Press release

A year in review: Thomas Chapman scholarships

Monday, December 14 2020

A year in review: Thomas Chapman scholarships

Peter Phillipson and Sam Wright, the two Lloyd’s Register Foundation Thomas Chapman Scholars, are based at the University of Hull’s Blaydes Maritime Centre. Both commenced their PhD studies in February 2019 with the support of a research grant from the Lloyd's Register Foundation, Heritage and Education Centre. In 2020, the two postgraduates co-authored The Hull Connection, an online exhibition for the HEC website which celebrates the relationship that has existed for more than 250 years between Lloyd’s Register and the port of Hull.

Early retirement from his career as a Chartered Structural Engineer allowed Peter to take on new challenges. A BSc in Civil Engineering in the 1970s provided entry to a successful career, but post-retirement study at the University of Hull allowed him to pursue other interests - BA Spanish (2010), BA Joint Italian & History (2014), MSc Renewable Energy (2017) and now Maritime History.

Sam has always had a keen interest in maritime history, particularly the development of ports. His studies at the University of Hull led to the award of a BA in maritime history in 2017 and a Master of Research (MRes) degree in 2019, with the dissertations for both degrees focusing on the development of Hull as a major UK port.

PhD Overviews

Peter’s thesis aims to assess the contribution of Lloyd’s Register to improvements in the safety of merchant ships during the period from 1834 to 1881, when the growth and technological development of shipping increased the dangers inherent in operating sea-going vessels. His research to date suggests that the Register’s response to this challenge pioneered what would now be termed quality assurance and risk mitigation, offering beneficial insights relevant even today into the successful management of rapidly changing technology.

Sam’s research topic maintains a focus on Hull’s maritime history, investigating the risks associated with UK distant-water trawling during the course of the twentieth century. Taking the port of Hull as a case study, his thesis sets out to analyse the inherent risks within trawling, investigating the factors that influenced those risks. The project also assesses the roles of various parties, including Lloyd’s Register, to ascertain what was done, and what more could have been done, to reduce the staggering mortality rates in an industry which provided essential food for the nation.

2020: A Year in Review

Although facing significant disruption, research has continued throughout 2020. With physical access to archives suspended, both HEC-sponsored projects have inevitably advanced at a slower pace than planned. Nevertheless, considerable progress has been made, primarily through utilisation of sources available online: material uploaded recently by the HEC digitisation team has proved invaluable in this respect. Working from home and focussing on digital data has mitigated the health hazards associated with Covid-19, allowing both projects to move forward despite the research challenges posed by the various pandemic-related restrictions.

Peter has utilised data extracted from digitised Register Books, initially to assess how the reconstitution of Lloyd’s Register in 1834 altered the organisation’s approach to assessing seaworthiness. The consequences of this change have then been investigated by studying shifts in the distribution of vessels across the various classes. A subsequent demographic analysis of Register entries for approximately 5000 vessels has identified contemporary trends in key safety parameters including age, tonnage, construction materials and port of build.

Sam has focused on investigating the contributions of various institutions and organisations towards improving trawling safety, concentrating particularly on the work of groups like the White Fish Authority and Lloyd’s Register. With respect to the latter, the online availability of digitised copies of the Register Books and the Rules and Regulations series have been particularly useful, both in understanding the operational activity of Lloyd’s Register in trawling, and the extent to which such activity helped improve standards in the industry. 

Thoughts on 2021

The rollout of effective vaccines against Covid-19 leads us to feel optimistic about a return to relative normality in the not too distant future. Although digitised sources and virtual meetings have proved invaluable in coping with 2020’s restrictions, we hope that 2021 will see a resumption of physical access to archive materials and face-to-face contact with our HEC friends and colleagues.