These Incredible, Heartbreaking Titanic Objects Are Stashed Away In South London

By Londonist Last edited 7 months ago
These Incredible, Heartbreaking Titanic Objects Are Stashed Away In South London

A model of RMS Titanic depicted about to sink, its stern high out of the water, made in wood, plaster and a variety of other materials, and painted in realistic colours. This model was used in promotion of the 1958 film A Night to Remember. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Museums from Belfast to Southhampton to Missouri honour RMS Titanic. But a lesser-known collection in Kidbrooke, south east London contains some incredibly personal, and poignant, artefacts from the passengers and staff on board.  

The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre houses a breathtaking stash of maritime objects — from celestial globes, to Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson's teacup.

One section of the collection focuses on original artefacts and memorabilia related to the Titanic tragedy of April 1912. Some were acquired by Walter Lord, writer of  A Night To Remember, which was turned into a film in 1958, and strongly influenced James Cameron's 1997 Titanic. Lord corresponded with, and collected from, a number of Titanic survivors, as well as buying material at auction.

Here, we take a closer look at some of these artefacts, with notes from Jeremy Michell, Senior Curator of Maritime Technologies at Royal Museums Greenwich.

Gold pocket watch retrieved from the drowned body of Robert Douglas Norman, one of over 300 second-class passengers aboard Titanic. Norman worked for the AEG Electric Company in Glasgow but had resigned his appointment with the intention of visiting his brother in Vancouver before completing a world tour. He was 27 when he died. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Webley Mark IV revolver. It is said that 5th Officer Lowe of the Titanic used a revolver to quell the crowd of passengers when the ship was sinking (used in an infamous scene in the 1997 movie). Although not this revolver, he possibly used a similar Webley service revolver. © Royal Museums Greenwich

"The undoing of the Titanic - nature of damage wrought by the iceberg". From the supplement to The Sphere, 27 April 1912. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Luncheon menu, signed by passengers, 14 April 1912. "Menus were an easy way to get a souvenir of your time on board a ship. As the ship was on her maiden voyage, it made it even more special to have a memento, so getting your fellow diners to sign it for you added to the uniqueness of the experience. In this case it has been signed by some of the crew of Carpathia, e.g. James W. Barker, as well as survivors, e.g. Mrs J J O'Neill (although she is a third class passenger under her maiden name of Margaret Devaney, and that surname is in inverted commas after her married name on the menu), May Futrelle, a first class passenger whose husband Jacque Futrelle did not survive the sinking. More work needs to be done to decipher some of the signatures in order to get a better picture of who signed it and when." © Royal Museums Greenwich

Second Class dinner menu from the last night on the Titanic, 14 April, 1912, kept by survivor Mrs Bertha J. Marshall (nee Watt). © Royal Museums Greenwich

A toy pig belonging to Edith Russell, which was carried off the Titanic. "In a 1974 interview, Edith recited the story that the sailor thought the pig was her baby. In fact the pig is a music box and a while ago the museum managed to get it working again. It plays Charles Borel-Clerq's 1905 La Sorella. The pig was part of the PR for A Night to Remember, where there is a photograph of Edith with the actress who played her, and the pig. The pig represents much about human superstition, coincidence and how a simple item like this can take on a greater meaning than it was originally made for." © Royal Museums Greenwich
You can read more about Edith Russell's pig here. © Royal Museums Greenwich
Pair of silk embroidered slippers belonging to Edith Russell, worn during the disaster. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Letter from Marion Wright to her father, written onboard 'Titanic' headed paper, April 1912, posted at Queenstown. "This series of letters cover Marion's plans to go to the US to get married, a letter about her luggage requirements for the voyage, a quick letter about life on board (posted in Ireland). It is a nice, and slightly unusual survival of a series of letters that gives an insight into one second class passenger's preparation and experience before the sinking. They also remind us in our digital age that people relied on handwritten letters for news." © Royal Museums Greenwich

House flag, White Star Line - the company which owned Titanic. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Marconi cable form for Miss Edith Rosenbaum, a Titanic survivor, to Women's Wear Daily. The cable reads: 'Safe Carpathia, notify mother'. 18 April, 1912. Carpathia was the ship which rescued some of the Titanic's passengers. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Carpathia medal, bronze pendant. After the loss of Titanic the first and second class passengers formed a committee to raise a general fund - to aid destitute third class passengers, and to present a cup to Captain Rostron of Carpathia and medals to her crew. Molly Brown (Margaret Brown 1867-1932) chair of the committee presented the awards. © Royal Museums Greenwich

© Royal Museums Greenwich
One of a set of 12 photographs of Titanic lifeboat survivors, taken by Louis Mansfield Ogden, from the deck of the Carpathia. © Royal Museums Greenwich

Another lifeboat scene taken by Louis Mansfield Ogden. © Royal Museums Greenwich

A memorial button commemorating a passenger who perished. © Royal Museums Greenwich
A whale tooth, etching with a sinking Titanic: "We do not know who it was from, but it was for Walter Lord, possibly given to him as he was known to be interested in Titanic memorabilia. He collected a lot of material, some of which is only tangentially relevant to Titanic, such as a lot of postcards of White Star passenger ships." © Royal Museums Greenwich

The Prince Philip Maritime Collections Centre, Kidbrooke, is open to the public for tours and events in non-lockdown times.

Last Updated 08 March 2021