Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Angel Public House

The Angel Rotherhithe by Hubert John Williams 1930
Southwark Art Collection
The Angel, now in splendid isolation in front of the remains of Edward III's mansion on the Thames Path at the western edge of Rotherhithe, has a history going back to at least the 17th Century.

At the very end of Bermondsey Wall East, it used to be flanked by a variety of buildings, all crowded together to make the most  of the valuable Thames frontage.  A few years ago I was sorry to see how run down and unloved it looked under the Courage brewery, but a couple of years ago it was rescued by Samuel Smith and received a major renovation and face lift. It now looks elegant, inviting and well cared for.  

Grade II listed (470587), it dates to around 1830 and may incorporate parts of an early seventeenth century building. In the 15th century an inn and rest house for travellers called The Salutation was kept at or near this site by monks from Bermondsey Priory. In 1682 The Angel was in a position diagonally opposite its present site, and was referred to by the famous diarist Samuel Pepys as "the famous Angel."   The former Redriffe stairs used to be located immediately to its west.  In the 19th century The Angel was in the middle of a very busy stretch of tightly packed Thames businesses and, it has to be admitted, slums. There's an early 20th Century photograph showing the pub,with a large Courage brewery sign (today it is owned by Samuel Smith), flanked by a variety of small buildings and wharves, including, immediately on the other side of the stairs a company called "Platform Engineering."  

Local legend has it that Judge George Jeffreys (the "hanging judge") used to come here to watch mend die at Execution Dock, which was opposite, and that Captain Cook prepared for his journey for Australia here.  During most of the 17th and 18th Centuries its busy riverside would have ensured a rich but not always salubrious variety of clientele, from river pirates, smugglers and thieves to sailors and press gangs. In the early 20th Century its reputation and location attracted local artists including Augustus John and James Abbott McNeil Whistler. In the 1940s and 50s it became a popular destination for celebrities.  Today its customers are local residents, tourists and people walking the Thames Path. 

It has two storeys, plus an attic. It is built of multi-coloured stock brick with a stucco cornice and blocking course.  The ground floor frontage is made of wood.  There area segmental arches on the first floor with sash windows, and it is topped by a low pitched slate roof. Its Thames frontage has an unusual  weatherboard gallery on wooden posts.   The interior is divided by wooden panels into five small rooms. In short it is a very fine Nineteenth Century building.

The Pub History website has a list of former publicans and residents:

When you think how much a pub of this age could tell you if only it could speak, it's remarkable how little one can actually dredge up to bring its past to life.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the pub was at the hub of a vibrant, if occasionally lawless, riverside community.  

Today it is a Samuel Smith's pub. It's address is 101 Bermondsey Wall East, SE16 4NB.

1890, from the Illustrated London News




10 years ago: The Angel before restoration. 2003

June 2013

July 2013, taken from the Thames Clipper

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lecture by Stephen Humphrey: "Maritime Bermondsey and Rotherhithe"

The excellent Thames Discovery Programme has organized a lecture by Stephen Humphrey called Maritime Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

Stephen Humphrey is an expert on the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe area and if I wasn't busy that night I would have been there, notebook in hand and pen at the ready. The lecture is to be held at at Mortimer Wheeler House in north London on Thursday 8th August, between 6.30 and 7.30pm.  

Be warned that it is not in a particularly convenient venue for Rotherhithe or Bermondsey residents, unless you happen to go to work in that direction.  If you want to go and are planning to use public transport, the nearest tube stations are Old Street and Angel, both of which are a 15 minute walk away from Mortimer Wheeler House, but it is probably best to take a bus from the station because, if memory serves, neither station is in a particularly salubrious area, particularly at night.  Directions, including bus routes and parking information, are on the Thames Discovery Programme website:

The venue address is: Thames Discovery Programme, Museum of London Archaeology, Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, London N1 7ED. Tel: 02074102207

Monday, July 29, 2013

The 1844 paddle steamer Ariel

The paddle steamer Ariel,
built in Rotherhithe and launched from
Horseferry Dock, Rotherhithe, in 1844

As the age of the tea clipper came to a close, the age of steam was in the ascendancy.  The earliest steam-powered ships were paddle steamers, with twin paddles usually fastened to each side of the ship (there are exceptions, like the Rotherhithe-built steam warship Rising Star, covered in an earlier post).  Although Rotherhithe had been building sail-powered wooden ships for centuries, the new steam technology found a home here too.

John Jenkins Thompson was born in the Bermondsey area in around 1794. He was a successful local boat builder who specialized mainly in the construction of yachts, small prestige vessels and lifeboats.  Operating out of the Horseferry Dock, from around 1830, he had three large workshops by 1843, as well as sheds, a slipway, sundry other buildings and a home and garden, a not uncommon arrangement for shipbuilders and ship breakers, who sometimes lived where they worked.  Thompson seems to have seen the opportunities offered by steam and moved into larger projects.  As other yards closed around him, Thompson was building for a new era of shipping.  The above illustration from the Illustrated London News shows the yard, with two wood-built buildings fronting onto the Thames, one of which is clearly labeled "Thompson."  Small wooden boats are arranged apparently randomly around the launch slip.

Horseferry Dock was located just upriver from Lavender Stone wharf, divided from it by the Horseferry Stairs, backing onto Rotherhithe Street. There are no signs of it today, but it is opposite Limehouse Marina, along the stretch of the river to the west of the Lavender Pumphouse.

Ariel was launched in 1844.  Unusually, she was made of mahogany, a material usually employed only in the construction of small and prestige vessels, and it was perhaps a material he had used in the construction of some of his smaller yachts and boats. She was 120ft long, 14ft 6ins wide, with a draught of 3ft 6ins and was 120 tons. She was fitted with a two cylinder engine of 20 horsepower each and had the capacity for 600 passengers. 

The Illustrated London News, always a terrific source of information, reported the launch and provided an illustration (above). Published on 20th April 1844 the occasion was described with gusto:

On Tuesday last, Rotherhithe was a scene of unusual gaiety, owing to the launch ofa new steamer, the Ariel, built by Mr Thompson for the Woolwich Steam Packet Company.
The main dimensions of this fine vessel are - length, 120 feet; breadth, 14 feet 6 inches; tonnage, 120; she is built with a round stern, and of diagonal planking, three thicknesses, all mahogany; she has two engines of 20 horse power each, and has been built expressly for a passage vessel between Woolwich and Hungerford; and will carry, with her coals, boilers etc, 600 persons, at a draft of 3 feet 6 inches.

The launch was well attended by guests and bystanders who crowd around the ship and lean out of the building windows, some standing at the stern of a sailing ship, and a small group on a long thin rowing boat.  It looks as though it was a great day.

Ariel served on the Woolwich to Hungerford route, initially for the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, which was founded in 1834 and merged with the London Steamboat Company.  The assets of the combined company were sold at auction in 1884, with most of them, including Ariel, going to the River Thames Steamboat Company, which operated until 1890 when its vessels were registered under the name of the Victoria Steamboat Association.

