Cutty Sark | 150th Anniversary
Posted on November 22nd, 2019
‘No clipper ship was finer, faster and more famous than Cutty Sark’ – Lord Sterling, Chairman, The Cutty Sark Trust.
The Cutty Sark, that glorious iconic ship, that proudly stands next to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, is 150 years old on 22 November 2019.
Rightly, this has to be celebrated properly, so all weekend (22-24 Nov) family events are taking place in and around this iconic ship.
It is, without doubt, one of LLW’s favourite parts of London. Packed full of great pubs, restaurants, shops, museums and oozing with history, this would be fab destination for a dismal November weekend!
History of Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark was built in 1869 principally for shipping tea back from China quickly. The English have had a long love affair with tea and the Cutty Sark was one of the original tea clippers.
Transporting this precious cargo (in fact, you can still smell the tea on the lower deck!) Commissioned by the Scot, John Willis, the structure was innovative in that it was made of both wood and wrought iron to give maximum strength, flexibility and storage space.
After the tea clippers were usurped by steamships carrying their cargo, they continued transporting other goods; such as wool, coal and food stuffs sailing all over the world.
In its life, it sailed nearly 1m nautical miles! Sold on to the Portuguese in the early 20th century, it was eventually bought back, saved and restored and now lies in all its glory in Greenwich.
Facts on the Cutty Sark
The name, Cutty Sark’ came from Robbie Burn’s poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’ which tells the story of a witch dancing dressed in a short shift called a ‘cutty shark.
The figurehead of the Cutty Sark is a romanticised version of the beautiful witch, ‘Nannie’ reaching out to Tam. The original is located under the stunning hull which you can walk around.
Typically there was a crew of 27 men on Cutty Sark. Some were as young as 14. In 25 years of service sailing the most dangerous seas and storm, only 5 men were lost overboard.
In May 2007 a major fire broke out on Cutty Sark. It was global news within hours. Luckily, most of the interior had already been stored separately for conservation, so was unharmed.
The Cutty Sark today has beautifully restored the cabins. The beds are tiny with ledges to stop one falling out! You can also see the minute kitchen and carpenter’s workshop where all the repairs were made.
We spent ages wandering around the top deck, there is so much to see and appreciate.
The original features such as the Cutty Sark bell, the many many ropes and winches, the steering wheel and the very spacious captain’s quarters.
Showstopper – Cutty Sark’s hull
You’ve walked around the ship, already so impressed by the history, the stories and the preservation. Then descend to the hull it is the showstopper!
As part of the recent conservation project, Cutty Sark was lifted over 3 metres off the ground. Visitors can walk underneath and around this astonishing hull (even take tea beneath it!). It is breathtaking. At the end of the huge hall is a brilliant collection of original figureheads collected by Long John Silver himself (yes, he was real…aka Sydney Cumbers).
The anniversary is very special. If you can’t get there this weekend, Cutty Sark should definitely be on your ‘must see’ list in London.
It’s so impressive. Definitely get the informative audio-guide free with your ticket.
There many interactive add-ons as you go through the ship – find the a hologram of one of the crew writing a letter home. Also, 2 great coffee shops to sustain you. With the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum on its doorstep, this is a brilliant day out.
150th anniversary weekend: 22-24 Nov 10am-5pm.Greenwich residents get free entry! The 150th visitor over the birthday weekend will win a year’s Royal Museums Greenwich membership.
Tickets: £13.50 adults, children £6.75 (Buy on-line as prices cheaper)
Cutty Sark is located right by the river so a Thames Clipper (Greenwich pier) is a great way to arrive. Otherwise, Cutty Sark DLR or Greenwich rail station are short walks away.
See our Day Out in Greenwich for fantastic tips. We have a guide on where to eat, drink (there are some great places) and other wonderful attractions in this historic area.