After spending a couple of days on the sea, I thought about the places in London where you can see ships.
Not surprisingly, since the British Empire spread around the world in a time when foreign travel and trade could only be done by sea, you can find a lot of ships. And they tell a lot of history.
This plaque reveals a lot of history. In 1701, King William III issued a charter establishing the SPG as “an organisation able to send priests and schoolteachers to America to help provide the Church’s ministry to the colonists”. The society’s first missionaries started work in North America in 1702 and in the West Indies in 1703. The Society’s work wasn’t always easy in the American colonies where they had to compete with the Congregational, Baptist and Methodist churches – and many people had gone to America to separate from the Church of England. However, by the time of the American Revolution, the SPG had employed about 300 missionaries in North America and the Caribbean. It soon expanded to Australia, New Zealand and West Africa.
History (and Wikipedia) reveal a darker side to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel:
The SPG was a major slave owner in Barbados in the 18th and early 19th centuries (Note: This was from inheriting plantations and slaves from British owners), employing thousands of slaves on the Codrington Plantation, many of whom died there in terrible conditions and from overwork and cruelty. During the February 2006 meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, bishops voted unanimously to apologise to the descendants of slaves for the church’s involvement in the slave trade. (from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USPG )
Several ships decorate buildings on New Bond Street, which is now a major shopping street but wasn’t always. Admiral Nelson lived for a while in a house on New Bond Street.
The relief in the lunette below (is that the right term?) shows an old commercial clipper ship and a modern steam ship. Appropriately, it is on the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping building in The City, and is part of the whole decoration of the building which is titled “The Spirit of British Maritime Commerce”.The lady in the middle is the Goddess of Commerce. From what I can find online, the decoration was completed in 1901. That surprised me because I thought it looks a bit Art Deco, especially with those strong rays of sun (?) coming from behind the goddess – but I thought that 1901 is a bit too early for Art Deco.
I found this explanation of the goddess –
The Ladybadge symbol originated in 1799. It showed a nymph standing beside an anchor with a large book bearing the address of the Society next to her. Much of this design was retained in the badge adopted in 1834 by the reconstituted Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping. The nymph became a goddess, holding in her right hand a caduceus, the winged staff of Mercury, symbolising a messenger of the gods. She wore a mural crown (in the form of a wall), indicating Lloyd’s Register’s foundation in the City of London.
There are some exotic ships in London –
I was hoping to interpret all the symbolism, like the three bumblebees just above the ship, which I thought were an emblem of Napoleon. I found the building was owned by a French émigré in the late 1700s – “ It next passed to a French émigré nobleman and cleric, Prince Charles Victor de Broglio, who ran from here a Jesuit school which numbered among its ushers the future King Louis Phillipe.
All the ships in London are appropriate for a nation where the second national anthem starts:
Britannia Rule the Waves!
Here’s a little gallery of a few more ships I’ve found in London
@Cathey Leitch, 2015