The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (U.K.) or Britain, is a sovereign country in western Europe. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, it includes the island of Great Britain (the name of which is applied to the whole country by most stamp catalogues), the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state — the Republic of Ireland. With an area of 93,600 square miles (242,500 square kilometers), the U.K. is the 78th largest sovereign state in the world and the eleventh largest in Europe. It is also the twenty-first most populous country, with an estimated 65.1 million inhabitants. Great Britain itself has an area of 80,823 square miles (209,331 km²), making it the largest European island and the ninth-largest in the world.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. The monarch — since February 6, 1952 — is Queen Elizabeth II. The U.K. consists of four countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The last three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. The capital of the United Kingdom and its largest city is London. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the U.K., being Crown dependencies with the British government responsible for defense and international representation.
The island was first inhabited by people who crossed over the land bridge from the European mainland. Human footprints have been found from over 800,000 years ago in Norfolk and traces of early humans have been found (at Boxgrove Quarry, Sussex) from some 500,000 years ago and modern humans from about 30,000 years ago.
Until about 14,000 years ago, Great Britain was connected to Ireland, and as recently as 8,000 years ago it retained a land connection to the continent, with an area of mostly low marshland joining it to what are now Denmark and the Netherlands. In Cheddar Gorge, near Bristol, the remains of animal species native to mainland Europe such as antelopes, brown bears, and wild horses have been found alongside a human skeleton, ‘Cheddar Man’, dated to about 7150 BC. Thus, animals and humans must have moved between mainland Europe and Great Britain via a crossing. Great Britain became an island at the end of the last glacial period when sea levels rose due to the combination of melting glaciers and the subsequent isostatic rebound of the crust.
Great Britain’s Iron Age inhabitants are known as Britons; they spoke Celtic languages.
The Romans conquered most of the island (up to Hadrian’s Wall, in northern England) and this became the Ancient Roman province of Britannia. In the course of the 500 years after the Roman Empire fell, the Britons of the south and east of the island were assimilated or displaced by invading Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, often referred to collectively as Anglo-Saxons). At about the same time, Gaelic tribes from Ireland invaded the north-west, absorbing both the Picts and Britons of northern Britain, eventually forming the Kingdom of Scotland in the ninth century. The south-east of Scotland was colonized by the Angles and formed, until 1018, a part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. Ultimately, the population of south-east Britain came to be referred to as the English people, so-named after the Angles.
Germanic speakers referred to Britons as Welsh. This term came to be applied exclusively to the inhabitants of what is now Wales, but it also survives in names such as Wallace and in the second syllable of Cornwall. Cymry, a name the Britons used to describe themselves, is similarly restricted in modern Welsh to people from Wales, but also survives in English in the place name of Cumbria. The Britons living in the areas now known as Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall were not assimilated by the Germanic tribes, a fact reflected in the survival of Celtic languages in these areas into more recent times. At the time of the Germanic invasion of Southern Britain, many Britons emigrated to the area now known as Brittany, where Breton, a Celtic language closely related to Welsh and Cornish and descended from the language of the emigrants, is still spoken. In the ninth century, a series of Danish assaults on northern English kingdoms led to them coming under Danish control (an area known as the Danelaw). In the tenth century, however, all the English kingdoms were unified under one ruler as the kingdom of England when the last constituent kingdom, Northumbria, submitted to Edgar in 959. In 1066, England was conquered by the Normans, who introduced a Norman-speaking administration that was eventually assimilated. Wales came under Anglo-Norman control in 1282, and was officially annexed to England in the sixteenth century.
On October 20, 1604, King James, who had succeeded separately to the two thrones of England and Scotland, proclaimed himself “King of Great Brittaine, France, and Ireland”. When James died in 1625 and the Privy Council of England was drafting the proclamation of the new king, Charles I, a Scottish peer, Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie, succeeded in insisting that it use the phrase “King of Great Britain”, which James had preferred, rather than King of Scotland and England (or vice versa). While that title was also used by some of James’s successors, England and Scotland each remained legally separate countries, each with its own parliament, until 1707, when each parliament passed an Act of Union to ratify the Treaty of Union that had been agreed the previous year. This created a single kingdom out of two, with a single parliament, with effect from May 1, 1707. The Treaty of Union specified the name of the new all-island state as “Great Britain”, while describing it as “One Kingdom” and “the United Kingdom”. To most historians, therefore, the all-island state that existed between 1707 and 1800 is “Great Britain” or the “Kingdom of Great Britain”.