Ariel had a long life.  She operated under the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, the London Steamboat Company and the River Thames Steamboat Company, but was taken out of service in 1884.  She was nearly sunk in 1878, when a barge ran into her near Cherry Garden Pier, only a few days after the London Steamboat Company's Princess Alice had been rammed by the collier ship Bywell Castle and was sunk with the loss of over 650 lives, the worst disaster recorded on the Thames. 

In 1847 Thompson built Brighton, Dieppe and Newhaven, all of mahogany, for the Brighton and Continental Steam Packet Company.  Thompson also built Banshee in 1847, a mail packet ordered by the Admiralty, leasing space at another Rotherhithe yard in order to complete the  contract.  He also completed a number of other vessels of different sizes and types, including two screw-propelled gunboats for the Crimean War, some of which will be discussed later.

Thompson had at least two sons, William Samuel and John Julian, both of whom followed him into the trade, serving as apprentices with other boat builders.

With thanks to Stuart Rankin's publications for most of the information on this post.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The will of Magdalen Maisters of Southwark, widow. Written 1609, codicil 1614

James I
Yesterday I posted the will of Edward Maister of Redriffe (another name for Rotherhithe), a sailor, householder and ship owner.  The same Douglas Family website on which I found that has also reproduced the will of his wife Magdalen. It is much, much longer than her husband's and takes a bit of getting through, but it is well worth the effort.

If anything, this is an even more interesting will, providing more family information and providing a real insight into the furnishings of a wealthy house in the late 16th and early 17th century.

Magdalen survived Elizabeth I and wrote her will during the reign of James I.  She made her will in 1609 and added a codicil in 1614, the year of her death.  She was buried on 16th January 1614 at St Saviour's, Southwark (now Southwark Cathedral), whilst her husband had been buried at St Mary's Rotherhithe. It looks as though she moved to the St Saviour's parish some time after her husband's death. 

She was fit and well when she wrote her will, unlike her husband who wrote his not long before he died.  Whereas Edward spelled the name of their son "Olive," Magdalen spells it "Olave."  It is possible that one or other of them had Swedish connections and chose to name their son in honour of that connection, or that he was named in honour of St Olave.  Whatever the origins of his name, he grew up to become a Warder of the Tower of London.

Magdalen appears to have been a very wealthy widow, leaving to her son "the sume of one hundred and Threescore Pounds of lawfull money of England" as well as a truly staggering collection of silver, pewter, brass, Irish and Turkish carpets, Spanish leather cushions, vast quantities of linen, items of furniture, items of velvet and silk, a feather bed, a chamber pot inscribed with his name and much, much more.  It is almost  impossible to take in the full sum and variety of the largesse.  It is, however, something of a mystery as to what he was going to do with her second-best hat! 

To her married daughter Anne she is also generous, providing her with " the somme of one hundred and Threescore Poundes  of lawfull money of England" but none of the array of items bequeathed to her son.Comparatively small provisions are made for Olave's and Anne's children to be given to them at their parents' discretion or after their 20th birthdays.

It is clear that she retained either affection for or links with Rotherhithe because one of the minor gifts in her will reads: "I bequeath to every poore widdow in Reddrith Twelve pence the peece and Tenn shillings to be bestowed and given to the poore of Reddrith in bread the day of my buriall and other Tenn shillings in bread in like manner that day Twelve monthes after." She also left money to Trinity House in Deptford established by Henry VIII in 1514 and responsible for the superintendence of pilotage in the Thames, river conservation, numerous other maritime issues and the maintenance of almshouses.  She also made various provisions for the poor of Southwark.. 

The rest of the will is extremely convoluted and difficult to follow, but the codicil is interesting, because in it there seems to be some concern in her mind that there will be dispute amongst her children following her death, and some danger of there being a contestation of the will. 

As with the will of Edward Maister, I have split Magdalen's will into paragraphs, where possible, to make it more digestible, but it was difficult to break it down very much.

Will of Magdalen Maisters of Southwark, widow. Written 1609, codicil added 1614, further non-cupative codicil added 1614, proved 1614.

In the name of God Amen The ninth day of december1609 And in the yeare of the Raigne of our soveraigne Lord James by the grace of God of England France and Ireland kinge defender of the faith &c the SeaventhAnd of Scotland the three and Fortith I Magdalen Maister of the parysh of St Saviour in Southwark in the Countie of Surrey widdow beinge at this p[rese]nte tyme in p[er]fecte health of my body and in good memory the Lordes name be praysed therefore doe make and ordeyne this my p[rese]nte Testament and last Will in wrightinge in manner and forme hereafter ensuinge, 

Southwark Cathedral in 1616, two years
after the death of Magdalen Maister
First I Comend my soule into the hands of Allmightie God Creator of me and of the whole world and unto my Lord and SaviourJesus Christ Redeemer of me and all mankind and unto the holy Ghoste my comforter and sanctifier assuredly trusting and stedfastly believinge That by the merritts death and passion of my Savior Jesus Christe my synnes are hereby remitted and pardoned and the mercy andlove of God surely obteyned and purchased for me is that after the dissolucon of this mortall lief my soul shall enter into have and enjoy life eternall in the kingdom of heaven, my body I Comitt to the earth whereof it is framed to be buried in Christian buriall at the discretion and direction of myne Executors hereafter named, and as touchinge the ordering distributinge and disposing of such goods and Cattalls as by the goodnes of God I shall have at the tyme of my decease my will and mynde is that of the same all such debts and sumes of money asI shall then owe or stand duly charged to pay shalbe truly paid by myne executors w[i]thinreasonable tyme after my decease, And that my funerall shalbe decently and orderly p[er]formed my debts being paid and my funeral expenses discharged, I give bequeath and dispose the reasidue of my said goods and cattalls in manner and forme followinge that is to say, 

