Cutty Sark – Shape, Form and Beauty

Sometimes, when visiting a famous monument, I find that what attracts me most is the visual. Take the Cutty Sark, one of the last tea clippers to be built on the Clyde in 1863 and now permanently on display at Greenwich. There’s something about the interconnected intricacy of the rigging and masts, together with the elegant shape of the ship’s hull, which I find aesthetically deeply satisfying.

1 Hull

The hull

From this angle, it looks like some futuristic butterfly, and the shape of that curving hull is just beautiful.

2 Cutty Sark view of

General view of the Cutty Sark

What I like about this photo is the way the ropes and masts are all connected, and every single rope has its own special job to do. You can just see one of the permanent rigging team beginning to climb the rope ladder. Later, I spoke to him and he told me that the rigging is constantly being repaired ‘like the Forth Bridge’.

3 Rigging


I love seeing the Georgian buildings (now the Heritage Centre) through the rigging.

4 buckets


Just wandering round the ship offers more visual delights. I love these wooden buckets. Note how closely they fit the holes in the wooden shelf. They are works of art in themselves.

5 Poop ship's bell

Poop ship’s bell

I like the variety of rope and string against the strong image of the brass bell. A huge amount of top quality rope is vital to the proper sailing of the tea clipper and I admire the netting with its neat ‘bannister’ edging of thicker rope.

6 Rigging ropes

Rigging ropes

The rigger I spoke to told me that there are dozens of possible knots that ropes can be tied in and each one has its own special job to do. Here you can see that each rope is carefully coiled and knotted both to hold securely but in such a way that it can be undone instantly with the minimum of fuss.

7 Tiller

The tiller

I love the way the tiller is exactly fit for purpose. Note the awning of sail above it to offer some shade or shelter to the helmsman.

Well, there we are; a quick visual tour round the rightly world famous Cutty Sark. It’s a wonderful place to visit, especially on a sunny day.

Elizabeth Hawksley


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4 thoughts on “Cutty Sark – Shape, Form and Beauty”

  1. I love that first picture. Reminded me of seeing the band British Sea Power perform under the Cutty Sark a couple of years ago…
    They played a live soundtrack to the film “From the Sea to the Land Beyond”, a compilation of old newsreel footage from the around the British coastline. A perfect matching of location, vision and music.

  2. I really enjoyed the youtube clip, John. One forgets just how many men it took to sail a tea clipper. Thank you for the link.

  3. Thank you for your comment, Julie. I really enjoyed going back over my photos to choose the best ones to put up. I’m delighted you enjoyed it.

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