Loss of crewmember – 31 October 1888

Of 682 men who sailed on Cutty Sark, only five were lost at sea. One of those unfortunate souls was apprentice Sidney Cook from Bedford. He engaged to serve on Cutty Sark aged 17 for the ship’s 19th voyage, leaving London on 17 May 1888. He tragically lost his life…

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

Life on board: the watch system

Life on board for the crew of Cutty Sark was dominated by the watch system. Everyone on board apart from the Master, Steward and the petty officers (carpenter, sailmaker, cook and bosun) were divided into two ‘watches’ – ‘port’ and ‘starboard’ watch. They would then alternate periods of duty, so…

Meet the Greenwich Sea Cadets on board Cutty Sark

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

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

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Food on board Cutty Sark

When Cutty Sark’s crew engaged to sail on the ship, the provisions allocated to them were detailed on the Agreement and Account of Crew for the passage. This document specified the amount of meat, bread, dried peas and rice allotted to each man, each week as well as a daily…

Hawk Talk; meet Norman the Harris hawk

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Captain Woodget

Captain Richard Woodget engaged as Master of Cutty Sark on 30 March 1885, aged 39, for her 16th voyage.  Previously of the Coldstream, he went on to command Cutty Sark for ten years while she was engaged in the Australian wool trade. Under Woodget, Cutty Sark made her name as…

Object focus: Cutty Sark’s bells

Cutty Sark had two bells on board – a 50lb bell with the ship’s name engraved on to it, which was located on the monkey foc’s’le (the raised deck at the bow) and a smaller bell on the poop deck, at the stern. The bell was primarily used to mark…