The Role of Lloyd's Register in Preserving the History of the Cutty Sark

Tuesday, April 18 2023

The Role of Lloyd's Register in Preserving the History of the Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark Preservation Society (CSPS) was formed in 1953 to preserve the Cutty Sark, a famous clipper ship built in 1869. The CSPS was instrumental in securing the ship's status as a national monument and in bringing it to a dry dock in Greenwich where it still resides today. Recently, a collection of plans and documents relating to the Cutty Sark was deposited with the Lloyd's Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre, providing further insight into the vessel's history and the roles of Lloyd's Register surveyors in preserving maritime heritage. 

Model of the Cutty Sark

The Times, Model of the Cutty Sark - Exhibit at National Maritime Museum, 16 January 1951, LR-FAF-SA6-0009-O 

The Cutty Sark has had a long and well documented history, she was built in 1869 by Scott & Linton of Dumbarton. She had a gross tonnage of 963 tons and was owned by “Jock” Willis of London. Originally built for the tea trade she became one of the fastest tea clippers of her time. She later served the Australian wool trade, where for many years she was one of the fastest ships on this route. In 1895, she was sold and renamed Ferreira, by 1922 she was the last composite clipper sailing in the world. Eventually she acted as a training vessel with HMS Worcester during the Second World War.  

She was gifted to the Cutty Sark Preservation Society (CSPS) in 1953. The society was formed by Frank Carr, Director of the National Maritime Museum, with help from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, engineers, ship surveyors and others keen to preserve both the history and the vessel itself. The CSPS was a key proponent in securing the vessel for status as a national monument and in 1954 she was brought into a dry dock in Greenwich where she still resides today, even after two fires.   

The Cutty Sark was classed by Lloyd’s Register (LR) and was surveyed many times in her active years, first appearing in the Supplement for the Register Book in 1869. In 1950 before coming into the drydock at Greenwich she was surveyed again by another LR surveyor to assess what work was needed and how best to preserve her going forward. J M Robertson was chosen for this work, he was a Special Surveyor for Yachts, based in Southampton, who was on the original board of members for the CSPS.  

Robertson was invited to join the CSPS committee in 1950 and continued to work with them until 1956 when he was replaced by another LR surveyor. The initial survey was considered crucial by some of the members of the CSPS as it provided key information to help push for the Cutty Sark to be recognised as a national monument, preserved in perpetuity.  

Lloyd’s Register of Ships, 1870

Lloyd’s Register of Ships, 1870, containing the first reference to the Cutty Sark. She was built under special survey and classed as +16 A1. 

Copies of plans made by the London County Council (LCC) Chief Engineer, who also sat on the CSPS Board, were given to Robertson alongside minutes and correspondence and these form part of a recently catalogued collection. The collection was deposited with the Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) by relatives of Robertson.   


Rigging plan of bowsprit

Rigging plan of bowsprit, jib-boom, headstays etc, CSPS/1/1  

The collection consists of eight plans for the Cutty Sark, covering various rigging plans, floor arrangements, correspondence, and minutes of the CSPS. They show the discussions about the Cutty Sark and the decision-making process to gain monument status for the vessel. We do not hold a full set of the plans, as only a handful were sent to Robertson, but they have an incredible amount of attention to detail and help to supplement the documents we already have relating to the Cutty Sark.   

As part of our Ship Plan and Survey Report Collection (SPSRC), we hold survey reports, plans and correspondence created over the Cutty Sark’s lifespan as an active vessel, alongside other correspondence and minutes relating to Robertson and the CSPS. Access the material already digitised and catalogued relating to the Cutty Sark here or search “Cutty Sark” on our website. 

Cutty Sark, 1869

Cutty Sark, 1869. Plan of Midship Section of Cutty Sark, dated January 1922, LR-FAF-SA6b-0001-P. The 1922 plans were drawn by retired LR surveyor Chas. Jordan at the request of LR.  

letter from the Secretary of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society

Copy of letter from the Secretary of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society to J M Robertson of Lloyd's Register, hoping he will accept the invitation to serve on the Technical Sub-Committee and informing him of the date and time of the next meeting, 13 November 1952, LR-FAF-SA6-0059-L. 

The papers deposited with us help to complete the story of the Cutty Sark, from an active vessel in the tea and wool trades, to a training ship and finally to an internationally recognised historic monument. They also help to provide further insight into the roles of the surveyors working for LR and their commitment and interest in maritime heritage.   

We plan to digitise and make available these papers and plans over the coming months, please see our website or follow us on social media for further updates. 

For further sources of information on the Cutty Sark visit the National Maritime Museum’s website. To view a full a full set of the LCC plans, visit the London Metropolitan Archive website.

First and Famous
Zach Schieferstein