The Cutty Sark in Millwall Docks

10th December 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Cutty Sark at her final berth in Greenwich, as mentioned in yesterday’s edition of The Wharf newspaper.


The ship looks a bit of a state, but this is primarily because she had been stripped of everything that could be removed. This was done to make sure she floated higher in the water when towed into the shallow dry dock.

A few years earlier, in 1951, the Cutty Sark spent a few months in the Millwall Graving Dock (aka Millwall Dry Dock). She had been towed there for refitting in preparation for mooring off Deptford as an exhibition ship in connection with the Festival of Britain.

The structure of Millwall Graving Dock is still in place, now known as Clipper’s Quay, very close to ASDA. It now looks like this:

But used to look like this when in operation (the road at the top is East Ferry Rd). Click on the image for the big version:


Here is the Cutty Sark being towed in Millwall Docks. I don’t know if she is heading for the graving dock (in February 1951) or if this photo was taken after the refitting (in October 1951).

Cutty Sark being towed to Millwall Dry Dock, c1950 26036747416

Definitely heading for the dry dock in this photo. The entrance was just left of McDougall’s, which can be seen in the background.

Once she entered the dry dock, the end of the dock was sealed off with a coffer, a temporary or movable dam across the dock entrance, and the water was pumped out. Large beams were used to keep her in place and upright.

And the refitting and refurbishment could begin.

In October 1951, the Cutty Sark was towed the short distance from Millwall Graving Dock to Deptford, mooring alongside the Worcester III training ship.

On 30 January 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark ’​s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark ’​s jib boom into Worcester ’​s fo’c’s’le rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester ’​s starboard side. Cutty Sark ’​s figurehead lost an arm in the process. Cutty Sark was towed to Shadwell Basin where emergency repairs were carried out by Green & Silley Weir Ltd. The damaged arm was recovered at Grays Thurrock and the figurehead was repaired.

On 10th December 1954, after further work in East India Docks, she entered the permanent dry dock in Greenwich.


Later providing a very familiar sight for all Islanders (and especially for me, as I as passed it every day on the way to school).


I couldn’t bring myself to post a recent photo, showing the Cutty Sark plonked in a fish bowl.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Cutty Sark in Millwall Docks

  1. jan says:

    Great set of photos here, Mick. I remember on the opening day, my older brother went to see the ceremony and came back to tell us that one of the dignitaries had referred, in a speech, to the ship as the Sutty Cark. We didn’t believe him til we saw the news on tv in the evening! I too walked past it every day on my way to the Roan. Haven’t seen it in it’s “fish bowl”. Is it really that bad??

  2. Joe Blogs says:

    Another excellent piece of research..
    The third photo in the post, the black and white one of the graving dock is fascinating…
    I don’t think the fish bowl is that bad.. I agree it’s not totally successful, but it was a challenging brief for the architect, to create a covered space below without detracting from the upper parts of the ship…
    many thanks

    • Micky Lemons says:

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one 🙂 The Cutty Sark has beautiful lines, she looked swift even when standing still. But now….she looks stuck, ice-bound. Perhaps the architect’s brief was more than challenging…

  3. Richard Baxter says:

    Lovely stuff! Your excellent article explains my Dads photo of Cutty Sark moored on the Thames! Really good news that and thanks very much!

  4. Simon gray says:

    My dad, a former boiler maker, recalls being photographed in MIllwall dock in 1951 as he was walking though the dock on the way to another job. He explained that he was not working on the ship but was asked to pose with his hammer as though he was working on the keel. I don’t think he is one of the chaps in the photo shown here because he thinks he was on his own. This article will in any case be of great interest to him, thanks.

  5. Widdicombe says:

    Wow, thank you. That is really interest for a lot of nostalgic reasons.My Grandfather, the Hook ladder master God luv him, almost bought it during th Blitz just near Millwall while serving in the AFB. We were fishing and I was very young but I think he was running a pump line to “the” river.
    Fancy slipping a beautiful ship like that and putting in all that work to Heave her too in dry-dock and not sail her. Something very poignant about that. As for the fish bowl, thanks again.I couldn’t bare that either…

  6. George Scott says:

    Thank you Mick
    These articles are fascinating and brings back my memories when as an apprentice shipwright I worked on the Cuttysark in 1954/55 at the Greenwich dry dock for a few months I can remember the work I carried out at the time. Oh. Dear 62 years ago I have commented before but I could not resist All the best George Scott.

  7. I have searched & searched, but alas, can not find out the number of decks and their names/usage on this ship. Can you help?

  8. Pingback: 8. We’re just here for the birds – An urban snob stranded in Canary Wharf

Leave a Reply to Mick Lemmerman Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.