The postal history of Great Britain is notable in at least two respects — for the introduction of postage stamps in 1840, and for the establishment of an efficient postal system throughout the British Empire, laying the foundation of many national systems still in existence today.
The story begins in the twelfth century with Henry I, who appointed messengers to carry letters for the government. It is estimated that between 1100 and 1135, 4,500 letters were carried by these messengers. At this time, private individuals had to make their own arrangements. Henry III provided uniforms for the messengers, and Edward I instituted posting houses where the messengers could change horses. The reign of Edward II saw the first postal marking; handwritten notations saying “Haste, post haste”.
Henry VIII created the Royal Mail in 1516, appointing Brian Tuke as “Master of the Postes”, while Elizabeth I appointed Thomas Randolph as “Chief Postmaster”. Under Thomas Witherings, chief postmaster under Charles I, the Royal Mail was made available to the public (1635), with a regular system of post roads, houses, and staff. From this time through to the postal reforms of 1839 — 1840 it was most common for the recipient to pay the postage, although it was possible to prepay the charge at the time of sending.
In 1661, Charles II made Henry Bishop the first Postmaster General. In answer to customer complaints about delayed letters, Bishop introduced the Bishop mark, a small circle with month and day inside, applied at London, in the General Post office and the Foreign section, and soon after adopted in Scotland, (Edinburgh), and Ireland, (Dublin). In subsequent years, the postal system expanded from six roads to a network covering the country, and post offices were set up in both large and small towns, each of which had its own postmark.
In 1680, William Dockwra established the London Penny Post, a mail delivery system that delivered letters and parcels weighing up to one pound within the city of London and some of its immediate suburbs for the sum of one penny.
The Great Post Office Reform of 1839 and 1840 was championed by Rowland Hill, often credited with the invention of the postage stamp, as a way to reverse the steady financial losses of the Post Office. Hill convinced Parliament to adopt the Uniform Fourpenny Post whereby a flat 4 pence per half-ounce rate (equivalent to 10 shillings 8 pence per pound for heavier items) was charged regardless of distance, deliverable to any address in the U.K. The rate went into effect on December 5, 1839, but only lasted for 36 days.
On January 10, 1840, the Uniform Penny Post started, charging only 1 penny for prepaid letters and 2 pence if the fee was collected from the recipient. Fixed rates meant that it was practical to avoid handling money to send a letter by using an “adhesive label”, and accordingly, on May 6, the Penny Black became the world’s first postage stamp in use.
After more than 2,000 suggestions were submitted, Rowland Hill chose the method and printer, and worked by trial and error to achieve the required result. He decided to go with Perkins, Bacon & Petch, “a firm of bank-note printers, to carry out the work by the process of steal engraving, and the head of the Queen as engraved by William Wyon for a special medal struck to celebrate Her Majesty’s official visit to the City of London in the year of her Coronation.”
The stamp was originally for use only within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as such was, in effect, a local stamp. For this reason the name of the country was not included within the design, a situation which continued by agreement with foreign post offices, provided the sovereign’s effigy appeared on the stamp. Envelopes sold with postage paid did not include this, so were marked with the country’s name. In 1951, the special commemorative issue for the Festival of Britain included the name “Britain” incidentally. It could therefore be said that the name of the country then appeared for the first time on a stamp of the U.K., although the word “British” had appeared on British Empire Exhibition commemorative stamps of 1924.
After the stamp was circulating, it became obvious that black was not a good choice of stamp color, since any cancellation marks were hard to see. So from 1841 onwards, the stamps were printed in a brick-red color. The Penny Reds continued in use for decades with about 21 billion being produced.
The Victorian age saw an explosion of experimentation. The inefficiency of using scissors to cut stamps from the sheet inspired trials with rouletting (the Archer Roulette), and then with perforation, which became standard practice in 1854. In 1847, the (octagonal) 1 shilling (£0.05) became the first of the British embossed postage stamps to be issued, followed by 10 pence stamps the following year, and 6 pence (£0.025) values in 1854.
