A Global Celebration of an Historic Trade: Risk and Sacrifice

As the Totally Thames Festival draws to a close for another year we mark an annual and international event on the 29th September 2016 – World Maritime Day. The theme for this year is “Shipping: indispensable to the world” and has the intention of raising awareness of the importance of shipping in a global society and the role of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) within it.

The IMO, an agency of the United Nations, was established in 1948 as an international body charged with promoting maritime safety. The IMO webpage for World Maritime Day tells us that “around 80 per cent of global trade by volume and over 70 per cent of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide. …Without shipping the import and export of goods on the scale necessary to sustain the modern world would not be possible.” It also states that “There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.” (http://www.imo.org/en/About/Events/WorldMaritimeDay/Pages/WMD-2016.aspx)


Crew aboard the ‘Zamalek’ which took part in PQ 17 – Lloyd’s Marine Collection

The work of the merchant fleet has often made the difference between life and death, not least in time of war. During the Second World War around 185,000 civilian and volunteer seamen from Britain, India, China, Australia, Canada and New Zealand served in the Merchant Navy delivering essential supplies of food and equipment from North America and from around the Empire. The food and supplies were transported in convoys offering the merchant vessels a greater level of protection as they were accompanied by Royal Navy escort vessels. It was a dangerous service and by the end of the war over 29,000 merchant seamen had lost their lives.

At Guildhall Library we are proud to hold the Lloyd’s Marine Collection offering information about Merchant Navy ships from 1741 to the present. Among the resources are details of shipping movements and war losses for 1939-45 which evidence the danger faced by these servicemen.

For some years, a group of dedicated enthusiasts have been using resources here and at other archives to build an invaluable database of convoy movements for the First and Second World Wars. This database is only available at Guildhall Library and I have consulted it to find out which convoys have their 75th anniversary on World Maritime Day 2016.

A search by date of convoy departures and arrivals offered the following:


We have had the honour to assist many merchant seamen and their families gather the required evidence to make a claim for the Arctic Star and other medals. Some of those who served on the convoys were very young indeed; one enquirer was only fifteen years old when he joined. The Arctic Star award is for service on the Russian Convoys during World War Two so I was immediately drawn to find out more about Convoy PQ 1.

The PQ 1 link on the database takes the enquirer to a list of the merchant vessels in that convoy together with its escort vessels. Each vessel name has a further link from which one can trace all her convoy movements during the period of World War Two – an invaluable resource for family and maritime historians!


The first ‘test’ convoy to Russia was called ‘Operation Dervish’ and it sailed from Liverpool for Hvalfjord on the 12th August 1941 arriving at Archangel (via Iceland) on the 31st August.  Early convoy supplies for Russia came from British sources; the outward convoy vessels were partly in ballast but also carried Russian exports as she was in dire need of finance through trade.  These Russian exports included chrome, cotton and tobacco.  There were three routes but PQ convoys went to the North Russian ports of Archangel and Murmansk and were named after Commander Peter Quellyn Russell, a planning officer in the Admiralty.

Our example (PQ 1) was the first of the coded convoys to North Russia and the database shows that it sailed from Hvalfjord on 29 September 1941.  As you can see the convoy consisted of eleven merchant ships; the Convoy Commodore was Captain D Ridley, Master of the ‘Atlantic’ and the Vice Commodore was with the ‘North King’.  Escort vessels throughout were the cruiser ‘Suffolk’, the destroyer ‘Impulsive’ plus four minesweepers and these were joined for part of the journey by destroyers ‘Antelope’ and ‘Anthony’.  The Lloyd’s War Loss Cards show that vessels were often attacked after they left the comparative safety of the convoy and were undefended.

PQ 1 arrived at Archangel on the 11th October 1941.  Using the named vessel links in PQ 1 finds their later movements and in some cases ultimate fate.   As an early convoy to Russia, PQ1 travelled relatively unscathed but four of the vessels in that convoy had been sunk by July 1943; the ‘Capira’, the ‘Gemstone’, the ‘Harmonic’ and the ‘River Afton’.

