Lloyd’s Register and Maritime History

This part of our website is devoted to all things maritime, especially in relation to Lloyd’s Register and safety at sea. See below for stories on Which Lloyd’s is that?, The Cospatrick Disaster, Donkey Engines, The Sinking of the Royal George, Salvaging the Royal George, Here Be Monsters, Unlikely Heroes (seabirds!), Guano: A Perilous Cargo, Women, Ships and the Sea, ‘What Harm Could One Do?’ The Disastrous Result of Smoking at Sea, Ballast: A Hidden History on How to Avoid Shipwreck, and Crank and Stiff Ships: The Impact of Ballast on Maritime Disasters, with more to come in due course.



Take a look as well at our website pages for our books Jack Tar, Trafalgar, Gibraltar and The War for All the Oceans, as well as the many stories in our newsletters (examples include ‘A Broken Horse’ in newsletter 66, ‘HMS Britannia’ in newsletter 48 and ‘Selsey Scene’ in newsletter 43).


Which Lloyd’s is that?

It can be confusing to have so many names containing the word ‘Lloyd’s’, and in our newsletter 67 we described the main ones – Lloyd’s Coffee House, Lloyd’s of London, Lloyd’s News, Lloyd’s List, Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, Lloyd’s Register, Lloyd’s Register of Ships and Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre. The newsletter piece has now been turned into a blog feature on the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre website. It’s worth checking out for the lovely images alone: hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/blogs/which-lloyds-is-that-exploring-the-many-versions-of-lloyds


We have been writing a variety of stories for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre website, details of which are given below. The images are often arranged in a sideways sequence, like an old-fashioned 35mm carousel projector display, so you need to click on the arrows to view them all. Keep checking their website for further stories (hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories).



The Cospatrick Disaster

The Cospatrick was a three-masted ‘Blackwall frigate’ and in November 1874 caught fire and sank in the Atlantic Ocean. Over 400 people lost their lives, mostly emigrants bound for a new life in New Zealand. The story is here: hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/the-cospatrick-disaster


Donkey Engines

The curiously named ‘donkey engines’ (and associated ‘donkey boilers’) often occur in the context of shipping, traction engines and the logging industry. We have looked at their use in shipping, why they had such a strange name and the dangers of explosions. The story is told here: hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/the-fascinating-history-and-hazards-of-donkey-engines-and-boilers


The Sinking of the Royal George

The 100-gun warship Royal George, the pride of the Royal Navy, sank at Spithead, close to Portsmouth, on 29th August 1782. This was Britain’s worst shipwreck until the Titanic, and the shocking story is told here: hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/the-sinking-of-the-royal-george


Salvaging the Royal George

The wreck of the Royal George became a hazard in the busy shipping lane and anchorage of Spithead, and over the decades it was the scene of salvage and diving innovation, with diving bells, early diving helmets, explosions and souvenirs. It forms a summary of the development of diving and underwater technology and can be seen here: hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/the-salvage-of-the-royal-george-at-spithead


Here Be Monsters

Pictures of sea monsters feature on many early maps of coastal areas, seas and oceans. This is the story behind those pictures the superstitions, the folklore beliefs and the terror of sinister creatures that mariners and explorers encountered. The story is told here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/here-be-monsters-unveiling-the-terrifying-tales-of-sea-monsters-in-history


Unlikely Heroes

The sight and sound of seabirds have always alerted mariners approaching land, but what is surprising is the link between seabirds, safety, shipwrecks, ladies’ hats, shooting and the 1869 Act for the Preservation of Sea Birds.The story is told here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/unlikely-heroes-of-the-sea-seabirds-crucial-role-in-maritime-safety



Guano: A Perilous Cargo

From the 1840s guano (bird manure) was highly prized for agriculture, especially that from Peru, but it was a perilous cargo for wooden sailing ships, causing fires, explosions, shipwrecks, a sickly odour, corrosion and timber decay, as well as spoiling other cargoes and harming the health of crews.The story is told here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/guano-the-perilous-cargo-of-flammable-and-noxious-fertiliser



Women, Ships and the Sea

Sailors once thought that bad luck was inevitable with any woman on board, and it was therefore easy to blame them for a run of misfortune. In reality, the relationship between women, the sea and ships was always varied and often contradictory. The history of seafaring cannot be understood without recognising this complex situation, because in the past the notion of safety relied on custom and superstition. The story is told here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/women-ships-and-the-sea-the-dangers-of-custom-and-superstition




‘What Harm Could One Do?’

Tobacco was originally used as a medicinal herb, but from the late 16th century smoking with clay pipes was introduced to England. Smoking became completely acceptable behaviour, even aboard wooden vessels, and for 400 years seamen and passengers using pipes, cigarettes and matches were a significant cause of maritime fires and disasters. The story (‘What Harm Could One Do?’ The Disastrous Result of Smoking at Sea) is told here:  https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/what-harm-could-one-do-the-disastrous-result-of-smoking-at-sea




Ballast: A Hidden History on How to Avoid Shipwreck

Ballast was – and is – critical to the safety of all ships, with various materials used, including shingle, sand, stone and iron bars. Ballast needed securing to prevent it shifting and causing a catastrophic shipwreck. Many vessels sailed ‘in ballast’ when they had no cargo. The provision of ballast was a substantial industry worldwide, and in past times much of the loading and unloading was done by hand. You can see the first of our ballast stories here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/ballast-a-hidden-history-on-how-to-avoid-shipwreck



Crank and Stiff Ships: The Impact of Ballast on Maritime Disasters

A problem with ballast was the likely cause of many cases where ships disappeared without trace. Although ballast was out of sight at the bottom of a ship, it was essential for maritime safety. The loading of a sufficient weight of ballast and its careful stowage were crucial for vessels at sea, round the coast and in port. Many accidents and shipwrecks were caused by too little ballast, too much ballast or the shifting of insecure ballast.You can see this ballast story here: https://hec.lrfoundation.org.uk/whats-on/stories/crank-and-stiff-ships-the-impact-of-ballast-on-maritime-disasters



More stories are in progress!