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Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark is the world's sole surviving tea clipper, come and explore its fascinating history and find out more about Cutty Sark teas.

The Story

Cutty Sark is the world's sole surviving tea clipper. She was built in 1869 for John 'Jock' Willis, whose ambition was to build a ship which could challenge the best clippers on the China tea run. On the 15th of February 1870, Cutty Sark left London on her maiden voyage, bound for Shanghai and eight months later she returned with more than 600,000kg of Chinese tea on board (enough to make more than 200 million cups of tea). Even today, when tea is more commonly available, a cargo of this size would be worth more than £1 million. This was the first of eight voyages the ship successfully made to China in pursuit of tea.

South Atlantic Ocean

With the restoration of the Cutty Sark now complete, she stands open to the public as the last surviving tea clipper in existence.

The history of transporting tea from the Far East to Britain, the fierce rivalries to pick up the best price for the first teas and the simply extraordinary lengths that these merchant sailors went to are an important part of how tea first came to Britain and the reason it has become such an institution for us as a nation today.

Therefore, we are delighted to present our exciting Cutty Sark Caddy range. This includes two blends; the Cutty Sark Black and the Cutty Sark Green.

Cutty Sark is most likely to have carried 'Congou' - a general word for black tea, but her cargoes might also have included Bohea, Souchong and Pekoe.

The opening of the Suez Canal opened up the tea trade to steamships, reducing their voyage to China by 3,000 miles. Sailing ships like Cutty Sark were not able to use the Canal and were driven out of the tea trade as they could not compete with the quick and economic passages offered by the steamships. Her last tea voyage was in 1877; after this date, the ship was forced to look for other cargoes.

Cutty Sark went on to work in the Australian wool trade between 1883 and 1895 and at this time she became known as the fastest ship of her day. She regularly made the fastest passage of the season; bring over 5,000 wool bales back in 70 days or less.

Having been sold to the Ferreira shipping company of Portugal in 1895, Cutty Sark, renamed Ferreira, spent the next 27 years (including surviving the First World War) carrying cargoes to every major port in the world. In 1922 she was bought and restored by Captain and Mrs Dowman and became the first historic vessel since Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind to be open to the public. In 1938, after Captain Dowman's death, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College at Greenhithe and was used as an auxiliary training ship to HMS Worcester.

Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark was brought to Greenwich by the Cutty Sark Preservation Society in December 1954 and put to rest in a specially constructed dry-dock. Over two and a half years were spent on the ship's restoration, and in 1957 the ship was opened to the public.

Nearly 50 years later, the ship was closed again for an ambitious conservation project to address major structural issues and ensure the long term preservation of this iconic vessel. Cutty Sark reopened in April 2014, fully conserved, with a unique new offer; the ship had been raised over three metres allowing visitors for the first time to walk under a three-masted sailing ship and to see the secrets of her success.

For more information or to book tickets visit www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark

The Cutty Sark Historic Trading Partners

More fascinating history about the famous Cutty Salk, and not to forget, our fabulous blends!

Cutty Sark Historic Trading Partners

Cutty Sark - The Fastest Tea Clipper

Cutty Sark is arguably one of the most famous ships in the world and, as we mentioned, it was re-launched on April 26th, 2012 as a living testimony to the bygone days of sail and more importantly, as a monument to those that lost their lives in the merchant service. The re-launch of this astonishing vessel allows you to venture both below and aboard the three-masted sailing ship, showing you the spectacular design that made this ship so successful. We highly recommend a visit, you won’t have ever seen anything like it!

Cutty Sark owner John Willis & co.

The ship, Cutty Sark was originally built for "White Hat Willis", so named because he always wore a white top hat. His ambition was for the Cutty Sark to be the fastest ship in the annual race to bring home the first of the new season's tea from China. The ship was built and launched in Dumbarton, Scotland in 1869 and embarked upon its first tea voyage to the Far East in 1870. The Cutty Sark continued to transport tea until 1877 at which point she was consigned to carry various cargoes to and from London, Japan, Singapore, India and the Philippines.

Cutty Sark - loading tea

The closest Cutty Sark came to winning the tea race was in 1872. On arriving in Shanghai in late May 1872, she met a rival ship, the Thermopylae, when loading her tea cargo. They both set sail on 17th June 1872 and were closely matched for much of the journey.

Thanks to a strong tail wind, by 7th August, Cutty Sark had a 400 mile lead on the Thermopylae, however disaster struck on 15th August, when her rudder gave way. Having reconstructed the rudder twice in heavy seas, she made it back to London on 19th October, 7 days after the Thermopylae.

Sadly, Cutty Sark never came that close again and in 1877 she moved on to other cargo transportation including travelling to and from Australia carrying the likes of coal and wool.

Following a number of transfers of ownership and undergoing a couple of restorations, sadly following a closure to the public in 2006 for restoration, she suffered a major fire on board in 2007 causing considerable damage, delays and drainage of funds.

Thankfully, following an extraordinary uplift grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, restoration is now complete and this magnificent ship is open to the public once more and looking for majestic than ever.

Cutty Sark