From January 1942 the battleship ‘Tirpitz’ arrived in Norway which meant that the number of escort vessels had to be increased to defend the convoys. As the war progressed journeys were undertaken in constant fear of attack from U-boats, enemy battleships and attack from the air.  The most famous PQ convoy was PQ 17 which demonstrated that fears were not unfounded – 24 of the 35 merchant ships that left Iceland were lost and 153 merchant seamen lost their lives.  PQ 18 was the last of the PQs after which they became JW.


@IWM (A 27565)

Even in the period before the arrival of the ‘Tirpitz’ there was still a further adversary to be overcome – the weather. The build-up of ice on vessels in the freezing seas could destabilise a ship, living conditions on board were poor and keeping warm was a constant challenge. However, accounts of some serving merchant seamen seem to suggest that 60 foot waves were, if not welcomed, at least tolerated because they made submarine attacks less likely. The journey was always a dangerous one.

The Lloyd’s ‘Loss and Casualty Books’ (held at Guildhall Library) show the dangers merchant vessels were exposed to during the Second World War, often disappearing without trace or no news of the fate of vessel or crew confirmed for many months.

The Convoys Database at Guildhall Library is a practical, easy to use and informative web resource for researchers but the work of its compilers and webmaster also pays tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Merchant Navy during the two World Wars.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

Find out more about the collection at https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/collections/Pages/Maritime-history.aspx and books on the subject in our library catalogue https://col.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/ghl/?






The SS Great Eastern: A Tale of Ingenuity and Adversity


Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s inventiveness ascended new heights when he designed the SS Great Eastern. Originally named Leviathan, she was six times larger than any previous vessel and designing and launching her posed new challenges both to him and to the builder, J Scott Russell of Millwall. Scott Russell was expert in the field, and Brunel and he had met and worked together before.

The necessity for her immense size came from the need to carry sufficient coal for return voyages to India and Australia where she hoped to corner the passenger market with her ability to carry up to 4000 people at record speed. At 18915 gross tons, 692 feet long and with an 82 feet beam it was many years before any vessel exceeded her dimensions.


The Great Eastern’s means of propulsion were experimental and various, using paddles, a propeller and sails. Lloyd’s Register for 1888-1889 (see above) records the two engine builders which were required to complete work on such a specialised vessel. The engine attached to the screw propeller was made by James Watt & Co and that for the paddle wheels was built by Scott Russell. The launch of the Great Eastern was equally experimental as owing to her enormous size, she couldn’t be launched stern first onto the Thames, so Brunel had to devise a means of launching her sideways onto the busy Thames in safety. In this he was probably a pioneer of a method now commonly used in shipyards.

Building began in 1854 but she was not launched until 1858. The difficulties associated with the project eventually bankrupted Russell and affected Brunel’s health. Fitted out at Deptford, she set off on a trial trip in September 1859, cheered off by large crowds owing to the press attention the project had received. During this voyage an explosion occurred on board killing six of her firemen and badly damaging the Grand Saloon. This seems to have been the last straw for Brunel who died soon after hearing the news. Her maiden voyage to New York began on the 17th June 1860 with only 43 passengers and 418 crew.

Ultimately the original project was a brave and daring failure: she was so large that some docks were unable to cope with her and in 1869 the Suez Canal opened which meant that her planned voyages via the Cape of Good Hope became less viable. Instead she plied the trans-Atlantic Route to America and by 1864 the vessel was sold for far less than she was worth to a cable laying company. However, this marked her place in another moment of history when she was used in laying the first telegraph cable to America (under the management of Brunel’s Great Western Railway protégé and the railway’s first Chief Mechanical Engineer, Daniel Gooch).

