First and Famous: Cataloguing Continues

Since the Christmas-New Year break, Eloisa and I have continued to catalogue the First and Famous collection.

The plans and survey reports of the Lloyd’s Register archive are not fully catalogued, and have been located in different sections over time. Identifying and locating all of the relevant documents for the First and Famous pilot project within these sections is a major task, as Eloisa wrote about in her earlier blog post Cataloguing the First and Famous – First Steps. The institutional and maritime and engineering knowledge available through the Heritage and Education Centre team meant that we were aware there were still some documents unaccounted for in our First and Famous collection that were likely to still be in the archive. Just recently the team added a number of documents to the First and Famous pile that had been stored in different locations to that which was listed historically.

New items
A number of the new items added to the First and Famous

These documents can now be included in the catalogue, for example items for Thermopylae and Nederland (see three examples below – a Report of Survey for Repairs for Thermopylae from 11 December 1876, and Report of Survey for Repairs of 28 February 1891 and correspondence of 26 December 1890, bound together, for Nederland.)


The discovery of more documents relating to ships for which cataloguing was already underway led to a discussion on how to insert those new records into the cataloguing scheme. When they were still working documents, documents at the Fenchurch Street site were organised into boxes by ship (the pictures below show the documents when they were still being used as working documents in the 1960s and 1970s).


The reference codes for the cataloguing project have been created to reflect this working arrangement. As you can see in the pictures below relating to City of Rome, each box has been given a distinct code (in this case SA14), which forms part of the reference code for each document that relates to the ship (as below, a Report on Machinery for City of Rome, dated October 1881, and catalogued as LR-FAF-SA14-2).


Newly located archival items relating to ships with documents already catalogued can be introduced at the end of the relevant sequence. Although this introduction of new material at the end of sequences will mean a break in the chronological order, this is not so unusual in the catalogue or, indeed, in archives in general. Methods of storing the documents when they were in business use included documents being bound together with glue in the order in which they came into the London office. As a result, documents are glued in backward chronological order (with the most recent at the top) to the report to which they relate. This has meant there has had to be a degree of flexibility in the cataloguing order anyway.

Bound documents
Documents relating to Lizzie and Annie which were bound together, with the most recent at the front

We have catalogued some exciting documents, for example the First Entry report for First and Famous ship Sirius. Sirius, built in 1837, was the first iron ship classed by Lloyd’s Register and the first vessel to cross the Atlantic under continuous steam power. The Saint George Steam Packet Company operated her as a passenger ship.

LR Reg Bk Sirius
One of the early entries in the Register Book for Sirius

Sirius’s first surveyor, George Bayley, included some interesting sketches in the First Entry Report that we found. As an early example of the use of iron to build a ship, Sirius was regarded as experimental – Bayley therefore sketched out some of the new, interesting ship-building techniques, including the rivets shown in the picture below.

Sirius Rivets close up
George Bayley’s sketches of rivets
Sirius sketches + remarks, rivets highlighted
George Bayley’s survey of Sirius

Other examples of newly located documents include some for Tubal Cain, the first composite ship to be classed by Lloyd’s Register in 1851. (Other later examples of composite ships classed by Lloyd’s Register include Thermopylae and Cutty Sark – you can discover more about them and the technology of composite ship-building in the blog post Experimental Improvements in the Construction of Ships.) When Tubal Cain was constructed in 1851 the surveyor examining her had not come across the technology before, and wrote in his remarks that

“This ship is of a peculiar construction, the particulars of which we herewith forward…”

Tubal Cain Peculiar Construction
The surveyor’s opinion of Tubal Cain being of “peculiar construction”

Our project continues apace and we are discovering interesting things every day, for example about Strathleven and Dunedin (the first ships to successfully carry refrigerated meat from Australia and New Zealand to Great Britain), the subject of this month’s Find of the Month – Feeding Britain’s City Dwellers.



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