One of the only three remaining original composite construction (wooden hull on an iron frame) clipper ships from the nineteenth century in part or whole is the clipper ship CUTTY SARK.
Listed by National Historic Ships as part of the National Historic Fleet (the nautical equivalent of a Grade 1 Listed Building). She was built on the River Leven, Dumbarton, Scotland in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, as one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development, which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 meant that steamships enjoyed a much shorter route to China, so she spent only a few years on the tea trade before turning to the trade in wool from Australia, where she held the record time to Britain for ten years. Improvements in steam technology meant that gradually steamships also came to dominate the longer sailing route to Australia, and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed FERREIRA. Continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman, who used her as a training ship operating from Falmouth, Cornwall. After his death CUTTY SARK was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College, Greenhithe in 1938 where she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS WORCESTER.
In 1953 CUTTY SARK was given to the Cutty Sark Preservation Society and in 1954 she was moved to a custom built dry dock at Greenwich. She was stripped of upper masts, yards, deck houses and ballast to lighten her before being towed from the East India Import Dock to the special dry dock at Greenwich. The skipper on this occasion was the 83 year old Captain C.E. Irving, who had sailed the world three times in her before he was 17. The river pilot was Ernest Coe. Thereafter the entrance tunnel to the dry dock was filled in, the river wall rebuilt and the work of re-rigging began. The foundation stone of the dry dock was laid by the Duke of Edinburgh, patron of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society, in June 1953. The restoration, re-rigging and preparation for public exhibition was estimated to cost £250,000.
CUTTY SARK was preserved as a museum ship, and has since become a popular tourist attraction, and part of the National Historic Fleet. She is located near the centre of Greenwich, in south-east London, close aboard the National Maritime Museum, the former Greenwich Hospital, and Greenwich Park.
Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com
Published – Tuesday 14th April, 2020