Photo Gallery Greenwich Cutty Sark


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The Cutty Sark was commissioned by Scotsman John "Jock" Willis. She is a sailing clipper built for high speed in order to outrun rival ship Thermopylae in the China tea run. Her maiden voyage was in 1870 and she made 8 trips to China on the tea route, followed by some years sailing to Australia for the wool trade. She travelled all over the world until 1923, when she was bought by Wilfred Dowman who brought her back to the UK and restored her. Her last sea voyage was in 1938 and her last time in the water was in 1954 when she was towed into dry dock at Greenwich.

Sadly the hull caught ablaze on 21 May 2007 during restoration work, the fire apparently being caused by an industrial vacuum cleaner that had not been switched off for the night. Fortunately the masts and half of the structure had already been removed for the restoration.

She is owned by the Cutty Sark Society and the ship is a major tourist attraction for Greenwich. Cutty Sark is Scots for "short shirt" and refers back to the character Nannie Dee in Robert Burns' poem "Tam O'Shanter" (see below).

The design of tea clippers was based on the American Baltimore cotton clipper ships. The name comes from one of the meanings of "clip" which is to move swiftly. Their grace and elegance is aptly described by George Campbell in his book China Tea Clippers "The delightful form of the hull of a tea clipper ... all being moulded perfectly into the curves toward the keel, must surely rank as the most aesthetically perfect manmade shape."

The Cutty Sark's specification for building and fitting out lists not only the construction requirements and materials in precise detail but also an inventory of every item needed on board, from guns to teaspoons, anchors, foghorn, deck scrubbing brushes, fishing lines and shark hook, teak hen coops and pig houses, copper tea kettle and coffee pot, complete tea service and fancy bread baskets just a few of the hundreds of items listed. Reading the inventory is almost like a trip through an average day on the ship, although many of the nautical equipment terms would only be intelligible to those with sailing experience. Also required was "a figurehead by Allan with suitable carving about the stern and to correspond with the name of the ship" and "the whole to be of the very best workmanship, material and finish." History and refurbishment progress Complete specification for building and fitting out the Cutty Sark Brief history of the tea clipper races Cutty Sark in stained glass, example of a commissioned window

"The Crews of the Cutty Sark" by S F Bailey, 1989, published by the Cutty Sark Society, lists all the names and details of crew members.

See also my other website for 6 pages of info and photos of Greenwich Park, Observatory, museums and river:

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - September 2006
The Cutty Sark in dry dock September 2006

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - September 2006
September 2006

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - September 2006
September 2006

The building in the background houses the lift and spiral staircase for the foot tunnel to the north side of the River Thames.



Illustrations on the site fence:

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - At Falmouth Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Painting of full sail Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration
Photo of Cutty Sark at Falmouth Full sail painting Restoration of hull

 Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Mockup of finished restoration Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Refurbishment
Mockup picture of the expected finished result, due Spring 2012

The ship will be held aloft on a steel girdle and you will be able to walk underneath the hull. The glass enclosure meets the ship at water level. I would suppose that on a blue sky day the glass will look like rolling sea surrounding the ship, but on a grey day it might resemble the skirts of a hovercraft! Many people will know the ship from past televised scenes of the London Marathon, as the runners circle round the ship.

August 2011

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration
These are stitched photos, hence the wavy sea-like fence

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration


Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration


January 2012:

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration
The bare sky filled once again with the masts, which were erected in December 2011.

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration
Glass canopy nearing completion

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration
Much landscaping going on all around as well.

Figurehead Nannie Dee:

Nannie unveiled and happy to be looking out over the Thames once again. Her forward-reaching left arm has yet to be fixed in place.

The ship was named after a character in Robert Burns' poem "Tam O'Shanter". A girl called Nannie Dee, wearing a short-cut shirt or undergarment, known in the Scots dialect as a cutty sark, was angrily pursuing Tam at high speed for having gazed at her dancing with the witches. Tam escaped by crossing a river on his horse Maggie or Meg, but at the last moment the horse lost its tail, grabbed by Nannie who was unable to cross the water.

The ship's figurehead Nannie spent the next 80 plus years crossing all the water in the world, chasing the rival ship instead of a horse. Not only is her own cutty sark flowing behind her, but also the ship of the same name in tow, looking like an extension of her skirts. The ship's Scottish name ensured that the nationality of her owner and the builders went with her everywhere. Maybe Jock Willis also thought that Nannie's dislike of water made sure that the ship stayed on top of it, and not below, and that Nannie would provide maximum speed to get back to land! From the side view she looks young and beautiful but her face is actually frowning and snarling in anger. Whenever in port the crew would place in her hand a horse's tail made of old rope. Considering that the horse in the poem was marginally faster than Nannie, maybe it should have been considered for the job of figurehead, but it would not have inspired the same interest, loyalty and cautious superstition from the crew. Most of all she embodies a teeth-gritting determination to outrun her competitor.


Hull decoration:

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration
The white beams are the supports for the glass canopy

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - Restoration & hull decoration




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