BY JAMES TWOMEY
An historic sailing ship will this month start a year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary.
There will be a string of special events throughout the year, including concerts, theatre and poetry performances about the ship’s career, the Victorian maritime heritage and historic connections to the rest of the world.
The highlights include a concert by the BBC Singers to celebrate the ship’s place in trade history on March 8 and an opportunity to meet characters of the Cutty Sark with stories brought to life by actors which will be running every day.
Hannah Stockton, curator of the Cutty Sark, said: “It is very exciting to be celebrating Cutty Sark’s 150th anniversary, a ship which was only built to last 30 years.
“Cutty Sark has survived storms, a broken rudder, a dismasting and, more recently, a fire which, due to a conservation project, was less destructive than it might have been.
“Cutty Sark is a survivor, and throughout the year we are inviting visitors to celebrate with us at a range of events; from an anniversary concert, to a family carnival weekend, a 150th anniversary challenge and much more.
It is an historic time to visit the ship.”
The Cutty Sark’s creation began in February 1869 and it started its first official voyage in February 1870.
The ship is the world’s only surviving tea-clipper – the fastest type of ship before steam engines – and its first voyage in 1870 to Shanghai and back carried ‘large amounts of wine, spirits and beer,’ as well as 1.3 million pounds of tea.
Conservation efforts began in 1951 after Prince Phillip set up the Cutty Sark Society which later became a Trust in 2000.
In 2007, the ship caught on fire during some conservation work and burned for several hours, destroying some central wooden structures.
It is believed the fire began after a vacuum cleaner was left on and the resulting repair work cost around £10 million.
The attraction reopened to the public in April 2012, marking a new chapter in the life of the last surviving tea clipper and one of the world’s most famous ships.
Visitors to Cutty Sark can venture aboard and beneath the 963-tonne ship as it is elevated three metres off the ground.
The Cutty Sark is in Cutty Sark gardens; a short walk away from Cutty Sark DLR and within walking distance of Royal Museums Greenwich’s other sites, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House and Royal Observatory Greenwich.