Boats that Built Britain at the National Maritime Museum this summer

Boats that Built Britain is a new exhibition and lecture series at the NMM, exploring our maritime stories from the 15th to 20th centuries.

From 8 May 2010

Admission Free

Boats that Built Britain, a brand new exhibition and lecture series at the National Maritime Museum (NMM) explores our island nation’s intimate connection to the sea through great maritime stories from the 15th to 20th centuries. It focuses on the histories of key vessels from our voyages of discovery, the Royal Navy, the golden age of sail, the growth of shipping and industry and the pivotal impact of the sea on the outcome of the Second World War. Boats that Built Britain is staged in partnership with National Historic Ships, and runs alongside a major BBC Four series of the same name presented by Tom Cunliffe (part of the channel’s forthcoming Sea Fever Season).

Based around the themes explored in the BBC series, and drawing upon the NMM's collection, the exhibition will feature selected clips from the Boats that Built Britain television programme as well as archive and contemporary photographs of the vessels featured and stories from the lives of those that have sailed in them. The lecture series, along with a number of special family events, will run throughout June and July. In addition, there will be two evening events in May showcasing highlights from the BBC Four Sea Fever Season.

The centre piece of the exhibition will be a fully sized replica of an early 20th-century pilot's punt built by Kent boat builder Marc Chivers. These small craft, specially designed to cope with rough British weather, were used to transfer local pilots to the ships they were to guide into harbour and played a vital role in our rapidly developing shipping industry.

Dan Matthews, Exhibitions Manager at the NMM, says: ‘Boats that Built Britain offers an excellent opportunity to look at Britain's relationship with the sea through six iconic vessels. The boats that enabled us to explore the oceans, earn our living from the sea and ply our trade are a key part of our history. We are particularly excited about this exhibition and the BBC's Sea Season as it touches on so many aspects of Britain's maritime past and present and links to many of the subjects that are at the heart of the National Maritime Museum.’

Editor’s Notes

  • For full listing information on the Boats that Built Britain lecture series please see our website:, or call the press office on 020 8312 6732 | 07903 547 268

  • Sea Fever – The Story of Britain and the Sea will air on BBC Four in May 2010.

  • National Historic Ships was established in 2006 as a non-departmental public body to advise the Secretary of State, Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant giving organisations on ship preservation and funding priorities. It oversees the maintenance and enhancement of the National Register of Historic Vessels which includes the pilot cutter Cariad, featured in the Boats that Built Britain exhibition. Herring drifter Reaper, another of the exhibition key boats, is also on the Register and is a member of the National Historic Fleet – one of 200 vessels identified as having prime national significance. National Historic Ships also seeks to provide leadership and strategic vision across the historic ships community and the wider maritime sector by acting as a focus for advice, promoting the re-development of heritage skills and setting standards of best practice in vessel conservation. For more information and to view vessels on the Register, please visit:

  • The National Maritime Museum - the largest and most important museum of its kind in the world - is housed in impressively modernized historic buildings forming part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. It incorporates the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, (home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian Line) and 17th-century Queen’s House. The Museum works to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. Visit for further information.


For further information or images please contact the National Maritime Museum Press Office Tel: 020 8312 6732 / 6790 Email:


The National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory, Greenwich, are open: 10.00–17.00 daily. Last admission is at 16.30.

General admission to the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House and Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is free.

For updated information prior to visit, please visit the website: or phone 020 8858 4422.