First I give and bequeath unto my Olave Maister at this p[rese]nte of one his Ma[jes]t[ie]s yeoman Warders of the Tower of London the sume of one hundred and Threescore Pounds of lawfull money of England to be paid unto him w[i]thin the space of sixe moneths next aftermy decease, Also I give and bequeath unto the said Olave my sonne my best Salte of silver all guilte one Tanckard of silver all guilte one bowle of silver p[ar]cell guilte and sixe of my best silver spoones p[ar]cell guilte and one French Cheste of wallnuttree standinge in the now dwellinghouse of my sonne Roger Cole Also one Turkey carpett belonging to my square table hereafter geven him and one Irishe Rugge Chequered one Loomeworke Carpett wroughte w[i]th flowers. Alsoe I give and bequeath unto the said Olave my sonne one Flaxen Tablecloth stitched and half a dozen of napkins wrought w[i]th Esses Also A small Table of Wainscott w[i]th A Cupboard to it Allso the greate Andirons of Iron and brasse w[i]th the  fire shovell and tonges belonginge to the same, More I geve to the said Olave my sonne two paire of flaxen sheetes and two paire of flaxen sheets more w[i]th overcaste seames and sixe paire of french Canvas sheetes my beste dray table cloth and One flaxen table cloth and one shorte tablecloth to lay on a round table one of the table Clothes peeced throughout one longe washinge Towell fringed at both endes A Cupboard Cloth and a towell wrought w[i]th blew nedleworke one dozen of napkins wrought w[i]th a small blew worke and one dozen of napkins milded with blew and stitched at the ends and one dozen of napkins wrought with white laid worke more two pillowbeares w[i]th laid worke seames and two pillowbeares with purled seames and two playne flaxen pillowbeares, more one new fetherbed w[i]th a bolster and two downe pillowes and one old Fetherbed one white blanquett w[i]th a liste and one red blanquett, Also A Carpett or Coverlidd of tapistry belon ging to the same bedd and one bedstedd of wainscott w[hi]ch standeth in the wardrobe Chamber of the nowe dwellinge house of my said sonne in lawe Roger w[i]th Curtens and Curten rodds belonginge to the same, more sixe Spanish leather quishons gilte and the moytie or half p[ar]te of all my spanish stone platters and dishes, Also I geve and bequeathe unto the said Olave my sonne my beste grograine gocone laide on w[i]th velvett lace and my redd petticote garded w[i]th Two gards of velvett Also a round kertle of russet silke w[i]th two gardes of velvett my silke grograine Aperne and one of my gathered lawne neckekerches and my seaconnd best hatt Also one greate Copper kettle and one of the lesser drippinge pannes of Iron Also two small paire of Cobirons one brasse Chasing dishe w[i]th a wreath of brasse to sett it uppon one brasse pott next to the best one brasse ladle w[i]th a woodden handle and a scommer of brasse w[i]th a brasen handle and two of my beste pewter Candlesticks three fine small drinkinge potts of pewter and one of my best pewter saltes w[i]th a pepper boxe More fower pewter Platters two pewter dishes two sawcers and A pye plate of pewter half a dozen of pewter pottingers one Chamber pott of pewter wherein his name is already m[ar]ked and A Close stoole w[i]th a panne of pewter thereunto belonginge and one latten Candlesticke w[hi]ch was was my fathers and mothers and also one Ringe of gold sett w[i]th A red stone and one of my best weddinge ringes 

Also I give and bequeath unto my said sonne Olave Master the some of Twentie pounds of lawfull money of England w[hi]ch I will That he shall geve unto Mary Master his daughter at her daye of marriage  or age of one and Twentie yeares w[hi]ch shall first happen if she shall so long live otherwise to kepe the same to his owne use

Also I geve and bequeath unto the said Olave Master my sonne one old Fetherbedd and twobolsters one paire of towe sheetes one table Cloth and the some of Twentie pounds of lawfull money of England The said some of Twentie pounds and p[ar]cells of houshold stuffe to be delivered and paid unto my said sonne w[i]thin the space of sixe monthes nexte after my decease 

And my will and mynde is that the said Olave my sonne shall geve and deliver all the same goods and houshold stuffe above mentioned and the said some of Twentie poundes last above menconed to Margarett his daughter at such tyme and when as he my said sonne shall thinke good to bestowe it uppon her, Also I geve and bequeath unto my sonne Olave Maister the some of Twentie Pounds of lawfull money of England And my will and mynde is that the said some of Twentie Pounds by theis p[rese]nts now last given and bequeathed unto the said Olave Maister shalbe delivered unto my said sonne Olave to the intent that he my said sonne Olave, maye deliver the said some of Twentie Poundes unto his daughter Magdalen Derby at such time and when as he shall thinke good to bestowe the same uppon her and not before,

And my will and mynde is That if it shall happen that the said Olave my sonne shall dye or dep[ar]te this mortall lief before my decease or before the legacies in this my p[rese]nte Testament and last Will given and bequeathed unto the said Olave my sonne for himself and for his Children in this my p[rese]nte Testament and last Will shalbe due to be paid or delivered unto him accordinge to the devices limitacons and true construccons of this my p[rese]nte Testament and last Will That then all the same somes of money guifts legacies and bequests by me given and bequeathed unto the said Olave my sone for himself or for his Children shalbe geven paid and delivered unto the Executors or Administrators of the said Olave my sonne at the times herein lymitted and appointed for the payment thereof for the use benefitt and behouf of such Children of him the said Olave as shalbe then livinge to be amongeste them equally parted and devided, And that the Executors or Administrators of the said Olave my sonne shall have the benefitt of the use of such guifts and legacies as are to be paid to my said sonne herein given and lymitted duringe soe longe tyme and untill such Child or Children of my said sonne Olave w[hi]ch shalbe under age at the tyme of my decease shall attaine their severall age or ages of Twentie and one yeares or daye or dayes of marriage which shall first happen, 

Also I give and bequeath unto my lovinge daughter Ann Cole wief of Roger Cole of London gentleman the somme of one hundred and Threescore Poundes  of lawfull money of England to be paid unto her w[i]thin the space of sixe monethes nexte after my decease, 

Alsoe I geve and bequeath unto Saraa Stokes als Cole daughter of the said Anne my daughter the some of  Twentie Poundes of lawfull money of England to be paid unto to her on the day of her marriage or at her full age of Twentie and one yeares, w[hi]ch shall first happen, Also I geve and bequeath unto Elizabeth Cole daughter of the said Roger Cole and of my said daughter Anne the like some of Twentie Poundes of the like money to be likewise paid unto her on the day of her marriage or lawfull adge of Twentie and one yeares, Also I give and bequeath unto Suzan Cole daughter of the said Roger Cole and of my said daughter Anne the like some of Twentie Poundes of lawfull money of England to be paid unto her on the daye of her marriadge or at the accomplishment of her full adge of Twentie and one yeares w[hi]ch shall first happen, Also I geve and bequeath unto Catalina Cole daughter of the said Roger Cole and of my said daughter Ann the somme of Twentie Poundes of the like money to be in like manner paid unto her at the daye of her marriadge or att her full fadge of Twentie and one yeares w[hi]ch shall first happen, And my will and mynde is that the legacies before given and bequeathed unto the daughters of the said Roger Cole and of my said daughter Anne shalbe paid and delivered unto the said Roger Cole for the use of the said Children w[i]thin the space of sixe monethes nexte after my decease, And if it shall happen that the said Saraa Elizabeth Suzan or Catelina or any of them shall dye before the legacies to them severally given shalbe due to be paid accordinge to the tenor and true meaninge hereof, Then my will and mynd is the Survivor of them the said Sara Elizabeth Suzan and Catelina shall have and enioye the legacie of such of them as shall happen to dye amongeste them equally devided, And if they the said Sara Elizabeth Suzan and Catelina shall all happen to dye before their several dayes of marriadge or accomplishment of their severall adgs of Twentie and one yeares, Then my will and mynd is  that the severall legacies to them severally in and by this my p[rese]nte Testament and last will bequeathed and given shall wholly remaine and be to the said Roger Cole and my said daughter Anne his wife, 

