Cutty Sark 150th anniversary conference

Coronavirus reopening

Visitor notice: All of our sites have reopened and we can't wait to welcome you back. All visitors will need to book a ticket in advance. Find out how we're keeping you safe

Essential information

Date and time: 
6 & 7 February | 9.30am
£50 | £40 concessions and members
National Maritime Museum, Lecture Theatre
Talks & courses

This conference will take the opportunity offered by Cutty Sark’s 150th anniversary to provide a forum for interdisciplinary research and new perspectives on the merchant marine and maritime communities from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Global trade, global lives: the maritime community since the nineteenth century

2019 marked 150 years since the launch of Cutty Sark. Over its long life, the ship has formed part of Britain’s vast merchant fleet, and later provided the setting for training new generations of mariners.

Cutty Sark now stands as a memorial to the Merchant Navy and a national museum site, shaping how we understand maritime trade and the human experience of being at sea.

Built for the China tea trade, Cutty Sark would go onto trade in Australian wool before becoming a Portuguese general cargo carrier. More than 600 men from over 30 different nations served on the ship which would also visit nearly every major port in the world.

Today, as the sole surviving extreme clipper ship on the globe, it is a representative of international trade, maritime communities, the merchant marine in the age of sail as well as the subject of innumerable cultural interpretations and much more beyond.

This conference will take the opportunity offered by Cutty Sark’s 150th anniversary to provide a forum for interdisciplinary research and new perspectives on the merchant marine and maritime communities from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Programme of the conference

Thursday, 6 February


Registration and refreshments


Welcome and opening remarks


Sesison 1: Change in the merchant service

150 years of change in the merchant service: yesterday, today and tomorrow viewed from the deck of the Cutty Sark - Graeme Tripp MRSC FIM

Changes in ship building: the move from wood to iron - Mark Hoskin, SOAS London


Coffee and tea

11.40am - 1.30pm

Session 1: Voices of the merchant service

 How the 6-Day War opened doors for women seafarers - Dr Nina Baker, engineering historian

Diverse perspectives: the experience of a black deck officer – Remi Kapo

Britain’s deep sea rescue tugs: the biggest untold story of WWII – Jim Radford, Peace and Social Action Campaigner and folk singer 




Session 2: Lives at sea: what records reveal 

Chief Officer Sleggs and the last voyage of Islamount - Elizabeth Allen, Clyde Maritime Trust, Tallship Glenlee

Challenging authority in the nineteenth-century merchant marine: the true story behind a family myth - Dr Allison Baxter, Oxford Brookes University

‘So nauseous no person could eat it’: incompetent cooks and diet on board ship in the 1860s - Matthew Taylor


Tea and coffee


Keynote lecture

Mx Jack tar: gender, sex, power and seafaring women, from Cutty Sark to Scarlet Lady - Dr Jo Stanley FRHistS, FRSA, AssocRINA


Drinks reception on board Cutty Sark

Friday, 7 February


Arrival and refreshments


Session 3: global vessels, world travellers

Global stories: the people of the SS Great Britain

Nick Booth, Head of Collections, SS Great Britain Trust

HMS Belfast’s Long Goodbye: the return of a global traveller, March - June 1962

Nigel Steel, Head of Narrative and Content, HMS Belfast

Global trade and global lives: the merchant navy since the nineteenth century

Mark Hoskin, SOAS London


Tea and coffee

11.30am - 12.30pm 

Session 4: Cutty Sark's legacy: the return to sail?                 

Why is the global shipping industry returning to wind power? - Laura Boon, Royal Museums Greenwich

The return of sail cargo - Gareth Maeer, Director, Raybel Charters and member of Sail Cargo Alliance


Closing remarks and departure

Reflections on 150 years of the Cutty Sark. After 35 years in ship owning: was the Cutty Sark a good investment? - Paddy Rodgers, Director, Royal Museums Greenwich