Category Archives : Behind the scenes at Cutty Sark

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Who’s who at Cutty Sark – meet historian and BSL Tour Guide John

Hello, I’m John Wilson and I give BSL talks aboard Cutty Sark. My first tour was on 25th April this year, 2015. So, what are BSL talks? Well, I was born profoundly deaf and so use sign language – British Sign Language or BSL – which is the natural language…

Sleeping on board Cutty Sark

When the ship was built in 1869, some of the crew slept in accommodation in the fo’c’s’le below the Main Deck. In this space, there were originally 10 bunks for the Ordinary and Able Seamen and although the bunks are no longer there, the portholes are in situ and it is still possible to see the stamp in the beam certifying the number of men who could be berthed there.

After the ship’s second voyage, however, this space was abandoned because it was too uncomfortable being right at the front of the ship, and it was difficult to get the men up on deck quickly. A new deckhouse was built on the Main Deck and in 1872, the petty officers and apprentices moved into the new, aft deckhouse and the Ordinary Seamen and Able Seamen then slept in the forward deckhouse. The fo’c’s’le was then probably used partly as a store and partly as an additional cargo space.

Crew cabin, Liverpool House, Cutty Sark  ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Crew cabin, Liverpool House, Cutty Sark ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

The Master and two Mates had their accommodation at the stern of the ship, known as the Liverpool House. As might be expected, these cabins were relatively more luxurious and each officer had a separate cabin. The original specification for Cutty Sark details that these cabins were also “fitted up with drawers, chronometer case, chart racks, etc.”

Captain Moodie asleep ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Captain Moodie asleep ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Cutty Sark’s crew however did not get much time to spend in their cabins or sleep on board. Their day was dominated by the watch system which meant they had 4 hours at work then 4 hours off duty when they might be able to catch some sleep. Any sleep might be interrupted by stormy weather when all hands would be required on deck and the crew off watch were roused from their beds. Clarence Ray, apprentice on board 1894-5 writes in a letter to his mother “after a hard day’s work I slept like a top, you bet, but was fetched out of it in the middle to drop anchor in the Downs when the tug Shamrock left us”. He later reports “If we go to sleep in our watch on deck they make us ride the grey mare – that is sit up on the upper topsail yard for the rest of the watch. I have not had to do this yet but the other fellow has, twice.”

Later in the ship’s career when Cutty Sark had been sold to a Portuguese company and re-named Ferreira, the arrangement of the captain’s accommodation was relocated within the Liverpool House. A report on board in May 1913 states that the captain’s cabin was “was stripped of most of its old fittings, only a marble-topped washstand and a heavy, teak four-post bed remaining”.

Climbing the bunk beds at Cutty Sark today.  ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Climbing the bunk beds at Cutty Sark today. ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Today, the crew accommodation on board Cutty Sark is arranged as she would have appeared in 1872 and visitors are welcome to put themselves into the shoes of the crew and try out a bunk for size. Alternatively, why not join us on 31 October for our Halloween Sleepover

Who’s who at Cutty Sark? Meet rigger Andy!

During the 2006-2012 conservation project, rigging company TS Rigging was brought in to help restore Cutty Sark’s masts and spars. As part of the ambitious project, they were also responsible for the refurbishment of all standing rigging, which supports the masts, and the replacement of all running rigging, which controls…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark? Meet Explainer Volunteer Dai Hall!

This week we met up with Dai Hall, one of the Explainer Volunteers at Cutty Sark. Once a week, you’ll find him on the Main Deck, chatting to visitors and telling them all about the tumultuous history of the ship. Dai: “What makes for a good explainer? I think you…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark? Meet Family Learning freelancer Annie!

By Annie Dickenson I’m Annie, one of a team of Family Learning freelancers on board Cutty Sark. I joined the ship just before it opened back in 2012 to work with the school’s programme and have since migrated across to the Families team. I took the leap from being a…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark? Meet illustrator Nina!

Ahoy there! My name’s Nina and I’m an illustrator. I live in Hastings, East Sussex (right by the sea) and have always had a love for maritime history and stories. I’ve recently been working with Cutty Sark to create an Explorer Trail which kids and families can use to navigate…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark – meet our Visitor Experience Manager Angela

My name is Angela Brown and I’ve been working at Cutty Sark for three years, first as a Visitor Assistant and currently as Visitor Experience Manager. I come from a retail background, but I was keen to get into the museum and heritage sector and becoming a Visitor Assistant turned out…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark – meet our Buying and Merchandising Manager Alex

My name is Alex and I’m the Buying & Merchandising Manager at Royal Museums Greenwich. This means that I am responsible for the products we sell in our shops at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Cutty Sark, and online at I manage a team of 7,…

Who’s who at Cutty Sark – meet our Documentation Officer

My name is Shirley Eaton and I am the Documentation Officer here at the Cutty Sark clipper ship. I have been here since 2006 and took part in the conservation work during the ship’s recent conservation project. For me this involved recording items as they came off of the ship…