James  I  "Unite" or
20 shilling piece
Also I give and bequeath unto the poore Sisters of the Trinitie house in Debtford the some of Twentie shillings of lawfull English money to be amongest them parted and devided, Also I geve and bequeath unto my lovinge friend John Partridge Scrivens the some of Fortie shillings of lawfull money of England to make him a Ringe, Also I will that myne Executors shall bestowe the some of Twentie Poundes of lawfull English money or more if nede require uppon morning apparell of good Cloth for them selves and their Children and for my said sonne Olave Maister and his wief and Children And uppon a banquett amongeste my neighbors on the day of my funeralls, And I give and bequeath the some of Twentie shillings to be distributed amongeste the poore in the Clink libertie in the parish of St Saviour in Southwark at the discretion of the said Roger Cole Also I bequeath to every poore widdow in Reddrith Twelve pence the peece and Tenn shillings to be bestowed and given to the poore of Reddrith in bread the day of my buriall and other Tenn shillings in bread in like manner that day Twelve monthes after,

The reasidue of all and singular my goods Cattalls Chattells plate Jewells napery aparell and houshold stuffe in this my p[rese]nte testament and last will not given or bequeathed Ready money and debts excepted I wholly give and bequeath unto my said sonne in Lawe Roger Cole and unto my said daughter Anne his wief, And if it shall happen the said Roger Cole and my said daughter Anne to die before me the said Magdalen Maister, Then I will and my meaninge is that all such guifts legacies somes of money and goods whatsoever w[hi]ch are in this my p[rese]nte Testament and last will geven and bequeathed unto the said Roger Cole and Anne shalbe given parted and devided unto and amongeste the Children of my said daughter Anne above named and unto the Survivors of them rateably and equally p[ar]te and porcon like And that the same shalbe paid and delivered unto the executors or administrators of the said Roger and Anne or of the Survivors of them at such tyme and when as they or the Survivors of them shall attayne to their severall adge or adgs of Twentie and one yeares or dayes of marriage w[hi]ch shall first happen,

And my will and mynde is that the reasidue of all my debts and ready money w[i]th the increase thereof both before my decease And also w[hi]ch shall growe betwene the day of my decease and payment of my legacies w[hi]ch shalbe remayninge after my debts and legacies shalbe paid and my funerall expenses discharged w[i]th the probate of my will and after chardges belonginge to the same shalbe parted devided and distributed unto and betwene my said sonne Olave Maister and my said sonne and daughter Roger Cole and Anne All losses hapning my said debts and all chardgs w[hi]ch shalbee necessarily  spente in suite of law of the recovery of my said debts or anie of them beinge also betwene them equally borne and susteyned, And I doe nominate make ordeyne and appoynte the said Roger Cole and Anne my daughter the full and whole a Executors of this my p[rese]nte Testament and last will desireinge them to see the same duly p[er]formed in all things as my trust is in them, And if they or either of them shall renounce or refute to take uppon them the Executorshipp and chardge of this my p[rese]nte Testament and last will Then my will and mynde is and I doe hereby nominate and appoint the said Olave Maister my sonne sole Executor of this my p[rese]nte Testament and last will, 

And I nominate and appoint the said John Partridge to be the Overseer in the p[er]formance of my said will desiringe him to ayde and assiste my said Executors to the uttermost of his power And I doe by their p[rese]nts revoke disable adnihillate and make voyd and frustrate all former wills heretofore by me made or devised, In witnes whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seale the day and yeare firste above written. The marke of the said Magdalen Maister, Sealled and subscribed in the presence of John Partridge and Charles Browne his servannte 

Olleffe Master wittnes, Roger Cole, Anne Cole

A Codicill to be annexed to the laste will and Testament of me
Magdalen Master of St Saviours in Southwarke widdowe

Trinity House
Whereas I Magdalen Master have here before made my will in wrightinge bearinge date the Nynth daye of december 1609 remayninge in the handes and Custodie of Olave Master my sonne, now doubting leaste some ambiguitie may arise aboute the same, and beinge desirous to cutt of all occasions of Suites in law which may arise betwixte my Children about my estate after my death, doe by theise p[rese]nts publishe and declare that it is my will and mynde, That the said Olave my sonne shall live quietlie and peaceablie with my sonne Roger Cole and my daughter Anne his wife, and be contented with that Porcon that I have given to him and his Children in my will which is about the some of CCxxli, And my mynde is and I doe hereby Chardge my said sonne Olave that neither he nor any other by his meanes of assignement doe at any tyme hereafter trouble my sonne Roger Cole or my daughter Anne his wife in any Courte whatsoever nor call them nor either of them to any Accompte for any parte of the increase of my money howsoever, or for any benefitt which maye arise to him oute of the residue of my debts and readie money whereof the one moytie is menconed to be bequeathed unto him in my said will But shall stande unto the discrecon of my Executors touchinge his parte of the residue of all my debts and readie money unto whose good Consciences I wholiereferr the same, And further it is my will and meaninge that if my said sonne Olave or his assignes doe goe about and shall trouble, vex, moleste or sue my said sone Roger or my daughter Anne or either of them in any Courte whatsoever touchinge his parte of the residue of my saide debtes and money or increase thereof or any parte thereof, Then and in that case I doe by theise p[rese]nts utterlie revoake reclayme frustrate and make voyde all and singular the legacies guifts and bequests w[hi]ch in my said will I have given or bequeathed unto him or any of his Children, soe that neither he the said Olave nor any of his Children shall receave any benefitt by my said will any thinge therein conteyned to the contrarie notwithstandinge, In wittnes whereof I the said Magdalen Master being of perfecte mynde and memorie and uppon good Consideracons me hereunto moveinge have hereunto sett my hand and seale the Twelthe daye of November Anno Dm 1614 The marke of Magdalen Master, Signed sealed and delivered by the above named Magdalen Masters shee beinge in good and perfecte memory in the p[rese]nce of us Edward Griffin, Thomas Stockes The marke of Geo: Juby wittnes, Thomas Mason, And that these wordes vizt, (or his Assignes) were interlyned before thensealinge hereof , Teste me Thomas Mason Sor, Edward Griffin. MS That Magdalen Master widdowe did sigfnify unto her sonne Olave Master and her daughter Ann Cole That it was her will and meaninge the the some of Twentie shillings w[hi]ch she said in her will bequeathed  unto the poore of the Trinity House shoulde come unto the poore of the libertie of the Clinke in St Saviours parish to be distributed amongst them at the discretion of her Executors, And also That it was her meaninge that only such poore widdowes as such dwell at Reddereth at the tyme of her death and were Inhabitants there whilest she lived at the same place and no other should have the legacy of xiid a peice given in her will, w[hi]ch words or the like in effect she spoke in the tyme of her last sicknes, and about two monethes before her death and alsoe at other tymes before in her last sicknes  in the hearinge of severall wittnesses.

