Merseyside Maritime Museum


Story: Darren White
Photography: Darren White
Thursday, September 13 2018

Merseyside Maritime Museum (MMM)
Royal Albert Dock
Liverpool Waterfront
Liverpool
L3 4AQ
England
Telephone: 0151 478 4499
http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/

Visitor Information:
FREE Entry, Open daily from 10am- 5pm
How to get there: https://albertdock.com/visitor-information
Train: take the Merseyrail line from Liverpool's Lime Street Station (lower platform level) to James Street Station: the MMM is about a 5 minute walk from there.
Car: there is limited pay and display parking at the Albert Dock and is expensive. Better to park in one of the secure, multi-storey car parks near by. Again, 5-10 minute walk to the MMM.
Walking: 5 minutes from James Street Station; 7 minutes from Liverpool One (main shopping complex); 15 mins from Liverpool Central Station.
Disabled Access: Wheelchairs: there are two ramped accesses (gradients 1:12 and 1:15) and a lift to all floors.
Facilities: Free wifi, Cafe (with seating outside overlooking the dock), Restaurant and Shop.
Site History:

The Merseyside Maritime Museum forms part of Liverpool's historic waterfront, housed in a former bonded warehouse on the north side of the Albert Dock. It once stored tobacco, wines and spirits. The building was designed by dock engineer, Jesse Hartley, built between 1843-7. It officially opened on 30 July 1846 by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband and consort. It's also a Grade I listed building.

The complex recently received royal status this year and can now call itself Royal Albert Dock.

Other museums at the MMM: The International Slavery Museum and Border Force National Museum (links at the bottom of page). The Pier Master's House is a 5 minute walk and the Museum of Liverpool Life, 10 minutes.

The MMM also stands adjacent to Tate Liverpool.

What's to see and do?

On arriving at the museum foyer take a moment to peer through the large window in front of you overlooking the Albert Dock. Better still, step outside and imagine the scene 172 years ago when Prince Albert had just opened the docks, named in his honour, five years before Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in London, in 1851.

Imagine the bustling dock-side activity of Victorian Britain's second largest port as stevedores toiled alongside steam-powered cranes, unloading goods from all around the world.

The bonded warehouse/integrated dock system was developed as a secure environment: enabling ship owners to unload their cargo and store it in the warehouses nearby without having to pay duty on it until it was sold. This vastly improved the ship owner's cash-flow by up to 25-33% and virtually stopped the 'disappearance' of goods travelling from dock to warehouses located in town.

On returning to the museum, the reception desk is just to your left, and the shop just beyond that.

The museum hosts a series of temporary exhibitions: on the ground floor (at the time of my visit) it was 'Black Salt: Britain’s Black sailors' reveals the contribution Black seafarers have made to some of the most significant maritime events of the past 500 years. On the first floor, 'Hello Sailor, gay life on the ocean wave'.

Lusitania: life, loss, legacy (first floor):

Is a major gallery about the tragic story of Liverpool Cunard ship, RMS Lusitania, torpedoed by a German U-Boat, 7 May 1915, with the loss of 1191 lives.

Some harrowing eyewitness accounts form the main narration of the exhibit. There are tales of heroism, as in the case with Able Seaman, Joseph Parry, who with a colleague saved over 100 lives. A bronze medal he received from King George V is on display - is just one example.

The exhibit is a survivor's tale, told by those who experienced the tragedy first-hand. Many of the display cases contain their personal effects which have been loaned to the museum by their descendants. A unique collection which adds a personal touch to the tragedy.

Battle of the Atlantic (first floor):

Was a war of attrition between the German U-boat high command and the British Merchant Navy. It was the longest military campaign of WWII, and itself, a significant chapter of naval wartime history.

You can hear the exhibit before you see it: the sound of crashing waves from a tempest draws you round the corner to a large screen. There we stand before the bow of a merchantman being rolled and pitched across the sea... always never fails to send shivers down my back!

Winston Churchill once wrote in his memoirs '... the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril'.

