friday) 1817, 22 people lost their lives when the boiler of John and Richard Wright’s Norwich and Yarmouth steam packet Telegraph which had been built in 1813, exploded, blowing the vessel apart. The UK government set up a Select Committee Appointed to Consider of the Means of Preventing the Mischief of Explosions from Happening On Board Steam Boats, which at the time numbered 30 in the UK, mostly used on rivers and estuaries, with many more under construction. Telegraph wasn’t the first boiler to burst with horrific consequences, at the end of November 1815 a steam boiler in a sugar refining works in Whitechapel, London, had exploded killing four male workers. Just a couple of months after the Telegraph tragedy, the boiler of the steam yacht Richmond burst, injuring three. The Select Committee submitted its report and recommendations on June 24th 1817 but the Bill ran out of parliamentary time.  

    Among the Bill’s recommendations were that all boilers should be inspected by a skilled engineer prior to the ship carrying passengers, that the boiler be constructed of wrought iron or copper (the boiler of the Telegraph had been replaced with a cast iron endplate which exploded suddenly sending shrapnel like fragments throughout the ship), that two safety valves be fitted which were inaccessible to the engineman (it was found that they would hold the safety valves down beyond safe pressure to attain higher speed), and that the inspectors were to ascertain and certify the maximum working pressure at which the safety valve should open. 

  • Further resources

    Aberdeen built ships 

    A website launched by the Aberdeen Maritime Museum to promote Aberdeen’s shipbuilding heritage. This online resource details information about the nearly 3,000 recorded ships built in Aberdeen between 1811 and 1990. The project staff and volunteers digitised photographs, ships plans and other related material. See:  www.aberdeenships.com)   

    Clyde built ships 

    The Caledonian Maritime Research Trust produced a website giving details of more than 25,000 ships built in the shipyards of the River Clyde, Firth of Clyde and the nearby coasts. See: www.clydeships.co.uk  

    Shipbuilding database 

    Comprehensive records of more than 80,000 ships mainly dating from the mid-1850s. Limited searches are available via: http://gsn.ncl.ac.uk/?p=bsd_about    

    Notes on the technical staff at Lloyd's Register 

    Find out more about Lloyd’s Register surveyors (exclusive and non-exclusive) and their later specialisations as technology progressed. Download information sheet no.55 here  

    Marine dictionary 

    Diagrams and descriptions of different rigs are included in "From Keel to Truck" - a marine dictionary in French, English & German by Henri Paasch (Antwerp, 1885), Lloyd's Register surveyor 

     

  • C18th & C19th rigs

    Rigs and the early Register of Ships 

    Lloyd's Register was founded in 1760 and the first known Register of Ships was published in 1764, giving details of 4,118 vessels inspected by the Society’s surveyors.  

    By the mid-18th century merchant ships still tended to be classified by their hulls.  

    The 15 rigs contained within the 1764 Register of Ships (also known as the Register Book) are descriptions of the rigs of the vessels as witnessed by the surveyors during survey.  

    Bark 

    Cutter 

    Hoy 
     

     

    Schooner 
     

    Sloop 
     

     

    Billander 

    Galliot 

    Ketch 
     

    Shallop 
     

     

    Smack 
     

     

    Brig 

    Hermaphrodite  

    (schooner or brig usually) 

    Pink 
     

    Ship 
     

    Snow 

     

    By, 1834, the Register Book contained the following vessel rigs: 

    Barque (the spelling had changed to the British convention)  
     

    Dogger 

     

    Ketch 

     

    Schoot 
     

    Smack 
     

    Brig 

     

    Galliot 

     

    Lugger 
     

    Ship 
     

    Snow 

     

    Cutter 

     

    Hoy 
     

    Schooner  
     

    Sloop 
     

    Yacht 

     

     

    Steamer appeared with the description of rigs from the 1835 edition, purely because if a vessel was a steamer, it was indicated in the same column.  Steamer is not a type of rig. 

     

    The Register Book for 1836 contained the following vessel rigs: 

     Barque 

     

    Dogger 

     

    Lugger 

     

    Ship 

     

    Yacht 

    Brig 

     

    Galliott 

     

    Polacre  

    (also spelt Polacca) 

     

    Sloop 

     

    Brigantine 

     

    Hoy 

     

    Schooner 

     

    Smack 

     

     

    Cutter 

    Ketch 

     

    Schoot 

    Snow 
     

     

     

    Find out more and see diagrams of different rigs in "From Keel to Truck" - a marine dictionary in French, English & German by Henri Paasch (Antwerp, 1885).