Probatum fuit Testamentum superscriptum unarum duobus Codicillis apud London coram venerabili viro Magro Johanne Hone legum doctore Surrogate venerabilis viri domini Johannis Benet militis legum etiam Doctoris Curie Prerogative Canturarensis Magri Custodis sine Comissary legitime constituti decimo octavo die mensis January Anno Domini iuxta cursinn et Computatorem Ecclie Anglicane millesimo sexcentessimo decimo quarto Juramento Rogeri Cole et Anne eius uxoris filie dicte defuncte executorem in eodem Testamento nominati, Quibus commisa fuit Adminstraco bonorum Jurimm et Creditorum dicto defuncte de bene et fideliter Administrando &c ad sancto dei Evangelia Jurat &c

                Quinto die Junii 1614

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The will of Edward Maister of Rotherhithe, Sailor and Owner 1582

Elizabeth I after the Armada in 1588
It is always difficult to find out information about the general public at different times in history, but I have recently found that a number of wills are available from various sources, mainly libraries and archives.  Most are not available online, but one or two are, so those are the ones that I am looking at first.  

It has really surprised me how much good quality information is available about individuals and their families from personal genealogy websites, which reproduce families' research into their ancestors. Some of the research carried out is to a very high standard. One example is the will of Edward Maister a mariner and ship owner of 16th Century Rotherhithe, who is an ancestor of a family named Douglas, who have done extensive research into their own past.  The way in which Edward Maister links into their family tree is described in part here:

The Douglas Family History Site reproduces the will of Edward Maister (in his will it is spelled Master, but his wife, in her will, spells their name Maister) in full.  It is a fascinating read if you have the patience to stick with the only slightly unfamiliar16th century prose.  I have copied it here in full, in case the site vanishes at some point in the future, but full credit goes to The Douglas Family History website, their reproduction of the text and the extensive research that they have shared:

Edward Master / Maister was a resident of Redriffe (another name for Rotherhithe.  He died in 1582 during the reign of Elizabeth I, a year after she knighted Sir Francis Drake at Deptford for his successful circumnavigation of the globe, and six years before the invasion force of the Spanish Armada arrived.  I have been unable to find out anything about him, beyond the information contained in his will, but he was clearly a man of substance, able to dispose of a number of houses to members of his family, he owned or part-owned a boat or ship called the Mary Katherine and he was able to discharge the cost for his own funeral and service and contribute to repairs for the church.  He requested a burial at the Redriffe church, and was buried in the churchyard of an older church of St Mary's on 13th July 1882.  Burial records show him as a "howseholder."  He was survived by a wife, Magdalene, and two children Olive (his son, who had a son also named Olive and a daughter named Margaret) and Anne, who was unmarried at the time of the writing of the will, but went on to have six children, the first three of whom died young (Roger, another Roger, John, Elizabeth, Susanna and Catalina).  He also mentions family in Walton on the Naze, near Harwich on the Essex coast.

There is very little information available about Rotherhithe at this period. but the reign of Elizabeth I was a period of great maritime activity, which extended up the Thames.  Although previous rulers had eroded her father's navy, Elizabeth revived, profiting from the activities of traders and privateers who challenged Spanish and Portuguese ships in South American waters.  The Thames had been used for storing warships and  a lot of warship-related activities took place, including fitting, maintenance and repair. By 1520 a wet dock for 5 large vessels had been built and the area soon became established as one of the most important ship building centres of the country.  The first royal ship to bear the name of Tiger (HMS Tyger) was built at Deptford docks in 1546. She had a crew of 120, and 4 brass and 39 iron guns, and took part in the fight against the invading Spanish Armada in 1588. Trading ships coming into London created the demand for some form of control, and a system of "legal quays" were established under Elizabeth, which were controlled by the Corporation of London. These were created to handle all dutiable goods. They were located on the north banks of the Thames between London Bridge and the Tower of London but when they quickly became inadequate for the task they were supplemented by Bermondsey “sufferance wharves" creating a role for the southern side of the river in maritime trade.

Edward Master his laste wyll and testement ade the vith daye of Julye in the yere of our lord god, 1582, as followethe
In the name of god, amen. the vith daye of Julye in the yeere of our lord god, 1582. I Edward Master of redriffe 1 within the co[un]tye of surrye, sailer & owner, sicke in bodye - but perfecte of remembranc[e] at the makynge hereof - thanks be to almightye god - make this my laste wylle and testament in maner and forme followinge.

Firste & before all other things I geve and bequethe my soule to almightye god, my creator and saviour, and my bodye to be buried in the churche of redriffe at the discression of my frends wher they shall thinke mete.

And for such goods as god hathe lent me for a tyme in this world (my funeralls and debts discharged I geve as followethe firste I wyll that ther should be a serman at my buriall suche as the p[ar]son shall thinke mete, and to have for his payns vis viiid 
Also I geve to the poore box of the p[ar]yshe of refriffe towarde the reparacions of the churche, xxs

Also I geve to Magdalen my wyfe whomI make my sole executrix of this my laste wyll and testament - my house wherein I dwell durynge her naturall life, and more I geve to her all my houses w[hi]ch I have by leaces in redriffe duringe her life, saving that I wyll that Olive 2 master my sonne shall have the neare housse - yf he doe marye and dwell in yt.

And yf Mawdelen my wyffe chance to decease before Olive my sonne, and Anne master my daughter, then I wyll that olive master my sonne, and have my housse wher I dwell paiyinge to anne master my daughter and to her children after her els a yeere.

Also I wyll that mawdelen master my wyffe a quarter a pece, and I wyll that Olive master my sonne shall geve to his ii children, Olive master ye younger and magarett m[aste]r his daughter vli a pecen and also to my daughter anne master xli out of the porcion of his halffe quarter of the mary katheryn at the yeers of xxi, or ells at the daye of mariage,

Also I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall geve to Anne master my daughter in money - or houshold stuffe, xli and to kepe at her owne charges (yf she thinke yt for her profett) tyll the tyme of mariage. 

And I shall desire my wyffe to be good to Olive my sonns children as she hath bene, tyll yt
please god to sed hym to marye, and folowynglye to dwell together as they have done so longe as ye shall plese god to apoynte.

And for my houshold stuffe I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall dispose yt amonge the iii children to wytt anne my daughter, and Olivs ii children as she shall thinke good.