Surface-printed stamps first appeared in the form of a 4 pence stamp in 1855, printed by De La Rue, and subsequently became the standard type. ½d (halfpenny) and 1½d (penny halfpenny — pronounced pennyhaypny or threehaypence) engraved stamps issued in 1870 were the last engraved types of Queen Victoria; the next would not appear until 1913. Surface-printed stamps of the 1860s and 1870s all used the same profile of Victoria, but a variety of frames, watermarks, and corner lettering.
A 5 shilling (abbreviated as 5/- or as 5s.) (£0.25) stamp first appeared in 1867, followed by 10 shilling (£0.50) and £1 values in 1878, culminating in a £5 stamp in 1882.
Meanwhile, the age of the Penny Reds had come to an end along with the Perkins Bacon printing contract. The new low values were also surface-printed: first was a penny stamp colored Venetian red in a square frame, issued in 1880. However, the passage of the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1881 necessitated new stamps valid also as revenue stamps, and so the Penny Lilac was issued in that year, inscribed POSTAGE AND INLAND REVENUE. This stamp remained the standard letter stamp for the remainder of Victoria’s reign, and vast quantities were printed. Later issues were inscribed POSTAGE & REVENUE which became the more familiar POSTAGE REVENUE.
1883 and 1884 saw experimentation with stamps using fugitive inks with the ‘Lilac and Green Issue’. These were rather plain designs, low values in lilac and high values in green, because those were the only colors available. They succeeded in their purpose — relatively few of the stamps survived usage, their colors fading away when soaked from the envelope — but they were not liked by the public.
The last major issue of Victoria was the “Jubilee issue” of 1887, a set of twelve designs ranging from ½d to 1s, most printed in two colors or on colored paper. Although issued during the Jubilee year, they were not issued specifically for the occasion, and are thus not commemoratives.
When Edward VII succeeded to the throne, new stamps became necessary. The approach was very conservative, however most of the Jubilee frames were reused and the image of the King was still a single profile. Edward’s reign was fairly short and there were no major changes of design as a result. chalk-surfaced paper was introduced during this time. This type of paper can be detected by rubbing the surface with silver, which leaves a black mark.
By contrast, the stamps of George V were innovative from the very first. The first issue made was of the ½d and 1d values, which were in the same colors as used in the previous reign. Although the main design feature remained the same — a central ellipse for the portrait, an ornamental frame, value tablet at the base and a crown at the top — a three quarter portrait was used for the first time. However, subsequent designs reverted to the standard profile.
The U.K.’s first commemorative stamps were issued for the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. The pair of large-format stamps featured a lion in an imposing stance; they were issued twice, in 1924 and then in 1925, the stamps of each year being inscribed with the year of issue. A second set of commemoratives in 1929 marked the 9th Congress of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), held in London that year.
Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, responsibility for posts and telegraphs transferred to the new Provisional Government. Upon the formal independence of the Irish Free State in December 1922, and then transferred to the Free State Government. A Postmaster General was initially appointed by the Free State Government, being replaced by the office of Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in 1924. An early visible manifestation was the repainting of all post boxes green instead of red, plus the overprinting of British postage stamps prior to the introduction of Irish stamps.
A set of four stamps was issued in 1936 for Edward VIII before he abdicated. George VI’s coronation was marked with a commemorative: part of an omnibus issue which included every colony in the Empire. New definitives featured a profile of the King on a solid color background, based on a plaster cast by Edmund Dulac. This was a precursor of the Machins three decades later.
The century of the postage stamp was celebrated in 1940 with a set of six stamps depicting Victoria and George VI side-by-side. By the following year, wartime exigencies affected stamp printing, with the 1937 stamps being printed with less ink, resulting in significantly lighter shades. Post-war issues included commemoratives for the return of peace, the Silver Jubilee and the 1948 Summer Olympics in 1948, and the 75th anniversary of the UPU, in 1949.
In 1950 the colors of all the low values were changed. 1951 saw a new series of high values (2s 6d, 5s, 10s, £1), and two commemoratives for the Festival of Britain.
