Tag Archives: London statues

Plimsoll Line

This is a Guest Post from Baldwin Hamey.

This peculiar symbol that looks like some sort of secret code, is in fact the symbol painted on the hull of a ship to ensure the ship is not overloaded.

The line through the middle of the circle is known as the International Load Line, Plimsoll line or water line, and that line is not to disappear under water when the ship is loaded up.

[W]hen Samuell Plimsoll (1824-1898) came up with the scheme, the circle and the horizontal line where all that was required, but over time the additional symbol on the right was added to allow for different water conditions and hence different water densities.

Plimsoll was not the first to come up with the idea; there were already loading regulations in Crete 2,500 BC and in the Venetian Republic, and the city of Genoa and the Hanseatic League required ships to show a load line. In the case of Venice this was a cross marked on the side of the ship, and for Genoa three horizontal lines. In the 1860s, losses of ships through overloading increased dramatically and Samuel Plimsoll set out to find a solution. In 1867, he tried to get a bill passed through Parliament dealing with the load line question, but in vain as there were too many shipowning MPs who feared for their profits. Subsequently, Plimsoll published Our Seamen. An Appeal in which he set out his concerns and solution. Following the publication, a Royal Commission on unseaworthy ships was set up. In 1876, the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act made the load line mark compulsory.


On 14 February 1928, almost 30 years after Plimsoll’s death, a notice appeared in The Times, announcing plans to erect a statue to honour Plimsoll.

Permission is being sought from the Office of Works to set up, at the Westminster end of the Embankment, a statue of Samuel Plimsoll, known as “the Sailors’ Friend”, and the originator of the load line for British shipping. The statue which weighs three tons, is of bronze on a granite base, and is the work of Mr. P.V. Blundstone, of Kensington. The Seamen’s Union decided, instead of endeavouring to raise money for the memorial by public subscription, to defray the cost themselves. Mr. J. Havelock Wilson, the president of the National Union of Seamen, said that the idea of a memorial to Plimsoll had been in the minds of those associated with the seamen’s movement for some time. Seafarers from all parts of the world would attend the ceremony.

It took a year and a half to sort out the permission and logistics, but the Daily Mail of 21 August, 1929, could announce in their ‘To-day’s events’ column that “Sir Walter Runciman unveils memorial to Samuel Plimsoll, Victoria Embankment Gardens”. A very short announcement, but one with a lasting result as we can still walk past the gardens (on the outside, at the Embankment side) to see the statue.





Although plimsoll or plimsole shoes, that is shoes with canvas uppers and a rubber sole, had been known since the 1830s, they only had a name change from ‘sand shoe’ to ‘plimsole’ in the 1870s, because the horizontal line on the rubber resembled the plimsoll line on ships. And as with ships, if the water came above the line, you got wet.


More information on the Plimsoll Line and on Samuel Plimsoll himself on the Wikipedia-pages here and here.

This is a Guest Post from Baldwin Hamey who I’m assured by his blog is a pen-name, a pseudonym, or an alias, who, for someone born in Bruges in 1568 curiously is on Facebook. Whatever, he blogs about London Details and publishes under a Creative Commons Licence. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The two Queens of Fleet Street

This week Scotland goes to the polls
in the most decisive vote in our nation’s history.

At stake is nothing less than the breakup of the Union, which has existed for over 300 years, between England and Scotland, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

Will Scotland become a nation state or will it remain part of the United Kingdom?

[B]efore a ’United Kingdom’ was forged two women fought for dominance over their respective territories. And curiously their effigies are to be found in London only a few yards apart.

Mary Queen of Scots

In Fleet Street Mary Queen of Scots House was built in 1905 for a Scottish insurance company. The Queen’s statue was the idea of the developer John Tollemache Sinclair, who was a big fan of the ill-fated lady.

The architect, R. M. Roe, concocted a facade as frilly as a doily with lashings of French flamboyant tracery. Sadly, the carver of the statue is unknown.

The likeness seems to be the only outside memorial of Mary to be found south of the Border which lead to recent demands for a statue to be erected in Scotland.

Ironically, it stands just along the road from a figure of her nemesis, Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth

Hidden inside the courtyard of St. Dunstan-in-the-West a little further along Fleet Street is this effigy of Queen Elizabeth I. This is the only known statue of Elizabeth to have been carved during her lifetime and dates from 1586.

The statue however has had a more glorious past than this obscure churchyard where it has now stood for over 170 years. The statue once stood proudly near the bottom of Ludgate Hill, beside the ’Lud’ Gate, dedicated to King Lud – the mythical King, who according to legend founded London.

Beside the gatehouse was the famous Ludgate prison. After being severely damaged during the Great Fire of London the prison and gate were demolished in 1760. The statue at that time was placed in the basement of a nearby pub for safety.

Forgotten for almost a century and re-discovered by workmen whilst demolishing the pub in 1839.

Eventually Queen Elizabeth was bought by the Marquis of Hertford, along with the statues of King Lud, Androgeus and Tenvantius taken from the same ancient gateway.

These statues once seen by thousands are kept relatively hidden inside the churchyard, a final resting place in the alcove of obscurity.