And yf yt fortune that anne master my daughter do marye and have nede of a housse - then I wyll that she shall have my newe housse duringe the tyme of the leace, rent free, and for the rent of the other houses by leace I wyll that olive master my sonne and anne master my daughter shall have ye equallye devided betwene them and yf one of them faile, then one to be an others heire, and, yf bothe faile then I wyll that olive master the younger shall have my housse wher I dwell, and margarett his daughter to have the other houses by leace, and yf anne master do marye and have children then I wyll that her children shall ???isye bothe the housse where I dwell, and also the other houses I have by leace indeferentlye devided amonge them.

And yf that they shall geve to vi of the nexte of my kynred dwellynge at walton of the nase by harwiche, vili to be equealye devided amonge them and yf all thes do faile & none to be founde, to make any fuste Hyll to any thinge of myne, then I wyll that yt shall come to the use of the p[ar]yshe of redriffe for ever.

Also I wyll that mawdelen my wyffe shall not forgett to geve to my sonne Olive in some parte of houshold stuffe at the tyme of his mariage - such as she can convenientlye spare, thus comittynge my soule and bodye my harte and mynd unto the lord my god yn the vith daye of Julye in the yere of our lord god, 1582 Sealed and subscribed w[i]th myne owne hand

            by me edward master presens of thomas addye p[ar]son of redriffe

Probatum fuit hu[iusm]o[d]i testamentum ven[erab]ili viro m[agist]ro Johe Hone legum Doctore Surr[o]g[ate] Decimo octave die mensis Julii Annus d[omi]ni 1582 Jura[men]to magdalene maister vidue Rel[i]c[t]e d[i]c[t]i def[uncti] et executricis in hu[iusm]o[d]i testa[men]to no[m]i[n]at Cui Comissa fuit Admnistracio &c de bene &c Jurat &c Salvo Jure n???s??ibus &c

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rare color film shows what London looked like in 1927

Thanks to John Willis for sending me the link to this video (nearly 6 minutes long) of rare color footage showing what London looked like in 1927.

In 1927 Claude Friese-Greene shot some of the first-ever color film footage around London. He captured everyday life in the city with a technique innovated by his father, called Biocolour.  I particularly liked the buses and the scenes of people in Petticoat Lane. 

Not Rotherhithe, of course.  It focuses on much better known areas of London, but it really is fascinating.  Weird to see a motorbus in the screen-grab, turning right across Tower Bridge Road, the route that the 188 now takes to Surrey Quays.  I've been on the 188 so many times, coming back from Russell Square, rounding that very corner on the bus, glancing out of the window at Tower Bridge before heading down  the eastern end of Tooley Street towards Jamaica Road.

I've embedded the video below, for ease of access, but my thanks to the British Film Institute for publishing it and the deathandtaxes website for drawing it to people's attention.

Be warned that there is music with it, which gets progressively louder.  I muted my volume control.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Rotherhithe village watch house of 1821

The tiny Rotherhithe watch house was established as a base for constables of St Mary's Parish in 1821. A rectangular stone plaque above the door confirms both the function and the date of the building.  As well as being a base for monitoring the streets at night, it was in a very useful position on the edge of the churchyard, or guarding against body snatchers.  Body snatching was a very lucrative and commonplace 19th Century activity, although illegal, because fresh bodies were always in demand by anatomists at Guys Hospital for dissection and teaching purposes.  Until 1832, the only other corpses legally available to hospitals were those condemned to death and dissection in the courts or the unclaimed bodies of people who had died in hospitals and poor houses.

The watch house was provided with a beadle (a parish constable associated with the church), a constable and 14 watchmen, operating in shifts during the day and night. There is a cell in the basement beneath the building, where suspects could be held.

The Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829 but before then a system that had been established in Medieval times provided a police service.  Appointed by the Crown, a Justice of the Peace was responsible for appointing constables who, in turn, appointed officers to assist him. Initially constables were not professionals, but were recruited from amongst local residents, but this was highly unpopular and eventually the position was formalized and salaried..  In towns, councils also appointed beadles who in turn appointed watchmen to patrol streets at night. Policing was organized on a parish by parish basis, with only occasional co-ordination between different parishes.  By 1822 around 3800 parish officers were employed in London.  For serious disturbances the army were employed to restore order. 

A watchman, named Charles, who
was shown on a poster at the now
defunct Lavender Pump House
Museum, Rotherhithe
The Rotherhithe watch house closed in the same year as the Metropolitan Police was established and there no police base in the immediate vicinity until 1836 when a police station opened on Paradise Street.

Today it is easy to find, located next to 70 St Marychurch Street, to which it is attached (the former charity school set up by Master Mariner Peter Hills, with the Portand stone statues at the first floor level). It now backs on to a small park and looks out over St Mary's Church. A Grade II listed building (number 471285) it is has one floor above ground and a basement level cell.  Characteristic of its period, and a good fit with contemporary Rotherhithe village buildings, it is built of yellow stock brick and has a stone-coped parapet and plinth, a lean-to slate roof, recessed panels on either side of its rectangular stone plaque and has gauged brick segmental arches.  It forms a pair with the fire engine house, the door and windows of which are now blocked in.  

In good external condition, it is lovely that such a small corner of Rotherhithe village has been so well preserved.  At the time of writing it is a successful and attractive cafe with outdoor seating in the little park that was once St Mary's churchyard.  Diminutive buildings of this sort are usually allowed to decay and are eventually lost, so it is particularly nice to see how well this one is doing and how appreciated it continues to be in its new guise. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wynaud 1854 - a tea clipper built for the opium trade

The builders of ships on Rotherhithe are a fascinating bunch, and one could devote an entire blog to discussing them, but one of the many other  fascinating things about looking at their output is the subsequent history of the ships they built.  Sometimes it is difficult to pick up more than a few isolated details unless the ship was famous for its speed or a specific event.  Wynaud, although not one of the top-rated ships of her day, has quite a bit of interesting history associated with her, and she was built by a most interesting character, although somewhat lacking in modern standards of political-correctness.

Bilbe's patent slip, preserved to the
left (west) of the entrance to the
Hilton Hotel, Rotherhithe
Wynaud was built in Rotherhithe in 1854 by Thomas Bilbe, or by the partnership of Bilbe and Perry, at Nelson Dock. Bilbe on his own and Bilbe and Perry built an impressive number of tea clippers including Orient, Florence Nightingale, Red Riding Hood,  Whiteadder, Borealis and Argonaut.  Nelson Dock is now incorporated into the Hilton Hotel on Rotherhithe Street, but part of it still survives in the form of the early 1900s Mills and Night dock, now filled with water and blocked off from the Thames (which for a long time, most incongruously, had a fountain in it and I believe still sports an artificial heron and real water lilies) and Bilbe's patent slip to its west.  

