A Brief History of the Society

In 1937 a number of researchers in Liverpool had the idea of forming a local Research Society. Arthur C.Wardle and W. Stewart Rees got together with some ship modellers notably Messrs W. McQ. Mather,  Harry Owen, V.H. Green and Mr. H.N. Leask, A.I.M.I.C.E., and others. The latter were interested in getting greater accuracy in their models. The original idea was supported by the Sea Breezes magazine who advocated  “preserving a Maritime Epoch.”

Further support came from the City Librarian,  Mr. J.F. Smith, M.A., F.R.S.A., who arranged a private meeting at the Picton Reference Library, on Wednesday, 23rd March, 1938. To add interest to the evening Mr. Smith arranged a special exhibit of shipping records, marine pictures and books.

This informal get together was successful and those present agreed to form a  Liverpool Nautical Research Society with the following objectives:

  • To encourage a public interest in Liverpool’s maritime and. ship history
  • To collect and collate all available material relating to Liverpool ships and. seamen of the past
  • To undertake an historical survey of locally owned vessels, their masters and owners.

They agreed to hold an inaugural meeting on Monday, 11th April, 1938, to elect a Chairman, Officers and. Committee. Subsequently this meeting was held in the Accountants’ Hall, Fenwick Street, Liverpool. It was  reported in the Liverpool Daily Post  the next day.

The subscription was fixed at 5/— per annum, and the following officers and committee were elected.

  • Chairman: Captain E.A. Woods
  • Secretary and Treasurer: Arthur C. Wardle
  • Recorder: W. Stewart Rees
  • Committee:   H. Owen, T. Hughes, K. Hopkins, H.N. Leask, J.F. Hall, V.H. Green

A month later the society met at the School of Commerce, Tithebarn Street, Liverpool, where, in addition to adopting a Constitution and Rules, Mr. Arthur C. Wardle presented a paper  entitled. “Early Liverpool vessels and Trade”. Lord Derby accepted the presidency of the society by letter dated the 4th June 1938.

The start of the Second World War had a deep effect on the society which basically had to be shut down for about three years. However some of the members were keen to restart proceedings, thus on the 3rd October 1942  a meeting was  held in Richmond Street, where the society reformed.

This meeting was, in fact, the first Annual General Meeting, where the election of officers and council took place. A paper entitled, “The White Star Australian Packets” was read by Captain E.A.Woods, who continued as chairman of the society.

At this time meetings were held on Saturday afternoons as a safety measure whilst hostilities lasted but evening meetings were resumed in October 1945. From this time the society has continued to  promote its activities with a series of papers, illustrated lectures etc with occasional visits to dock installations and ships.

In February 1952 the Society became affiliated to the Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, and members are invited to their lectures whenever they were of a nautical character.

Members have always been active in research, particularly about Liverpool ships, their owners, builders and voyages. Numerous papers and records were produced and were deposited in the Picton Library, William Brown Street, Liverpool. The 100th meeting of the society was held on the 7th December 1955 where it was decided to publish a booklet “In Retrospect 1938 – 1955” giving a brief outline of the origins of the society. 

Over the years the venues for the monthly meetings have varied. These included the  Crane Studio, Cunard Buildings, Dock Offices, Common Hall, Ocean Club, and Clubshlp Landfall. In the 1960’s the Landfall, an ex-tank landing craft (as LCT 7074 she took part in D-Day) was a particularly appropriate venue and  a popular rendezvous being in a central location near to bus, train and ferry services with good  car parking nearby.

The Landfall was eventually converted into a riverside nightclub and restaurant  and was no longer available to our society. In 1972 with the closure of the South Docks the Landfall was moved to Collingwood Dock, a less convenient location for most members.

Fortunately the society was then able to hold its monthly meetings in the Liverpool Maritime Museum. This arrangement continued for a good  number of years when in 2014, the museum authorities notified the society that the education suite, where the meetings were held, would no longer be available. A number of different locations were considered and the venue that was finally picked was the Athenaeum in Church Alley in central Liverpool.

A quarterly pamphlet, “News, Notes and Queries” was established in January 1951. The first editor was Mr. Keith P. Lewis, followed by Mr. Summerfield and later by Mr. A, Stuart Mountfield. This publication eventually became “The Bulletin” where members publish the results of their nautical research. As such it has received high praise for the quality of the writing and range of  its contents.  In 2008 on the 70th anniversary of the founding our society Lloyds Lists noted that, “……..Liverpool Nautical Research Society publishes a hugely readable, regular bulletin……” 

The society today continues to have a good working relationship with the Merseyside Maritime Museum, particularly the staff at the library. Over the years the society has carried out various projects suggested by the library staff. This has included producing a database of early steamships registered at Liverpool, indexing the subsidiary Register Books of Non-Liverpool Registered Vessel 1788 – 1818 plus other work. Cooperation with the library staff continues to the present time (2017) on a number of maritime projects.

In 2002 the LNRS instituted a “Student Award Scheme.” This was an annual award that was open to students in higher education with an interest in maritime activities.

Local and national universities were given details of the prize and the winner was given a cash prize of £200. Entrants had to write on a topic of maritime interest and a winner selected by a small group of society members. Examples of the winning entries include;

  • Development of organisations concerned with Welfare of Seamen on the Mersey 1820 – 1970 (S.D. Wilson – Liverpool Hope University)
  • Ro-Ro Tugmasters: an Economic Dissertation   (Sarah Kennedy – Liverpool John Moores University)
  • Liverpool Slave trade in the late Eighteen Century   (Denise M. Jones Liverpool Hope University)
  • The Development of Fuel Saving Techniques in Merchant Vessels   (P.R. Moore Liverpool John Moores University)

In 2017 the society continues to flourish with about 200 members. Monthly meeting with guest speakers continue to be held and  members still meet in the informal atmosphere at the Maritime Museum Library each Monday, so the society continues in “preserving a Maritime Epoch.”