When Elizabeth II succeeded her father in 1952, new stamps were needed. A collection of variations on a theme that came to be known as the Wilding issues, based on a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was the result. This portrait was by photographer Dorothy Wilding. Wildings were used until 1967, when the Machin issues were introduced on June 5. The Machin design is very simple, a profile of the Queen on a solid color background, and very popular, still being the standard British stamp. They have been printed in scores of different colors; in addition, decimalization required new denominations, and there have technical improvements in the printing process, resulting in literally hundreds of varieties known to specialists.
On January 15, 1969, just prior to the maiden voyage of the latest Cunard liner RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), Great Britain released a set of six stamps commemorating British shipbuilders and seamen (Scott #575-580). The low value — 5 pence — depicted the QE2 while the two highest values — denominated at 1 shilling each — portrayed the liners S.S. Great Britain and RMS Mauretania. All three of these stamps measured 58×22 millimeters. The three middle denominations — 9 pence, measuring 38½x22 mm — pictured older sailing ships: an Elizabethan galleon, an East Indiaman, and the famed Cutty Sark on Scott #578. All were perforated 14½x14.
Cutty Sark was a British clipper ship, 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. Since 1954, she has been on public display at a permanent dry dock in Greenwich, London. She is one of only three remaining original composite construction (wooden hull on an iron frame) clipper ships from the nineteenth century in part or whole, the others being the City of Adelaide, which arrived in Port Adelaide, South Australia on February 3, 2014, for preservation, and the beached skeleton of Ambassador of 1869 near Punta Arenas, Chile.
Cutty Sark was ordered by shipping magnate John Willis, who operated a shipping company founded by his father. The company had a fleet of clippers and regularly took part in the tea trade from China to Britain. Speed was a clear advantage to a merchant ship, but it also created prestige for the owners: the ‘tea race’ was widely reported in contemporary newspapers and had become something of a national sporting event, with money being gambled against a winning ship. In earlier years, Willis had commanded his father’s ships at a time when American designed ships were the fastest in the tea trade, and then had owned British designed ships, which were amongst the best available in the world but had never won the tea race. In 1868 the brand new Aberdeen built clipper Thermopylae set a record time of 61 days port to port on her maiden voyage from London to Melbourne and it was this design that Willis set out to better.
It is uncertain how the hull shape for Cutty Sark was chosen. Willis chose Hercules Linton to design and build the ship but Willis already possessed another ship, The Tweed, which he considered to have exceptional performance. The Tweed (originally Punjaub) was a frigate designed by Oliver Lang based on the lines of an old French frigate, built in Bombay for the East India Company as a combination sail/paddle steamer. She and a sister ship were purchased by Willis, who promptly sold the second ship plus engines from The Tweed for more than he paid for both. The Tweed was then lengthened and operated as a fast sailing vessel, but was considered too big for the tea runs. Willis also commissioned two all-iron clippers with designs based upon The Tweed, Hallowe’en and Blackadder. Linton was taken to view The Tweed in dry dock.
Willis considered that The Tweed‘s bow shape was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel shaped and so gave Cutty Sark a squarer stern with less tumblehome. The broader stern increased the buoyancy of the ship’s stern, making it lift more in heavy seas so it was less likely that waves would break over the stern, and over the helmsman at the wheel. The square bilge was carried forward through the center of the ship. In the matter of masts Cutty Sark also followed the design of The Tweed, with similar good rake and with the foremast on both ships being placed further aft than was usual.
A contract for Cutty Sark‘s construction was signed on February 1, 1869, with the firm of Scott & Linton, which had only been formed in May 1868. Their shipyard was at Dumbarton on the River Leven on a site previously occupied by shipbuilders William Denny & Brothers. The contract required the ship to be completed within six months at a contracted price of £17 per ton and maximum weight of 950 tons. This was a highly competitive price for an experimental, state-of-the-art vessel, and for a customer requiring the highest standards. Payment would be made in seven installments as the ship progressed, but with a penalty of £5 for every day the ship was late. The ship was to be built to Lloyd’s A1 standard and her construction was supervised on behalf of Willis by Captain George Moodie, who would command her when completed. Construction delays occurred when the Lloyd’s inspectors required additional strengthening in the ship.