Thomas Bilbe, who was born in 1803 in Sheerness, was a fairly remarkable man.  In the 1996 booklet on Nelson Dock, Stuart Rankin describes him as "an inventor and ship owner, with interests in the far eastern trade.  These were to include running opium into China, evading the Peking government's patrols which were attempting to stamp out the drug trade, and the shipping of coolies for use as cheap labour . . all in all, a not untypical mid 19th century entrepreneur!" He was also a very innovative ship designer, pioneering a new method of hull framing a few years after the construction of Wynaud. He was married to Eliza Ann Chappel, with whom he had a daughter named Frances Sarah, who was born in Rotherhithe. I will be writing more about him in the future.

Wynaud was 150ft long by 29 foot wide and weighted 596 tons (in the old measurement) or 546 (in the new).  She had two deckhouses and a raised quarterdeck.  She seems to have been named for an area of India. Initially intended for the opium trade she was fitted out more as a yacht than a ship, and was given six 9lb carronades (guns). Running opium into China was an innovation of the East India Company.  Although it was the only cargo of interest to Chinese tea merchants, other than silver, it was banned by the Chinese state, and smuggling it into China was illegal until after the Opium Wars.  The peace treaty with China, forced on them by the superior firepower of the British, provided Britain with the island Hong Kong, which was used as a base for renewing opium imports on a newly legitimate footing (although the episode is one of the more dishonourable in British history).  Quite why Wynaud was never put to use in this trade is unclear.

Instead of running opium, she was converted for use in the tea trade, as a full-rigged ship, retaining the carronades and provided with a trained gunner.  David MacGregor describes her as "Very lofty with an unusually long, hollow bow.  She was found to be slightly tender and needed careful handling." There are no illustrations of whats she looked like at launch. After her years serving in the tea trade she was converted into a barque, which reduced costs but lengthened voyages.

Wynaud on the Thames with barque rigging
It is unclear who placed the order for her, but she was certainly registered under Alexander Remington of London until 1855, when she was purchased by Dent and Co in Hong Kong.  In 1858 she was bought by A.G.Robinson in London before being sold to W.H.Tindall in 1863, for the Ceylon tea trade.  C.P. Jones purchased her in 1870 and had her only a year before selling her to James Alexander in 1871.  She was wrecked in 1874.

Her maiden voyage was from London to Adelaide and took 93 days, from 29th August to 30th November 1854.   Other examples of her crossing times in the tea trade, which were respectable without being remarkable, were Foochow to London in 140 days during the 1857-58 tea season, Macao to London in 106 days in the 1858-59 season, Shanghai to London, via Deal, in 113 days in the 1861-62 season and Amoy to London in 129 days in the 1861-1862 season.

In 1858 (the year that the Treaty of Tientsin was signed ending one of the Opium wars with China) Wynaud, Cairngorm, Chieftain, Morning Star, Warrior Queen and Lammermuir were all waiting in Hong Kong harbour to receive their tea freight.  Wynaud's master was Captain Reid, one of many Scots who commanded tea-clippers, having learned his trade in the whaling port of Peterhead, near Aberdeen.  A prize of £200 was promised to the ship that arrived first in London, to be divided among the officers, an incentive for a speedy delivery. The contest was between Wynaud, Lammermuir, Cairngorm, and Chieftain, all of which left within two days of each other.  Some of the ships took different routes, with the Cairngorm and Lammermuir taking the riskier option through the Straits of Gaspar, whilst Chieftain and Wynaud headed for the safer but longer route through the Straits of Banca.  Andrew Shewan gives a rousing account of the race, which was won by Lammemuir, beating the highly regarded Cairngorm with just six hours between them, after a 92 day run.  Wynaud came in third, at just under 100 days, with Chieftain fourth and Morning Star close behind.  Warrior Queen, never considered a contender, arrived 12 days behind the winners.  For her size, which was comparatively small, this was a very good result for Wynaud.

It is usually difficult to find out any details about the crews of tea clippers, because at the end of each voyage they were paid off and would then look for work on other vessels. Such itinerant working practices meant that few records of crews were maintained. Only the captain and sometimes more senior members of the crew would stay affiliated with a particular ship.  However, there are records of two members of the Wynaud's crews.  John William Evans (1855-1943) was born in Liverpool and was relocated to New Zealand when his family emigrated in 1859.  He became an apprentice on his father's part-owned barque and worked for a spell as second mate on Wynaud and another ship.  However, following the trends of the day, he abandoned sail for steam and served between 1875 and 1885 in the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company before moving on to other pursuits.  Tom Bowling also served on Wynaud and his account of life on the ship, originally recorded in the Canterbury Times, was reproduced by his friend Captain Andrew Shewan who wrote a book of reminiscences, The Great Age of Sail.  Bowling served under Captain Reid as an apprentice (later becoming a captain himself) and is a good source of information about both life on board a tea clipper and the dangers posed by the Chinese and Malay pirates.  Of life on the ship, Bowling says:

In the China Sea the weather was often shockingly bad - rain in tropical sheets, thunder and lightning terrible in their intensity.  We would be wet through all day, and whenever the wind came fair it was out with the stunsails,  No possible chance was lost, for it was always a race.

We boys used to be roused out in our watch below to set topgallant and royal stunsails; and we would perch aloft, reeving and unreeving gear, and setting and taking in the sails, half a dozen times each day.
Pirates had been an ongoing threat for the clippers.  They were ruthless, boarding ships in large numbers, killing crew and passengers, stripping the ships of their valuables and then sinking them so that no trace of the crimes remained.  Bowling talks about the precautions taken when it was necessary to drop anchor in areas where pirates might be operating, and it is a really lovely account:

After working down through the China Sea, with the forest-hung mountains of Borneo on the port hand, the clipper would pass through the Banca or Gaspar Straits into the Java Sea.

All those waters, reef-dotted and shoal-infested, and the coasts of the great islands that hemmed in the narrow seas, wooded from the water's edge to their cloudy summits, swarmed with pirates . . . . Sometimes it was necessary to anchor in deep water . . . Sometimes again the anchor was let go for the night so close to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra that monkeys could be heard chattering in the trees, and the tropic birds singing or screaming; while the roar of the tiger might be heard, as 'stripes' came down to drink at some creek mouth.

On such occasions an armed anchor watch was kept - one man with a loaded rifle at the poop, and another, similarly armed, at the forecastle head, with orders to fire the instant any boat was seen approaching.

 In 1863 Wynaud left the China tea trade and was used by her new owner for the Ceylon tea trade.