The Illustrated London News published numerous articles on her telling the story of her life as a passenger ship and as a cable laying vessel, through to her journey to the Mersey to be broken up. Library users can also follow the various delays and misfortunes which attended her launch and maiden voyage with this source. The issue on Saturday the 7th November 1857 included stunning images of the bow and stern of the ‘Leviathan’ indicating her huge dimensions. By October they stated that “as we peered curiously down the hatchway we could distinguish in the cavernous depths of the hold fitful flashes from the numerous riveting-forges, making the vast abyss resemble the crater of a volcano, whence a horrid clangour of what seemed titanic hammers battering against iron gates fell on the ear in thundering reverberations.”

Guildhall Library also holds an interesting pamphlet (Pam 3837) The Great Eastern Steam Ship: A Description of Mr Scott Russell’s Great Ship, Now Building at Millwall, for the Eastern Steam Navigation Company. It was illustrated and priced at one penny. It is undated but likely to have been published in 1854 when the ship was laid down. One page offers a series of line drawings demonstrating the immense size of the Great Eastern compared to the Great Western and the Great Britain for example.

Among the other printed material on the ship which the Library holds is The Big Ship by Patrick Beaver (387.243) a volume packed with illustrations in the form of photographs covering the whole of the vessel’s biography.

In 1888 this ground breaking vessel with a chequered history ended her days in a Mersey scrapyard, literally being knocked to pieces. She was so solidly built that it took two years to dismantle her. Guildhall Library’s copies of Lloyd’s Register are ‘posted’ which means that they were updated between issues by Lloyds. The extract below illustrates the simple but sad amendment made to their records in the 1888-1889 Register…‘Broken up’.


Jeanie Smith, Assistant Librarian

Jane Loudon: The Ladies’ Gardener

Ladies G1

Horticulturalist, novelist and journalist Jane Loudon Webb (1807-1858) faced financial difficulty for much of her life and turned to writing to make a living.  Her father died when she was seventeen, leaving her without financial security but a few years later she enjoyed literary success with her novel “The Mummy! Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century”, published anonymously in 1827.  The tale explored ideas of future technological and scientific developments and among the many who admired the book was writer and horticultural expert John Claudius Loudon.  They met following his review of her book and were married within the year.

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Once she had entered her husband’s horticultural world she wanted to immerse herself in the subject and learn more, so she attended lectures by John Lindley and reviewed books for “Gardener’s Magazine”, a publication edited by her husband. She wanted to assist him in his work but recognized she had a great deal to learn about gardening in order to do so. This experience of being a complete beginner was invaluable in her later writings on horticulture. She went on to write nineteen books on natural history and botany, many of them instructional and aimed at the female amateur. The volumes also demonstrate that she was a talented botanical artist. Her work was of a serious nature, offering sound and practical advice to the aspiring Victorian lady who may not have been used to wielding a spade!

Guildhall Library holds two of her works; both are in the collection of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. The first is a small volume entitled “Mrs Loudon’s Instructions in Gardening for Ladies” (reference GC 3.3) published in 1840 and partly written because the family were in financial difficulty and extra income was needed. The book was popular, with over 1300 copies sold on the day it was published. In her introduction she explained why she felt she was particularly qualified to publish this kind of instruction manual:

Ladies G3

“I think books intended for professional gardeners, are seldom suitable to the wants of amateurs. It is so very difficult for a person who has been acquainted with a subject all his life, to imagine the state of ignorance in which a person is who knows nothing of it…Thus, though it might at first sight appear presumptuous in me to attempt to teach an art of which for three fourths of my life I was perfectly ignorant, it is in fact that very circumstance which is one of my chief qualifications for the task.” (vi)
The second book by Mrs [Jane] Loudon at Guildhall Library is a lavishly illustrated volume called “The Ladies’ Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals” (1842) (reference GC 1.6).