And with good reason too. Had Germany been successful in stopping the million tons of imported goods required each day to sustain the British war effort - the country would have folded and a German victory would have been certain.

The exhibition tells of the merchant navy losses, the U-boat threat, the fight back and life at sea - during the turmoil through personal testimony.

One of the displays highlights the life and career of Captain Johnny Walker, of HMS Starling. He was responsible for taking the fight directly to the enemy. His tactic was to hunt down U-boats ahead of the convoy, forcing them to dive to take cover, rendering their torpedo's inactive. Walker then seized the opportunity to eliminate the threat by dropping depth charges over them, thereby protecting the convoy fleet.

Other sites of interest in the city:

The Western Approaches Museum is based in the original Command Centre for the Battle of the Atlantic, and is definitely worth a visit if you'd like learn more about the battle.

http://www.liverpoolwarmuseum.co.uk/
Marine Art Gallery:

Unfortunately, at the time of my visit, the gallery was undergoing restoration. The collection features works by the following artists: Samuel Walters, John Stobart, Joseph Heard, John Wilson Carmichael, Robert W. Salmon, Charles William Wyllie, David Shepherd and many others.

If you're a fan of maritime art you can access the entire collection online here:

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/collections:merseyside-maritime-museum/page/2
Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story

The RMS Titanic needs no introduction. This the museum's highlight exhibition showcasing Liverpool's links to the great ship.

It's 'untold' in that many of letters & correspondence from the passengers and crew who sailed on Titanic have not been made public before. Personal testimony (similar to the Lusitania exhibit) tells the story of personal loss and tragedy. The displays are centred around the builder's model of the Titanic/Olympic.

There was about 120 crew from within the Merseyside area on board Titanic, one of its main service corridors was nicknamed 'Scotland Road' after a main thoroughfare leading out of Liverpool.

Captain Smith famously decided to stay with Titanic as she went down, refusing to leave his post. His story is also told. He lived at Waterloo, nearby Liverpool.

The White Star Line owner: J. Bruce Ismay, born 12 Dec 1862, Crosby, Liverpool, who faced public scorn for 'surviving' the disaster, by escaping in a lifeboat earmarked for "women and children" was branded a coward by the world's press. He was never the same man afterwards. His life and effects are also on display.

The only surviving White Star Line first class ticket for the Titanic is featured too.

*The port of registration for Titanic was Liverpool. The name was carried on its' stern.

Other sites of interest in the city:

*Albion House (The White Star Line Building) 30 James Street, Liverpool, still exists and is now a hotel. It was designed by architect, Norman Shaw (who also designed Sherlock Holmes' Old Scotland Yard building in London). This was the registered address for Titanic.

Families of passengers surrounded the building following news of the disaster, in 1912, attempting to glean reports of any survivors. Reports and updates were read to them from the balconies, staff fearing reprisals if they opened the doors.

Ship Models:

You won't be disappointed. The MMM hosts a fine collection of ship models of all sizes, including dioramas, distributed throughout the museum. Many of which are original builder's models, often presented to the owners upon completion.

Archives:

MMM archive and library is located on the second floor. It's currently undergoing refurbishment work but is due to be completed this autumn, 2018.

Cinema:

Free drop-in events: This month they're hosting: The Cruel Sea, 'based on the 1951 novel by Nicholas Monsarrat, this film portrays the conditions in which the Battle of the Atlantic was fought between the Royal Navy and Germany's U-boats. It is seen from the viewpoint of the British naval officers and seamen who served in convoy escorts. Starring Jack Hawkins.'

Free Public Lectures:

I recently attended a recent lecture by Steve Ragnall (of the Captain Cook Society) entitled: Liverpool and Captain Cook: Master of the Endeavour.

I really enjoyed Steve's talk, which mostly focused on Robert Molineaux, the Master of the Endeavour and his relationship with Cook and Joseph Banks. This was the first of Cook's voyages to track the transit of Venus, in 1769, from Tahiti.

Other museums with the MMM building:

International Slavery Museum
Border Force National Museum

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