Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Second Day in London, England

Saturday morning, May 2nd, after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we headed off to Greenwich where the famous, Victorian trading ship, Cutty Sark, is berthed, and the Fan Museum is located. 

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is located in the south-east area of London, and like most of England, it's charming and quaint. Greenwich is especially known for its maritime history, and is a World Heritage Site, with the Cutty Sark being a major attraction.  The town center [below] is to one side of the tube station, and the Cutty Sark to the other.

I'm not a nautical person, but since the Cutty Sark is the last tea clipper surviving into the twenty-first century, I wanted to see her during my visit to England. The clipper accumulated more sea miles than any of her contemporaries, and was finer, faster, and more famous than any of them. She was threatened by fire in 2007 but fortunately was saved.  I remember my hubby assembling a model of Cutty Sark when we were dating, long before I was into tea and knew the ship's significance to it.

The Cutty Sark was built for one purpose - to bring tea back from China to London quickly. She was launched in November, 1869, and left London bound for Shanghai in February 1870.  The round trip took 110 days.  By the late 1870's steamships began replacing sailing ships as carriers of tea cargo, and the Cutty Sark was forced to carry a variety of other cargoes such as coal, wool, beer, and whatever else she could find to transport. The clipper sailed 25 voyages in 25 years under the British flag.  Scottish owner, John Willis, sold the clipper in 1895 to a Portuguese owner. After numerous owners, a retired British sea captain purchased and restored the vessel to a clipper ship appearance. Upon his untimely death, his wife presented the ship to the Incorporated Thames Nautical College in 1938. 

Frank Carr, the Director of the National Maritime Museum, became a more recent savior of the Cutty Sark in the 1950's with the help of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh when the ship was brought to Greenwich.  She was opened to the public by HM Queen Elizabeth II in June, 1957, and then closed in 2006 for restoration.  Upon completion she was re-opened in 2012. 

Cutty Sark's name comes from a Robert Burns' poem, Tam O'Shanter, published in 1791, and the ship's figurehead, is Nannie, the beautiful witch. 

The poem's story goes like this: Tam got drunk and was riding his horse, Maggie, home one night. Approaching a church, he was surprised to see the lights on, and urged Maggie forward for a closer look.  Through the window he saw the altar had been desecrated and the building was full of warlocks and witches dancing to a tune played on the bagpipes by the devil himself. The witches were all old hags, except for one - Nannie, a young beauty, cavorting in a 'cutty sark' - a short shift. Tam was overwhelmed by the sight of Nannie in her revealing outfit and cried out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"

Lori and I bought tickets to go on the self-guided tour, with guides positioned about the ship to answer questions and provide information.

In the cargo area, interesting information is written on old wooden tea chests that transported the tea.  I've included just a sampling in the pictures below.

   [A Cutty Sark Guide]

In the lower hold area [the main cargo space of the ship], they showed an interesting short video on the screen below.  I wrote down a few tidbits to share with you:
  • It was the fastest ship in the world with a speed of 20 m.p.h.
  • 10,000 chests of tea were loaded from China worth more than £18.5 million in today's money - enough for two hundred million cups of tea!
  • The ship had a crew of 26 - some as young as 14 years old.
  • The ship gave a total of 52 years of service, sailing 957,995 nautical miles - equaling 2 1/2 times to the moon and back!

~ Topside on the Cutty Sark ~

~ The crew's bunks ~

Lori and me with the River Thames in the background.

After touring the ship, we went underneath it where the Even Keel Cafe is located. We prayed it was securely suspended!  ;-)

We didn't have the Afternoon Tea because it had to be pre-booked, but it would have been a bargain at £19.95 per person, which included entry to the Cutty Sark.  I ordered a cream tea [tea and dessert] and Lori ordered coffee and dessert.  

Lori ordered a slice of Banana/Chocolate bread, and I ordered Victoria Sponge Cake.  Both were good.  My tea was a Breakfast blend.

A tea display in the Cafe.

~ Drawers of assorted teas ~

Then it was upstairs to the gift shop.  My purchases are pictured below - a tin of Cutty Sark loose-leaf tea blended by Twinings...

~ And a souvenir Cutty Sark book ~

While I didn't purchase them, I thought these tins of tea in the Old Royal Naval College gift shop were cute.

~ I purchased a tea towel there. ~

Lori and I took pictures next to an iconic British telephone booth that cell phones have made obsolete. The booth below didn't have a telephone inside it. They're probably primarily for tourists like us!  ;-)

The mailbox, however, is currently in use.

From the Cutty Sark, we headed the opposite direction to the Fan Museum on Croom's Hill - tomorrow's post.


  1. Sounds like it was a great day. Can't wait to sit and talk.

  2. Hi Phyllis, What a wonderful trip! I am having fun "traveling" along with you. Looking forward to the next post.

  3. How interesting! Of course, my favorite part was eyeing those cakes! Lol. Your choice, by the way, looked yummy! Can't wait for tomorrow's entry!

  4. That does look like an interesting place to visit - and I love all the tea tins!

  5. I am enjoying your trip to England with you and Lori!

  6. Hi Phyllis,

    I so enjoyed your post and am happy that you got to see the Cutty Sark. When I was there it was under reconstruction and so was closed to visitors.

    Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful photos and first hand information you collected. The Cutty Sark tea tin is very special.

    Looking forward to more posts especially the one on the Fan Museum tomorrow.


    Mary Jane

  7. I loved your post...have visited the Cutty Sark several times. Such a fun place for a tea lover! Haven't eaten at the tea room...but had a cuppa...of course! So glad you had such a wonderful time!


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