Ladies G4

In her Preface she explains that this volume is to be the first in a series…

“which, when completed, should contain coloured groups of all the most ornamental flowers in British gardens, as well as those grown under glass, as in the open air. The present work, which is the first of this series, comprises the hardy and half-hardy annuals…”

Each of the series was designed to be complete in itself but the whole series was to form the most “comprehensive illustration of the kind of plants belonging to the different orders, than any other work which has yet been published”.

Ladies G5

Although some of the phrases she uses would not be welcomed by present day male or female gardeners, she was countering contemporary arguments that the Victorian woman lacked the strength for gardening, or that it might be improper for her to engage in the pastime:-

“…a lady, with the assistance of a common labourer to level and prepare the ground, may turn a barren waste into a flower garden with her own hands.” (i)

Seed sowing, transplanting, training and tying in plants, deadheading and gathering seed for next year’s crop are “all suitable for feminine occupations; and they have the additional advantage on inducing gentle exercise in the open air.” (i)

From the introduction to “The Ladies’ Flower Garden”

In the introduction she makes the case for planting annuals; it is a worthwhile activity, it is cheaper and can be enjoyed over several months. Planning your garden in this way also suits people who rent their property for just a year as they see and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

She goes on to explain the arrangement of the work…

“I shall first give the botanic and English names, next the synonymes [sic], if any, and then the names of the modern English books in which the flower has been figured. To this, I shall subjoin a short botanical character, which will be followed by a popular description, with the geography, history, properties and uses, culture, and in short, everything worth knowing of the plant.” (iii)

She may have celebrated the sowing of annuals but she had strong words for those tempted to overdo things…

“An important feature of this work will be the directions for the culture of each flower…It is a common error, to suppose that all that is necessary to make a showy flower-garden is to sow the ground with a great many different kinds of flower-seeds…. “(iii)


“On looking into most flower-gardens, it will be found that most of the annuals are crowded together, each tuft having been left unthinned; and that the plants having been neither trained nor pruned, present, as they grow up, the most tawdry appearance, without either the grace and elegance of wild nature, or the trimness and neatness of art.” (iii)

Ladies G6

Her achievements were celebrated in a very practical way during the 2015 Hampton Court Flower Show with a garden designed by Jean Wardrop and Alexandra Stevenson called “A Growing Obsession – the Yardley London Perennial Garden” which was inspired by Loudon’s work.

Most of the images in “The Ladies Flower Garden” are annotated “Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen”. Jane Loudon was the artist but her name does not appear on the illustrations. After her husband’s death she was again left in debt but continued to write and edited the weekly magazine “The Ladies’ Companion at Home and Abroad”. She was saddened when she was replaced as editor in 1851 following a slump in sales of the periodical. She died in 1858.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

All images from “The Ladies’ Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals” of 1842.
Guildhall Library reference GC 1.6 (Please bring proof of your name and address with you).

A Gem from Guildhall Library’s Shelves: George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library by George Cruikshank published by Routledge in London (c1870)


Library Gem1

Presented to Guildhall Library by George Cruikshank’s widow Eliza Cruikshank on the 6th of July 1889, George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library is a treasury for fairy tale lovers.

Library Gem2

Cruikshank (1792–1878) is probably best known for being an illustrator for Charles Dickens’ novels yet Cruikshank was a celebrated illustrator and social commentator before he met Dickens. In fact, it was Dickens who was initially described as ‘the Cruikshank of writers’ by the Spectator (26 Dec 1836, 1234). Cruikshank is not only the illustrator of this volume of fairy tales, but also the author. Included within the volume are: Hop-O’ My-Thumb and the Seven League Boots, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Cinderella and the Glass Slipper and Puss in Boots.