Work on the ship was suspended when Scott and Linton ran out of money to pay for further work. Rather than simply liquidate the company, an arrangement was made for Denny’s to take over the contract and complete the ship, which was finally launched on November 22, 1869, by Captain Moodie’s wife. The ship was moved to Denny’s yard to have her masts fitted, and then on December 20 towed downriver to Greenock to have her running rigging installed. In the event, completing the ship meant the company’s creditors were owed even more money than when work had first been halted.
Broadly, the parts of the ship visible above the waterline were constructed from East India teak, while American rock elm was used for the ship’s bottom. The keel (16.5 inches × 15 inches or 42 centimeters × 38 centimeters) had on either side a garboard strake (11 inches × 12 inches, 28 cm × 30 cm) and then 6-inch (15 cm) planking decreasing to 4.75 inches (12.1 cm) at 1/5 the depth of the hold. Teak planking began at approximately the level of the bilge stringer. All the external timbers were secured by Muntz metal (brass) bolts to the internal iron frame and the hull covered by Muntz sheeting up to the 18-foot (5.5-meter) depth mark. The stem (15 in × 15 in, 38 cm × 38 cm) and sternpost (16.5 in × 15 in, 42 cm × 38 cm) were of teak while the rudder was of English oak. The keel was replaced in the 1920s with one constructed from 15 in (38 cm) pitch pine. The deck was made of 3.5 in (8.9 cm) thick teak while the ‘tween deck was 3 in (7.6 cm) yellow pine. Her length was 212 feet 5 inches (64.74 meters) with a draft of 21 feet (6.40 m) and a deadweight of 921 tons.
The maximum logged speed for Cutty Sark was 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph). The speed of a sailing ship is not so straightforward as a steamship, as winds vary and a ship must tack when sailing into the wind, both requiring the crew to make constant adjustments to sails, so her speed also depended greatly on the skill of her captain and crew. Her greatest recorded distance in 24 hours was 363 nautical miles (672 km; 418 mi) averaging 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), although she recorded 2163 miles in six days, which given the weather over the whole period implied she had achieved over 370 nmi (690 km; 430 mi) some days. By comparison, Thermopylae‘s best recorded 24-hour distance was 358 nmi (663 km; 412 mi). Cutty Sark was considered to have the edge in a heavier wind, and Thermopylae in a lighter wind.
The ship was named after Cutty-sark, the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns’s 1791 poem Tam o’ Shanter. The ship’s figurehead, the original of which has been attributed to carver Fredrick Hellyer of Blackwall, is a stark white carving of a bare-breasted Nannie Dee with long black hair holding a grey horse’s tail in her hand. In the poem she wore a linen sark (a short chemise or undergarment), that she had been given as a child, which explains why it was cutty, or in other words far too short. The erotic sight of her dancing in such a short undergarment caused Tam to cry out “Weel done, Cutty-sark”, which subsequently became a well known catchphrase. Originally, carvings by Hellyer of the other scantily clad witches followed behind the figurehead along the bow, but these were removed by Willis in deference to ‘good taste’. Tam o’ Shanter riding Meg was to be seen along the ship’s quarter. The motto, Where there’s a Willis away, was inscribed along the taffrail. The Tweed, which acted as a model for much of the ship which followed her, had a figurehead depicting Tam o’ Shanter.
Cutty Sark was destined for the tea trade, then an intensely competitive race across the globe from China to London. Though the “premium” or bonus paid to the ship that arrived with the first tea of the year was abandoned after The Great Tea Race of 1866, faster ships could usually obtain a higher freight (the price paid to transport the cargo) than others. Her first round trip voyage under captain George Moodie began February 16, 1870, from London with a cargo of wine, spirits and beer bound for Shanghai. The return journey, carrying 1,305,812 lbs of tea from Shanghai, began June 25, arriving October 13 in London via the Cape of Good Hope. Cutty Sark sailed in eight “tea seasons”, from London to China and back.