The ship was wrecked in 1874 off the coast of Tasmania.  The incident was reported in the Cornwall Chronicle, 23rd February 1874.  The Wynaud, at this time rigged as a barque, had departed Hobart in Tasmania and was bound for Launceston under the command of Captain Findlay, where she was to take on another load, before leaving for London.  Unfortunately, she never made it that far.  Near Swan Island, Wynaud was wrecked at Eddystone Point.  The ship had driven through unfavourable weather, and south of Eddystone Point decided to drop anchor rather than proceeding any further.  Disastrously, the chain parted and the ship was driven to shore.  Captain Lucas of the SS Tasman and Captain Harrison of the schooner Hally Bayley both offered assistance to rescue the captain and his crew, all of whom were saved.  When they left her, Wynaud was about six foot of water at the stern and heavy seas were breaking over her.  The ship was fully insured, but it was hoped that some of the cargo could be saved (although it is not apparently recorded if any was).  The Cornwall Chronicle lists her cargo as follows, which is interesting as much for an insight into the sort of cargo a former tea clipper, now tramping from port to port, was able to secure:
For London : 69 bags chopped bark, 3 casks sperm oil, Macfarlane Brothers, For Launceston; 717 bags sugar (transhipped from Iris), Murphy and Co.; 30 half-chests tea, 1 case tobacco, 5 cases stationery, 1 case ink, 1 bundle paper 1 case stores. 1 bale clothing, 1 bale sheet, 2 cases oil. Government ; 8 barn-Is tar. Marsh ; 9 packages galvanised iron and nails, Macfarlane Brothers ; 9 packages luggage. Cowle i 68pieces stone, Gillon ; 20 boxes soap, W. Wilson ; 30 packages returned bags, Degraves ; 30 packages luggage and furniture. H. Hagon ; 1 four-oared racing boat, Whitehouse Brothers.

The scale of the loss suffered by some of those who had entrusted Wynaud with their cargo is made clear, again by the Cornwall Chronicle:

Mr Hagon, who has been in business in Hobart Town as a boot and shoemaker for many years, has un fortunately lost almost everything, his furniture and effects having been shipped on board the ill-fated ship. It was his intention to start business in Launceston shortly, but his hopes have been damped, at all events for the present. The Messrs. Whitehouse also sustained a considerable loss, the boat which was shipped by them having been intended for competition at the ensuing Tamar Regatta, she being valued at £30. Messrs. Roberts and Co.. instructed by Macfarlane Brothers, will offer the wreck and cargo for sale without reserve, at their mart, Hobart Ton, on the 3rd March next, on account of those whom it may concern.

From the website.
An inquiry following the wreck of the Wynaud concluded that if a lighthouse had been present at Eddystone Point, the disaster would not have occurred.  It was decided that to avoid further wreckages a lighthouse would be constructed.  A distinctive structure made of durable pink granite, it still stands today.

UPDATE 15/02/2014:  Last week I received an email from the friend of a lady who had recently died.  She was trying to find out more about her friend's background.  The friend's maiden name was Findlay, and she was a descendent of Captain Findlay who had commanded the Wynaud.  A lovely details is that her middle name was Wynaud, and that her uncle had had a model of the ship in his home.  Sadly, the friend had no more details than this but perhaps someone reading this will be able to shed more light on Captain Findlay and the model.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rotherhithe police station closed

I missed this on the 26th June 2013.  Although I knew it was being discussed, the website has reported that Rotherhithe Police Station has now closed.  Instead, a new police Contact Point is now open for three hours a week at Canada Water Library where police officers will be available at on Wednesday and Thursday evenings between 7pm and 8pm and on Saturdays from 2pm to 3pm. I'm really not convinced that it's the way to go. Rotherhithe is a big area and it has problems that I'm not at all sure can be sorted by a three-hour-a-week library presence.  Still, at least it makes good use of the library.

I am guessing that the police station, never a thing of beauty, will be knocked down and replaced with a residential block.  

Thames Tunnel shaft to host Pop-Up Opera

On Saturday 20th July, the Thames Tunnel Shaft at the Brunel Museum (Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, SE16 4LF) will be hosting a performance of two one-act operas, Rita and La Serva Padrona, both dealing, in a typically Italian way, with the sinuously convoluted path from misunderstanding to true love, both complementing one another.  It sounds great and I wish I was around that night to see it. 

Synopses, access details and booking information can be found at the Brunel Museum website:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A visit to the Cutty Sark

I hopped on the Thames Clipper and went to visit the restored tea clipper Cutty Sark yesterday, just two stops away from Greenland Pier and an always enjoyable ride.  The Cutty Sark was a fascinating experience.  I visited many years ago, before it burned in 2006, when the display of figureheads was held within the ship.  I had forgotten how truly impressive she is.  If you want to get a grip on what Rotherhithe-built composite clippers like the Ambassador and the Lothair were like, this is the place to go.  The Cutty Sark and Thermopylae were frequently the fastest ships on the routes they plied, but Lothair was well up with them, establishing records of her own.

Built in Dundee in 1869, for the Jock Willis shipping line, the year that the Suez Canal opened. Like the Lothair, she was a composite clipper and was one of the fastest ships of her day, regularly setting records for speed of transit between ports.

The interior decks show off the composite construction perfectly, with the original iron frame painted in white and recent strengthening additions painted in grey so that they are easy to distinguish from one another.  The two interior decks are now museum displays, with interactive panels, a film, footage of the Cutty Sark when she was still sailing and original artefacts.  A simple but effective feature in the lower deck is the use of tea chests to display information, at one and the same time providing a sense of how large the tea chests were and how they were stacked and making use of the surfaces to communicate more facts to the public.  I spend a lot of time in museums and I find that interactive panels can often be irritatingly redundant, but these are good, providing easily absorbed information about the ship, pointing out key features to watch for as you move around a deck.  The decks have not been so over-filled with display cabinets that it makes the ship difficult to move around, which is important as even on an overcast weekday, when there weren't that many people on board, it is easy to imagine it becoming very busy at weekends.  

On deck, the scene is one of gleaming wood, polished brass, and a sophisticated cats-cradle of rope and rope-handling devices.  Living quarters can be inspected (of both crew and officers), the carpentry, galley and other functional areas can be visited.  

Down in the basement, the Muntz-sheathed hull resembles a stunning piece of modern art - a semi-abstract vision of gleaming brass-coloured curves and sharp edges, quite beautiful.  It was marvelous to walk the entire length of the keel, from stern to bow, just beneath it, the rest of the vast ship suspended over my head. If I was just a couple of inches taller I could have touched it, and I did try, standing on tiptoes, but I just wasn't quite tall enough.  There were many fingerprints of people taller than me who, like me, had obviously been unable to resist the impulse to reach up and connect with such a fabulous vision.   There is a viewing platform at the bow end of the ship, which is great for taking photographs.  Here too, beneath the viewing platform, is the figurehead display which in the 90s, before the renovation, had been installed on one of the inner decks.

The brass-like Muntz, by the way, is formed of 60% copper and 40% zinc with traces of iron, and was applied in rectangular panels to protect the hull from corrosion and fouling.

If you have an afternoon spare, especially if it's a week day, it makes a great visit, particularly if you are interested in the local ship building industry.

Cutty Sark in the 1990s, before
the glass roof was added to the
lower hull