Cutty Sark: Historical British Pathe Newsreels of the Famous Ship Afloat Unveiled


Tomorrow the Cutty Sark will be opened (again!) by Her Majesty The Queen, and so we thought we’d have a rummage in the archive for the old boat, she’s never been very camera shy the Cutty Sark and British Pathe has visited her several times at sea and dock over the decades.

Firstly, for those who might be wondering what the Cutty Sark is, here’s a quick history for you:

Launched in Dumbarton, Scotland, in 1869, the Cutty Sark was used to bring tea over to Britain from China. The ship carried out this task for 50 years, carrying back gunpowder and whiskey in return. After that she was used as a racing ship, breaking her rudder twice in stormy seas. In 1880 her first mate Sidney Smith was murdered onboard by a seaman named John Francis. The murderous sailor managed to escape, out of shame and guilt the captain Wallace “stepped” overboard.

The ship spent a short spell under Portuguese ownership but was eventually brought back to Britain in 1922 and became part of the Falmouth naval college. It is here that British Pathé stepped into the story, filming Cutty Sark on several key occasions and adding her to their wide array of interests and newsreel topics.

Here are some of those videos…

Famous Cutty Sark Arrives at Gravesend in 1938


With a great classical music score the narrator starts:

“With a heave-ho and a heave-to the Cutty Sark, famous old China tea clipper, arrives at Gravesend from Falmouth to join HMS Worcester at Greenhithe as part of the Thames Nautical Training College”

The narrator then explains that the Cutty Sark has been left to the college by the widow of the former owner Captain W H Dowman, before finishing by saying “With such associations could the boys do other than carry on those fine old traditions?” The clip contains good footage of boys at work onboard the ship.


Duke of Edinburgh Views Cutty Sark in 1953


This interesting piece of silent footage shows Prince Philip inspecting sailors on the Cutty Sark not long after the coronation.


Cutty Sark’s Last Home in 1954


The reel shows Cutty Sark sailing along the Thames past the Greenwich Meridian “on towards the dry dock where she will remain as a memorial to the days of sail”. The Cutty Sark preservation society are there and British Pathé credits them for their hard work in securing the ship’s safe retirement as a collegiate building.

“Built 85 years ago at the cost of £16,000 the Cutty Sark will become a nautical museum after being fully restored” Although £16,000 pounds would be a lot in today’s money it would still come nowhere near the £50 million figure that has allegedly been spent on this recent restoration.


In 1957 British Pathé recorded this newsreel called “To School on Cutty Sark”


We imagined it would show boys at the naval college but is in fact covering the news of an evening school on Cutty Sark that is for amateur sailors! Various captains explain maps and move models boats around on a wooden plan of the sea. The class, which includes girls, sit in a classroom inside the ship surrounded by ancient and ornate prow pieces. Sir Roy Gill points various artefacts out to the Pathé camera whilst another Captain demonstrates rope-knots amongst old nautical paintings. A classic piece of British Pathé!

Other newsreels in the archive that contain footage of the Cutty Sark include the following:

Ship of Adventure” (1966)

Two Hundred Kiddies Day Treat” (1963)

Navy Cadets School” (1958)

Thames By Night” (1963)

And you can find even more with this web search here:

Cutty Sark Search in the British Pathe Film Archive 

If you share this blog post on Twitter remember to include @britishpathe

Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

One thought on “Cutty Sark: Historical British Pathe Newsreels of the Famous Ship Afloat Unveiled”

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: