By Eloisa Rodrigues, Collections and Archives Officer
Project Undaunted aims to conserve, catalogue, digitise and make available to the public 10% of Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s unique collection of ship plans and survey reports. Since the beginning of the Project, we have catalogued over 30,000 thousand documents, including survey reports, correspondence, forms, ship plans and some photographs we’ve found along the way. Apart from cataloguing, there is an incredible conservation working being carried out – our conservator has also carried out conservation on over 10,000 items in the collection, including surface cleaning, tear repair, and flattening of folded items.
Coincidentally, the first anniversary of Project Undaunted marks the moving of the collection to a new storage space, which will improve the conditions in which the collection is stored, and enable us to digitise the first series of documents. So far, the cataloguing and conservation teams have been split between the LRF office at Fenchurch Street, cataloguing the collection of Wreck Reports, and at the National Maritime Museum’s Woolwich facility, where a great deal of the collection has been held for 50 years. Moving to a new storage space is a big step for us and we are looking forward to seeing all 4,256 boxes in their new home. We will definitely miss the hospitality of the NMM curators.
The whole Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre’s Plan and Survey Report collection exceeds over 1.25 million records! For this 3 year phase of Project Undaunted we are focusing on the first three boxes of the 19th century UK outport series, the entire run of 19th century Glasgow series, and the entire run of the 19th century overseas outports. Additionally, it includes the Wreck Report series held at Fenchurch Street, which spans 1892-1940. Cataloguing of this series is complete and comprises 83 volumes and 13,740 documents.
In this first year we have travelled very far, in a virtual sense! Our roaming has included many UK ports including Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Banff, Bangor, Barmouth, Barrow, Barry, Berwick, Blyth, the Clyde, Dublin, Glasgow, Gloucester, Ipswich, Leith, London, the Scilly Isles, Shoreham, Yarmouth and Youghall. We have also adventured overseas and catalogued all the Dutch Ports in the collection (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Veendam), some ports in Canada (Quebec, Prince Edward Island, St Johns, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), Portugal (Porto), Belgium (Antwerp), the United States (New York, Baltimore, and Portland), New Zealand (Auckland and Wellington), Japan (Yokohama), Latvia (Riga), Germany (Rostock), India (Calcutta), and some outports that still had their former names, like Christiania (today’s Oslo), and Constantinople (today’s Istanbul).
The next steps in the project are going to be focusing on ports on the North East coast of England and more from the Canadian ports. Here are some examples of interesting and favourite findings we have come across so far:
There aren’t that many photographs within the survey reports, so we do get very excited when we come across with them. Here are two examples of two beautiful photos from the 19th century:
The first one was of President Trakanen, built in 1868 at Newbury Port. The photograph was found when cataloguing the survey reports from Amsterdam. The caption reads “The ship President Trakranen in dry dock at Amsterdam to straighten her keel, 1876”.
This photograph shows the barge Washougal under construction by J H Johnson at Portland, Oregon in 1898. The photograph was found among the survey reports for Washougal and her sister vessels Washington, Wallcut and Washtucna while cataloguing documents from Portland.
Hecla, the Arctic explorer
The survey for 404 ton barque Hecla was in the port box for Leith. The report also contained a helpful note from LR surveyor Walter Paton, detailed her history and use as an Arctic exploration vessel. Hecla voyaged to the Arctic on all four of Captain William Edward Parry's expeditions, when he discovered over 850 miles of uncharted coastline. By the end of her time in the Royal Navy, she was considered the most seasoned and famous Arctic voyager in the world.
Among the correspondence attached to the steamer Cometa, there is an extract from a letter received from the LR surveyor at Rio de Janeiro, who seemed to have a particularly good sense of humour. In this particular letter he points out that he hadn’t heard back from the owners of the ship, because “replying is not a feature of this country [Brazil]”. Moreover, he also mentions the physical attributes of a colleague, saying that Mr. Massey is “physically small for bilge and boiler work”:
One of our favourite finds of this year was a letter from Hugh Tregarthen, our Scilly Isles surveyor in the 1870s. In a very human moment amongst often impersonal correspondence, Mr Tregarthen writes to Bernard Waymouth, Lloyd’s Register’s Secretary apologising for leaving his coat (with a midship section plan of a schooner called Trevellas inside the pocket) on the train. However, turning to the next document, there is another letter explaining that he had had the coat returned to him along with the lost plan. A happy outcome!
Want to keep up to date about our findings? Search #ProjectUndaunted on Twitter.