Library Gem3

Library Gem4

Library Gem5

From 1847 to the end of his life, Cruikshank attended multiple temperance meetings across the country even serving on the board of the London Temperance League. He preached sermons on the benefits of temperance as well as promoting the cause through his illustrations in books such as The Bottle (1847) and The Drunkard’s Children (1848) (please see catalogue links below). Temperance was a cause dear to Cruikshank’s heart, possibly because his own father died after a drinking competition in 1811, leaving him, at the age of nineteen, the principal breadwinner for the family. Cruikshank was upset by Dickens’ public opposition to what he saw as the extremes of the temperance movement. When Cruikshank first published these beautifully illustrated fairy tale books to which he added texts attributing all the violence and misery in the stories to drink, Dickens protested in his weekly magazine Household Words (1 October 1853). In Dickens’ leader entitled ‘Frauds on the Fairies’ he decries Cruikshank’s attempts to ‘propagate the doctrines of Total Abstinence, Prohibition of the sale of spirituous liquors, Free Trade and Popular Education. For the introduction of these topics, he [Cruikshank] has altered the text of a fairy story and against his right to do any such thing we protest with all our might and main… He has no greater moral justice in altering the harmless little books than we should have altering his best etchings…’
Dickens’ view prevailed. This led Cruikshank to profess on Dickens’ death that ‘One of our greatest enemies gone.’ Furthermore, he went on to later claim, in a letter to the Times published Dec 30, 1871 that it had been he, and not Dickens, who had come up with the characters and plot for Oliver Twist.

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Please find to the item on the City of London Libraries catalogue below:


Please note you do not need to make an advance booking to consult this item. However, you will need to bring one form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence or any library or archive membership card, with you when you visit in order to consult this book as it is designated a rare item.

The Bottle (1847):

The Drunkard’s Children (1848):
For those of you who are interested in learning more about George Cruikshank’s life and work we can recommend Robert Patten’s two volume biography, George Cruikshank’s life, times and art Vol.1, 1792-1835, and Vol.2, 1835-1878 which is available to consult at Guildhall Library:


Isabelle Chevallot
Assistant Librarian Guildhall Library

Lloyd’s List Intelligence for Maritime and Family History

Lloyds List 1

Guildhall Library’s historic ‘Lloyd’s Marine Collection’ offers information about vessels, shipping movements and casualties for your maritime research dating back to 1740.

If you are looking for more recent sources for your family or maritime history the Library subscribes to the Lloyd’s List Intelligence (LLI) ‘Seasearcher’ service, a website which includes an invaluable archive of shipping movements from 1997 to the present.

This impressive addition to our maritime resources offers searches by shipping company which can supply maritime enthusiasts with fleet details, history of ownership, brief details of incidents and vessel reports. LLI describe Seasearcher as ‘your digital engine room’ and you are welcome to visit to explore.

A highlight of the service is the ability to search by place and discover which ships were in port on a given day; so on the 21st June 1998 we can see that there were ten arrivals at Southampton. These included four vehicle carriers (‘Setubal’, ‘Golden Ray’, ‘Elduga’, ‘Jingu’), the refrigerated cargo ship ‘Dunedin Star’ and the ‘V.Express’ (roll on –roll off)

An example of the depth of information you can find on a vessel would be the ‘Queen Mary 2’. Apart from giving the detail you would expect to find in our ‘Lloyd’s Register of Ships’ like official number, flag, tonnage, dimensions, year of build, ownership etc. you can also see photographs of the vessel and the specifics of when she was ordered, when construction began, launch date, date of her first movement…etc. In short you have a potted history of the vessel.

The site also offers detail of a vessel’s sailings and arrivals which can be filtered by date or by port so for example you can search for QM2’s ports of call in 2006 which included several in South America including Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Valparaiso.

Lloyds List 2

Along with ‘Lloyd’s List Intelligence’ Guildhall Library also subscribes to ‘Lloyd’s List’ which we hold from the earliest surviving issue (1740). This historic newspaper ceased to be published in hard copy in 2013 but our online subscription means you can access their shipping news back to 1997 as well as look at recent editions of the e-newspaper.
Access is available in Guildhall Library only and you will need to provide proof of your name and address. You may also wish to bring along a notebook to record the gems you discover as printing and downloading of content is not permitted.

