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'Cutty Sark' (1869 – present)

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The last surviving British tea clipper
Known for

Tea clipper Cutty Sark.
View full size imageTea clipper Cutty Sark. © NMM
The Cutty Sark is the last surviving British tea clipper and can still be seen in dry dock in Greenwich, more that 130 years after her launch.
The Cutty Sark was launched on Monday, 22 November 1869 at Dumbarton on the Clyde. She was built for John 'Jock' Willis, a sailing shipmaster and fleet owner in London. He wanted his new vessel to be the fastest tea clipper in the annual race to transport tea from China, and directly to challenge the famous clipper, Thermopylae.

Figurehead of the Cutty Sark
View full size imageFigurehead of the Cutty Sark. © NMM
The ship was designed and built by the Scottish firm of Scott & Linton. However, financial difficulties resulted in the project being transferred to William Denny & Brothers, who completed the Cutty Sark in November 1869.

Unfortunately the new Suez Canal saw steamships quickly take over the tea trade from the slower clipper ships. The Cutty Sark had completed eight passages from China to England between 1870 and 1877. In 1885, the Cutty Sark began the second stage of her career, in the wool trade from Australia. This is when the vessel entered her heyday, repeatedly making the fastest passages to Britain from Australia. She made twelve wool passages between 1883 and 1895.

In 1895, the Cutty Sark was sold to Portuguese owners and renamed the Ferreira. She sailed the waters between Portugal, America and South America, until she was sold in 1922. Captain Wilfred Downman bought the rather sorry looking ship after seeing her at Falmouth, and restored her to her previous glory as a clipper ship.

Port Connection

Albion Dock, Surrey Commercial Docks.
View full size imageAlbion Dock, Surrey Commercial Docks. © NMM
In 1922, she underwent a refit at Surrey Docks in London. It was on her journey home, whilst anchored in Falmouth Harbour, that she was purchased by Captain Downman.

Upon Captain Downman's death in 1938, the Cutty Sark was presented to the Thames Nautical Training College for use as a training ship. She was towed down the Thames to Greenhithe, where she remained for eleven years.

In 1954, the Council of the City of London sponsored a scheme to preserve the Cutty Sark. She entered a specially constructed dry dock at Greenwich and was finally opened to the public as a museum ship in 1957.

Statistics
· Length: 67.7 metres (212 feet 5 inches)
· Breadth: 11 metres (36 feet)
· Depth: 6.4 metres (21 feet)
· Weight: 963 tons
· Bowsprit and job-booms length: 18.3m (60 feet)
· Mainmast length: 44.5 metres (145 feet and 9 inches)
· Mainyard length: 23.7 metres (78 feet)
· Spanker-boom length: 85.3 metres (280 feet)
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Life Story
186922 November, 'Cutty Sark' is launched at Dumbarton on the Clyde
1871Her fastest voyage from Shanghai to North Foreland in 107 days
1877'Cutty Sark' carries her last cargo of tea
1879She carries a cargo of jute from Manila to New York
1883'Cutty Sark' begins her wool trade from Australia
1885She makes a very fast journey from Sydney to the Downs in 73 days
1887 - 1888New South Wales to the Lizard in 69 days
1894'Cutty Sark' makes her last wool voyage from Australia
1895She is sold to the Portuguese and renamed the 'Ferreira'
1916She is dismasted in a storm and is re-rigged as a barquentine
1922She is refitted and renamed the 'Maria do Amparo'. The vessel is then bought and restored by Captain Wilfred Downman for £3,750
1938She is presented to the Thames Nautical Training College to be used as a training ship and berthed at Greenhithe
1949The vessel is no longer required as a training ship
1954'Cutty Sark' enters her specially constructed dry dock in Greenwich
1957Work on her hull and rigging is completed and she is opened to the public
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Find out more
Fact fileClippers
Ships built for speed
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StoriesTea trade and the East India Docks
The East India Dock Company constructs a dock at Blackwall to accommodate the vast shipping needs of the East India Company.
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GamesShip Trumps
Which ships were the fastest? (Flash 6 player needed for game)
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GalleriesFamous Thames ships
The great and the good
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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