Read the incredible facts and figures about Cutty Sark to understand why she was such a feat of Victorian engineering.
Cutty Sark was built for a firm of ship owners called Willis & Sons, headed by John ‘Jock’ Willis, whose ambition was that she be the fastest ship in the annual race to bring home the first of the new season’s tea from China.
She was designed by Hercules Linton, a partner in the Dumbarton firm of Scott & Linton. It is believed that he moulded the bowlines of Willis’s earlier vessel Tweed into the midship attributes of Firth of Forth fishing boats, creating a beautiful new hull shape that was stronger, could take more sail, and be driven harder than any other.
The company had never built a ship of this size before and ran into financial difficulties, eventually going bankrupt before she was completed. The final details of the fitting out had to be completed by William Denny & Brothers, Scott & Linton’s landlords and the guarantors for the completion of the work on the original contract.
Cutty Sark was towed to Greenock for final work on her masts and rigging. She was then brought to London to load her first cargo for China in 1870.
Facts & figures
Name of ship: Cutty Sark
Date of launch: 22 November 1869
Built by: Scott & Linton Dumbarton, Scotland
Type of hull construction: Composite clipper ship
Built for: John Willis, Willis & Sons
Gross tonnage: 963 tons
Net tonnage: 921 tons
Sail area: 2976 m2 (32,000 sq. ft2)
Number of sails: 32 sails
Rigging: 11 miles
Length: 64.8m (212.5ft)
Length overall: 85.4m (280ft)
Beam: 11m (36ft)
Registered depth: 6.4m (21ft)
Moulded depth: 6.9m (22.5ft)
Height of main mast: 47m (152ft)
Top speed: Over 17 knots
Cutty Sark flew signal flags representing the letters J K W S (depicting the name of the owner, JocK WilliS) and from her main mast flew the Willis House flag – blue background with white diamond and red cross in the centre.
Owners of Cutty Sark
1869-1895 John Willis, Willis & Sons
1895-1922 Ferreira & Company (vessel renamed Ferreira)
1922-1922 Companhia Nacional ce Navegacao (vessel renamed Maria do Amparo)
1922-1938 Captain Wilfred Dowman, Falmouth (vessel renamed Cutty Sark)
1938-1953 The Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College, Greenhithe
1953-1955 The Cutty Sark Preservation Society
1955-1989 The Cutty Sark Society
1973-1989 The Maritime Trust (managing agents for The Cutty Sark Society)
1989-1990 The Cutty Sark Maritime Trust
1990-2000 The Maritime Trust
2000-2015 The Cutty Sark Trust
Current owner: The National Maritime Museum
The ship's was drawn up by the original owner, John Willis, and presented to the designers, William Scott-Moncrieff and Hercules Linton. The information given is not necessarily correct as built, but defined John Willis’ requirements for his new ship prior to construction.