Lloyds List 3

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection
(All images are from the Lloyd’s Marine Collection)


“Madonna or Whore: A Woman’s lot in Victorian England” – A Talk Review by Morgan Clark (GHL Placement Student)

This talk, by Jennifer Toynbee-Holmes, took place on the 28th of June 2016.

As a woman I found this talk highly interesting; Jennifer’s depth of knowledge was incredible. The talk made clear that there were two different representations of women in Victorian society: one the virtuous mother; submissive and powerless, also known as the Angel in the House, and the other the fallen woman; a woman of temptation and prostitution.

Queen Victoria was an influential role model in the Victorian period, as shown by Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s painting ‘The Royal Family” (1846). This presented the family as obedient and well dressed. Jennifer also spoke of the Queen as the mother of the nation, whose devotion to her husband Prince Albert was clear. However, despite this representation of Queen Victoria, we were also told that she was characterised as a woman who hated infants and being pregnant. This enriching talk also spoke about the huge impact the Pre-Raphaelites had on the representation of the ideal woman.

To illustrate her talk, Jennifer showed examples of famous Victorian paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Guildhall Art Gallery, some of which depicted ideal women who were dressed modestly, thus maintaining ideologies of purity and virtue. Juxtaposed with these were paintings of “fallen” women, portrayed as those whose sexual innocence had been lost, and who were depicted in a highly sexualised way for the period, for example, wearing low-cut dresses coupled with short hemlines. This was my favourite section of the talk as it showed how women who were deemed “fallen” were given more of an identity and power by comparison to modest wives. Jennifer spoke proudly of women who were able to redeem their situation, making it clear that not all “fallen” women ended up dying on the streets. Neither was it inevitable that they would commit suicide, despite the prevalence of the Thames in Victorian paintings with its overtones of death by drowning as the outcast woman’s last resort.

This talk was also appealing because it defended women and spoke about the unfair society they lived in. Before the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882, a woman’s money and property automatically became her husband’s when she married. Even the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, which widened the availability of divorce, showed that the Victorian double standard still operated in favour of men. A husband could divorce his wife solely on the grounds of her adultery, whereas a woman could only obtain a divorce if there was proof of her husband’s incest, cruelty, bigamy or desertion, in addition to adultery. The result was that many women remained trapped in unhappy marriages. An adulteress woman was still a sinner, whereas men were allowed mistresses without recrimination. To me, this was a very powerful section of the talk.

This talk links nicely with others that have taken place at Guildhall Library, including one in March by Bridget O’Donnell http://bridget-odonnell.com/minahan/

Some Pre-Raphaelite paintings which relate to this talk can be seen in Guildhall Art Gallery. Here are some examples:

Madonna 1


Madonna 2


Furthermore, a collection from George Cruikshank’s The drunkard’s children: A sequel to the bottle. In eight plates, also has a bearing on the topic of “fallen” women.

Madonna 3

Madonna 4

Madonna 5

By: Morgan Clark (Lord Mayor’s Cultural Scheme Placement Student)

Images: Guildhall Library Collections

A Regency Dance Experience

Are you partial to Empire Line? Ever wondered about what it might be like to have attended a Regency Dance back in the days of Jane Austen?

Guildhall Library hosted a Regency Dance Experience on the 14th June 2016 in the Livery Hall, Guildhall.

Regency Dance 1

Regency Dance 2

Regency Dance 3

More than 90 dancers, many clad in intricate period costume, moved gracefully to the strains of the live Regency band, the Fortuna Trio, under the expert direction of Mrs Bennet from Mrs Bennet’s Ballroom.

Dance Circle 2

Dance Line 2

Dance Smile

Guests thoroughly enjoyed the event and said how wonderful it was to have the opportunity to dance in such a splendid venue. We hope to hold another such event in the near future.
Isabelle Chevallot
Assistant Librarian Guildhall Library