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Famous Thames ships

Before air travel, the only way in or out of this island nation was on board ship. Therefore British ships had to be amongst the best in the world and keep up with advances in technology.


The 'Golden Hind' (1577)

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The 'Golden Hind' (1577)
The 'Golden Hind', captained by Francis Drake, circumnavigated the world between 1577 and 1580. Drake made many important discoveries before returning home to London with amazing treasures. Elizabeth I knighted Drake on board the 'Golden Hind' at Deptford.

HMS 'Endeavour' (1768)

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HMS 'Endeavour' (1768)
HMS 'Endeavour' was Captain Cook's ship during his first expedition to the Pacific (1768-71). Orignally built to carry coal, her large storage capacity made her perfect for long voyages of exploration. She was fitted out for the expedition at Deptford.
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The 'Great Eastern' (1858)

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The 'Great Eastern' (1858)
The 'Great Eastern' was a giant steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. At the time of her launch in 1858 - and for decades after - she was the largest ship in the world. She was built at John Scott Russell's Thames Shipbuilding Yard in Millwall.

HMS 'Warrior' (1860)

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HMS 'Warrior' (1860)
HMS 'Warrior' was the world's first iron-hulled armour-plated warship. She was built and launched at the Thames Ironworks, Blackwall. The 'Warrior' marked a huge leap in shipbuilding techniques.
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'Cutty Sark' (1869)

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'Cutty Sark' (1869)
The 'Cutty Sark' is the only surviving British tea clipper - a type of sailing ship built for speed. She brought tea back from India and China, and later carried wool from Australia. Her career as a merchant ship ended in 1922. In the 1950s she was restored, moved to Greenwich and opened to the public as a museum.

HMS 'Thunderer' (1911)

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HMS 'Thunderer' (1911)
Displacing 22,500 tons, the super-Dreadnought HMS 'Thunderer' was the largest warship built by the Thames Ironworks. However, she was also the last, as the cost of building her crippled the firm and put an end to the construction of large warships on the Thames.
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HMS 'Belfast' (1938)

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HMS 'Belfast' (1938)
The heavy cruiser HMS 'Belfast' played an important part during the Second World War. She helped sink the 'Scharnhorst' and was present at the Normandy Landings. She took part in the Korean War and served with the Royal Navy until 1965. She was brought to the Thames in 1971 and opened to the public as a museum.
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Find out more
StoriesDeptford and Woolwich: London's Royal Dockyards
The rise and decline of Henry VIII's Dockyards
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StoriesHMS 'Warrior': 'A black snake among rabbits'?
Britain's first iron-hulled warship
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StoriesThames Ironworks
Building for London and the world
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StoriesThe 'Great Eastern' as a passenger liner
The ship of the future?
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Fact file'Golden Hind'
Sir Francis Drake's ship for circumnavigating the globe
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Fact fileHM Bark ‘Endeavour’
Captain Cook's ship for sailing to the South Seas
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Fact fileThe 'Great Eastern'
A giant steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel
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Fact fileHMS ‘Warrior’
The first modern warship with an ironclad iron hull
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Fact file'Princess Alice’
The passenger steamship that collided with a collier in 1878 killing 700 people
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Fact file'Cutty Sark’
The last surviving British tea clipper docked at Greenwich.
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Fact fileHMS ‘Thunderer’
HMS 'Thunderer', a Super-Dreadnought that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. She was the last ship to be constructed at the Thames Ironworks, Blackwall.
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Fact fileHMS ‘Belfast’
Royal Navy cruiser in the Second World War
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GamesShip Trumps
Which ships were the fastest? (Flash 6 player needed for game)
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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