This guide outlines the collection of surveyors' reports and plans made for Lloyd's Register between, approximately, 1834 and 1968 and now held by the National Maritime Museum.
The reports contain considerable technical detail, chiefly about the construction of ships' hulls, and form the largest-known single collection of ship plans in the world.
Lloyd's Register, like Lloyd's of London, owes its origins to Edward Lloyd's Coffee House. But Lloyd's Register is an independent organisation, formed to supply underwriters and others in the shipping industry with reliable information about ships. It was the first, and is still the foremost, ship classification society.
Survey reports (excluding yachts) are available from 1834 to around 1968 because they are confidential for at least 30 years after the end of a ship's life. Reports and plans can be inspected in the Museum’s Library and those in good condition may be photocopied for a small charge.
Original reports made by Lloyd's Register surveyors between 1764, the date of the earliest surviving issue of Lloyd's Register of Shipping, and 1833 have not been preserved.
1834 to 1837
From 1834 onwards, only the first report on a vessel was normally kept by Lloyd's Register, though the vessel may have been surveyed many times during her life. Not all ships were surveyed, but during this period attempts were made to include all British vessels of 50 tons or more in the Register, though little information is given about those not surveyed.
1838 to 1875
The Register only listed vessels surveyed.
1875 to 1890
All British vessels over 100 tons were included.
The Register was extended to all foreign as well as British sea-going vessels over 100 tons.
Surveys and classification
If a ship was surveyed, its entry in Lloyd's Register of Shipping will show the Lloyd's Register classification - typically 100 A1 for vessels with steel hulls. Entries also marked with a Maltese cross mean the ship was built under special survey. If no class mark is shown, check the Register at intervals for the whole of the ship's life, in case it was surveyed later. Classification for ageing vessels, especially wooden ones, may have lapsed. The classification system and history of Lloyd's Register are explained in Annals of Lloyd's Register (London: Lloyd's Register, 1934) 061.238:629.12.001.33 or Lloyd's Register of Shipping: 1760–1960, by George Blake (London: Lloyd's Register, 1960) 061.238:629.12.001.33.
Surveys and insurance
There is no connection between a ship being surveyed and being insured, though a ship classed by Lloyd's Register was known to be sound and seaworthy and likely to receive favourable insurance rates, whether from Lloyd's of London or elsewhere.
Other guides in the series which may be useful for using Lloyd's documents as a research tool are:
- Research guide H1: Lloyd's: Lloyd's List: Brief history
- Research guide H3: Lloyd's: Lloyd’s Captains' Registers
- Research guide H4: Lloyds: Lloyd's List Indexes
- Research guide H5: Lloyd's: Registers held by the National Maritime Museum
For general research help see:
- Research guide A2: Principal records for maritime research at the National Maritime Museum
- Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records
Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.