Cutty Sark‘s launch coincided with the opening of the Suez Canal to shipping. Her first trip encountered significant competition with steamships. The route from China to London through the Suez Canal was shorter by 3,300 nmi (6,100 km; 3,800 mi). The route round Africa is in excess of 14,000 nmi (26,000 km; 16,000 mi). Typically a clipper might log significantly more than that by planning her route for favorable winds. Whilst it was possible for a sailing vessel to take a tug through the canal, this was difficult and expensive. Furthermore, sailing conditions in the northern Red Sea were unsuited to the design of a tea clipper, so they still had to sail around Africa.
Less obviously, steamship design had taken a large step forward in 1866 with Agamemnon, using higher boiler pressure and a compound engine, so obtaining a large improvement in fuel efficiency. Ships of this type could compete with clippers before the Suez Canal opened.
When the tea clippers arrived in China in 1870, they found a big increase in the number of steamers, which were in high demand. The rate of freight to London that was given to steamers was nearly twice that paid to the sailing ships. Additionally, the insurance premium for a cargo of tea in a steamer was substantially less than for a sailing vessel. So successful were the steamers using the Suez Canal that, in 1871, 45 were built in Clyde shipyards alone for Far Eastern trade.
The numbers of tea clippers sailing to China each year steadily reduced, with many ships being sold and moving to general cargo work. Costs were kept to a minimum and rigs were often reduced to barque so that a smaller crew was needed.
Cutty Sark‘s well known race against Thermopylae took place in 1872, the two ships leaving Shanghai together on June 18. Two weeks later Cutty Sark had built up a lead of some 400 nautical miles (460 mi; 740 km), but then lost her rudder in a heavy gale after passing through the Sunda Strait. John Willis’s brother was on board the ship and ordered Moodie to put into Cape Town for repairs. Moodie refused, and instead the ship’s carpenter Henry Henderson constructed a new rudder from spare timbers and iron. This took six days, working in gales and heavy seas which meant the men were tossed about as they worked and the brazier used to heat the metal for working was spilled out, burning the captain’s son. The ship finally arrived in London on October 18 a week after Thermopylae, a total passage of 122 days. The captain and crew were commended for their performance and Henderson received a £50 bonus for his work. This was the closest Cutty Sark came to being first ship home but it was Moodie’s last trip as her captain before he transferred to steamships. He was replaced by Captain F. W. Moore.
Moore remained captain only for one round trip to China, taking 117 days for the return trip. This was 14 days longer than Thermopylae and 27 days longer than achieved by the iron ship Hallowe’en a few months later. Captain W. E. Tiptaft assumed command in 1873 achieving 118 days on his first return trip, but after the ship had to travel 600 miles up the Yangtze River in search of a cargo. Steamships were now taking most of the tea. The following year the return journey took 122 days, but on the outward journey Cutty Sark set a record time of 73 days from London to Sydney. In November 1877, the ship was anchored off Deal in the English Channel along with sixty other vessels, waiting out a great storm. The anchor failed to hold and Cutty Sark was blown through the ships, damaging two others before grounding on a mud bank. Fortunately she was pulled clear by the tug Macgregor before too much damage was caused and she was towed to the Thames for repairs.
In December 1877, the ship sailed from London to Sydney, where she took on coal for Shanghai, arriving there in April. However, the ship was unable to find any cargo of tea for a return trip to London — the days of the tea race were over. The master, Captain Tiptaft, died in October while still in Shanghai and was replaced by the first mate, James Wallace. The ship now had to take different cargoes around the world, including coal, jute, castor oil and tea to Australia.
In 1880, an incident occurred on board during which the First Mate Sidney Smith killed seaman John Francis. Smith was allowed to leave the ship at Anjer by Captain Wallace, causing the crew to cease work in protest. Wallace continued the voyage with six apprentices and four tradesmen but became becalmed in the Java Sea for three days. In desperation as matters moved from bad to worse, he committed suicide by jumping overboard and disappeared. He was replaced as Master by William Bruce, who proved to be a drunken incompetent who claimed pay for non-existent crewmen and managed to set sail with inadequate provisions, resulting in the crew starving. An inquiry in New York in April 1882 resulted in the captain and mate being suspended and replaced by Captain Moore, previously of Blackadder.
