Merchant Navy Treasures: An Introduction to the Newall Dunn Collection at Guildhall Library

The New Year finds us busy preparing our next exhibition and looking forward to showing you our new maritime collection. Many of you will have seen and consulted the Lloyd’s Marine Collection at Guildhall Library, a valuable source of information about ships, shipping movements and marine news and casualties. In the coming months, we will be able to offer shipping historians and enthusiasts a superb addition in the shape of the Newall Dunn Collection, which comprises one of the world’s richest photographic and ephemera resources for Merchant Shipping history.

This treasure trove offers material from about 1880 to the turn of the twenty-first century, featuring an extensive series of images of ocean-going liners, cruise ships, cargo vessels – in fact vessels of all types and sizes.

In addition, there are over three hundred information files consisting of press releases and cuttings going back to the early 1930s, shipping company brochures, menus & other ephemera representing a wide-ranging pictorial history.

The collection was built by shipping historian Peter Newall and was gifted to Guildhall Library in 2018. The resource he compiled includes material and photographs amassed by several previous shipping enthusiasts and writers. The most important of these was writer and artist Laurence Dunn but also includes work created by Captain Emile Sigwart of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and photographs of ships on the Thames by Jeffrey Curtis taken in the 1930s.

In the coming months and years there is a good deal of work to be done to catalogue and conserve the collection and gradually make it all accessible to users – volunteers welcome! The forthcoming exhibition will offer a flavour of what is to come, and we hope many of you will find time to drop by to take a look and come to the accompanying talk and workshops. While you are with us, we would like as many of you as possible to share stories and memories of your own journeys by sea or of Merchant Navy Service, and there will be space in the exhibition for you to sit and write these as well as look through some of the collectors’ publications which are held by Guildhall Library.

The exhibition opens on Monday 28th January 2019 and is on until 24th May. We haven’t space to highlight all the strengths of the collection but for this initial introduction we will be showing material on the Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Lines. We are honoured that Stephen Payne, designer of the Queen Mary II will be launching the exhibition with an evening talk on 29th January. His talk is on the subject of his recent publication, co-authored with the late Peter Newall, on “Orient Line: The Last Great Liners”. You will find further details and can book your place via or by contacting us on 020 7332 1871.

Jeanie Smith, Assistant Librarian

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