Lloyd’s Register Ship Plan and Survey Report Collection: The London Port Boxes and Project Undaunted

I work for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and would like to share some exciting findings from our current project with you all. The Heritage & Education Centre in London has a specialist marine science and engineering library and archive. In addition to our main holdings, we also have the Lloyd’s Register (LR) ship plan and survey report collection dating from 1834 to the 1960s. This is an extensive collection in excess of 65,000 ships with an estimated 1.25 million items.

We have embarked on an ambitious venture to make 10% of this collection more accessible to the public. The records themselves are globally significant and unique and until now have been little utilised. We have a great team in place with our cataloguers Miles, Sarah and Eloisa, as well as our conservator Nicole, all working under the guidance of our Curator of Maritime Heritage & Education, Barbara Jones. It is thanks to their hard work that we will have some of this great material to share with you at my talk on 5 June (free talk, book via: http://bit.ly/2r8ScPj)

To get a feel for what is there we will launch with a look at some first and famous ships – those of significant design, technological advance and historic importance, or just ones that everyone has heard of! Vessels like the Cutty Sark, the Queen Mary, Carpathia and Fullagar.

A product of ship classification, the archives were created during the survey of ships and there are a total of 1,756 reports in the first three London port boxes alone. I have conducted some initial analysis of these to show the potential of the collection, but there is far more that can be done with the material by researchers with a wide range of possibilities. For example, if someone is interested in researching a particular place or country of build, or if they want to see the destined voyages of vessels or totals for a time period then the data can be used for these ends. Equally if they are interested in individual ships then these can also be examined.

Key places of build are evident from analysis of the London port boxes such as Sunderland, London, Hull, Newcastle and Aberdeen. Interestingly many of these places also feature as Coats of Arms on the exterior of our building and on the ceiling of the Old Library in our office at 71 Fenchurch Street. The ceiling, decorated by Shrigley and Hunt in 1901, was commissioned to represent the major shipbuilding centres at the time. As an aside – if anyone is interested in seeing the ceiling in person then you are welcome to join us during London Open House on Saturday 16 September when our offices will be open to the public.

The digitisation project itself has been named ‘Project Undaunted’ after the first survey report prepared for the re-constituted society, London no.1, belonging to the barque Undaunted. The survey was carried out by LR surveyor Nathaniel Middleton on 1 July 1834. This has turned out to be a very apt title!

We have some great characters in our long LR history – surveyors like George Bayley – who took exception to a shipowner that offered him a bribe. I hope that you can join me on 5 June to find out what happened next!

By: Louise Sanger, Heritage & Education Centre Deputy Manager, Lloyd’s Register Foundation



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