National Maritime Museum Caird Library and Archive

Interesting Facts:

  • Largest maritime historical reference library
  • Opened in 2011 and immediately closed again for the Olympics
  • Houses approx. 80,000 maps and charts
  • Popular destination for genealogical research

The librarians at the Caird were filled with fascinating stories. They’d kindly set up a display for us showing various treasures in their library.

The first of which was a newspaper article celebrating Captain Matthew Webbe becoming the first to swim the English Channel unaided. Stawell Heard, the acquisitions librarian for the Caird, explained a bit of Webb’s history for us through a series of other objects. Webb joined the merchant marines at the age of 12! In the 1850s you were required to display your competency, and the library holds Webb’s certification declaring exactly that. He also served on the HMS Russia where he rather heroically jumped overboard and stayed in the freezing water for 37 minutes attempting to save a fellow shipmate from drowning. Years on, when he swam the English Channel he was in the water for 22 hours. The library had further news articles depicting his triumph. Sadly, they also have the article depicting his last stunt–he was crushed by the force of Niagra Falls as he attempted to swim the Whirlpool Rapids.

Other items of interest in their collection included a diary from the battle of Trafalgar, tickets to Captain Nelsen’s funeral, and a book once owned by Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling has a very strong connection to the museum. ¬†Having been very interested in the subject, Kipling wrote to the museum suggesting that they cover a wider spectrum than merely the Royal Navy. After his death, his widow donated around 80 of his books to the library stating that she was only doing , “what Rud would have wanted.”


For more information on the National Maritime Museum, click here!
All photos courtesy of Dr. Teresa Welsh.

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