In December 1883, Cutty Sark departed Newcastle, New South Wales with 4,289 bales of wool and 12 casks of tallow, arriving in London in just 83 days. This was 25 days faster than her nearest rival that year and heralded the start of a new career taking Australian wool to Britain in time for the January wool sales.
In 1885 Richard Woodget was appointed captain on a salary of £186 per year and continued to improve on the fastest trip record, achieving 77 days on his first outward trip and 73 days returning to Britain from Australia. He achieved this by taking a more southerly route than previously, to catch the strongest winds in the Roaring Forties despite having to face icebergs, gales and storms whipped up by the winds he sought. Cutty Sark was the fastest ship on the wool trade for ten years. In July 1889, the log of the modern passenger steamship SS Britannia recorded that when steaming at 15-16 knots she was overtaken in the night by a sailing ship doing 17 knots, which proved to be Cutty Sark.
Eventually steamships began to dominate the wool trade too and it ceased to be profitable for a sailing ship. In 1895, Jock Willis sold Cutty Sark to the Portuguese firm Joaquim Antunes Ferreira for £1,250. She was renamed Ferreira after the firm. Her crews referred to her as Pequena Camisola (little shirt, a straight translation of the Scots cutty sark).
The ship traded various cargoes between Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, Mozambique, Angola, and Britain. In May 1916, she was dismasted off the Cape of Good Hope because of the rolling of the ship in bad weather and had to be towed into Table Bay off Cape Town. Because of World War I, it was impossible to obtain suitable materials to replace the masts so she was re-rigged over 18 months to a barquentine sail arrangement.
In 1922, Ferreira was the last clipper operating anywhere in the world. Caught in a storm in the English Channel she put into Falmouth harbor where she was spotted by retired windjammer captain Wilfred Dowman of Flushing, Cornwall, who was then operating the training ship Lady of Avenel. The ship returned to Lisbon, where she was sold to new owners and renamed Maria do Amparo (Mary of the Refuge, a name associated with the devotion of Our Lady of the Refuge). However, Dowman persevered in his determination to buy the ship, which he did for £3,750 and she was returned to Falmouth harbor. The rigging was restored to an approximation of the original arrangement and the ship was used as a cadet training ship. As a historic survivor, the ship was opened to the public and visitors would be rowed out to inspect her. Dowman died in 1936 and the ship was sold to the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester at Greenhithe, leaving Falmouth for her last journey under sail in 1938. The ship was crewed by cadets, 15-year-old Robert Wyld steering the ship during the voyage. Ian Bryce, DSC, the last surviving crew member on the historic journey from Falmouth to the Thames died, aged 89, on December 11, 2011.
At Greenhithe, Cutty Sark acted as an auxiliary vessel to HMS Worcester for sail training drill, but by 1950 she had become surplus to requirements. From February to October 1951, she was temporarily moved first for a refit and then to take part in the Festival of Britain at Deptford. On January 30, 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark‘s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark‘s jib boom into Worcester‘s fo’cs’le rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester‘s starboard side. Cutty Sark‘s figurehead lost an arm in the process. Cutty Sark was anchored and towed to the Shadwell Basin where repairs were carried out by Green & Silley Weir Ltd. The damaged arm was recovered at Grays Thurrock and the figurehead was repaired.
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 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 center of Greenwich, in south-east London, close aboard the National Maritime Museum, the former Greenwich Hospital, and Greenwich Park. She is also a prominent landmark on the route of the London Marathon. She usually flies signal flags from her ensign halyard reading “JKWS”, which is the code representing Cutty Sark in the International Code of Signals, introduced in 1857.
The ship is in the care of the Cutty Sark Trust, whose president, the Duke of Edinburgh, was instrumental in ensuring her preservation, when he set up the Cutty Sark Society in 1951. The Trust replaced the Society in 2000. She is a Grade I listed monument and is on the Buildings At Risk Register. The gallery beneath the ship holds the world’s largest collection of ships’ figureheads, donated to the Society by Sydney Cumbers in 1953.
Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway is one minute’s walk away, with connections to central London and the London Underground. Greenwich Pier is next to the ship, and is served by scheduled river boats from piers in central London. A tourist information office stands to the east of the ship.