The Sinking of the Titanic

The 15th April 1912 was a dark day in maritime history. RMS Titanic sank during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, after hitting an iceberg. The Titanic was built at Harland and Wolff, Belfast and was the largest passenger liner in the world at the time. The accident resulted in the loss of over 1500 lives. 

News of the tragedy spread around the world and the sinking was huge news in the media. Punch included a dedication to those who drowned.  

“Tears for the dead, who shall not come again
Homeward to any shore on any tide!
Tears for the dead! But through that bitter rain
Breaks, like an April sun, the smile of pride.

What courage yielded place to others’ need,
Patient of discipline supreme decree,
Well may we guess who know that gallant breed
Schooled in the ancient chivalry of the sea! O.S.”

Page from Punch magazine showing two women holding hands dressed in Roman attire with a dedication written underneith.
Toll of the Sea [Dedicated to the memory of the brave men who went down in the Titanic], dated 15th April 1912. Punch, 20th Century Collection, 052 PUN, v. 142, 24th April 1912.

People wrote of the Titanic’s sinking in their diaries and in letters. The M. P., Charles Philips Trevelyan wrote to his daughter, asking if Miss Clarke had told her of the accident. 

The letter reads,

“Has Miss Clarke told you the dreadful story of the ship-wreck of the Titanic? It struck on an ice-berg and went down and hundreds of people were drowned.”

Letter from Charles Philips Trevelyan to Pauline Trevelyan, 20th April 1912.
Letter from Charles Philips Trevelyan to his daughter, Pauline Trevelyan, 20th April 1912. Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT/4/1/9/73.

His wife, Mary Trevelyan, known as Molly, wrote in her diary of the tragedy,

“The last week has been overshadowed by the most terrible shipping disaster that has ever happened. There are two giant White Star ships, The Olympic and The Titanic, the biggest liners afloat. The Titanic with 2,200 on board, started on her maiden voyage at the end of last week and on Sunday night, just before midnight, she struck an iceberg, 600 miles from the American coast and sunk in 2.5 hours. All the women and children were saved, but hardly any men. There were 13 lifeboats full, and overfull. The titanic marconied for help, and the Carpathia came under full steam, and arrived at dawn to fill the boats but no Titanic. The accounts are heartrending, and one could hardly read them without tears.” 

Diary entry extract of Mary Trevelyan, 20th April 1912
Extract from Mary Trevelyan’s diary, 20th April 1912. Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT/2/1/13

The former Professor of Classics at Armstrong College, John Wight Duff, wrote of how the disaster was mentioned in the Church service he attended at Croft, on 21st April 1912.

The diary entry from 21st April 1912 reads,

“The Rector’s sermon was on Exod. [Exodus] XV. 5. “The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone” and touched on “the week of eclipse when it was dark at noonday” and shadowed with the gloom of the loss of the Titanic on an ice field and the drowning of over 1400 passengers and crew.”

Extract from Professor John Wight Duff’s diary
Extract from Professor John Wight Duff’s diary, 21st April 1912. Duff (Professor John Wight) Diaries, JWD/01/01/03

The journalist and author Frederic Whyte, mentions the event in a letter to his then future wife. Included are cuttings about another passenger who perished, the journalist W. T. Stead being aboard the ship, as well as information of a special service held in his memory.

Press cuttings on W. T. Stead in a letter from Frederic Whyte to Karin Lija, 21st April 1912
Press cuttings on W. T. Stead in a letter from Frederic Whyte to Karin Lilja (later Whyte), 21st April 1912. Whyte (Frederic) Archive, FW/2

There has always been a lot of interest in the Titanic, partly as it was known as the “unsinkable” ship. The wreck of the Titanic was eventually discovered in September 1985, when it was discovered to have split into two., but due to deterioration the ship has never been raised.  There have been further expeditions to the wreck to recover items, leading to various exhibitions about it around the world. 

Many books, fiction and non-fiction including Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic and films, including James Cameron’s Titanic.

In recent years a Titanic Quarter has been developed in Belfast which is proving to be a popular visitor attraction and ensuring that the name Titanic lives on.

19th December – Professor Duff 25th December 1942 Diary Entry

#ChristmasCountdown

25th December 1942

25th December 1942 diary extract from Professor Duff

Extract from Professor Duff’s 1942 diary entry. Professor Duff explains what he did on Christmas day and of the assassination of admiral Darlan during World War II.

FRIDAY 25           Christmas Day – Bank Holiday in U.K.

“Sunday” bells allowed to ring for Christmas everywhere. We exchanged presents and greetings. Damp most of the day. Another considerable mail came to us. At a short Xmas service Dr. Bacon addressed his congregation on the significance of the shepherds going to Bethlehem, Luke 2.15

Christmas midday dinner at the grand Hotel. 2-3 Wireless greetings to and from allies all over the world & “peeps” into Christmas parties. 3pm. The King spoke urging brotherhood. He was much less hesitating than usual. We made an early black-out, & by 3.45 we all four were at the Anderstones for tea. Home again n time for 6 o’clock news – chief item this morning at 9 a.m. was the assassination in Algiers of admiral Darlan who came over recently to the allied side though had unfairly at an earlier time slandered Britain as hostile to them the “generous” Hitler!!

This diary is part of Professor John Wight Duff Diaries Collection. Find out more here.

15th December – Thomas Sopwith 26th December 1867 Diary Extract

#ChristmasCountdown

26th December 1867 diary entry

26th December diary entry from Thomas Sopwith’s 1867 diary

The image and extract are taken from 26th December 1867 diary entry page from Thomas Sopwith’s diary.

Dec. 26th 1867
In the finenoon Mr. John Weightson called and I had a very agreable communication with him on several subjects. In the evening my daughters and a few of their young friends had a dress rehearsal of a little drawing room drama “The Duchess of Mansfelt.” – for which some frame work, a curtain and lights had been skillyfully arranged during the day. The servants, workmen and others formed the audience and the performance passed off very well. I then exhibited in the lobby a new toy called the “Wheel of Life” and a number of photographic and other pictures with all which they were gratified and the evening therefore partook of a cheerful character worthy of Christmas time._,,_,,_,,_,,

The diaries of Thomas Sopwith (1803-1879), mining engineer, land surveyor and philanthropist in the north-east of England, cover the period 1828-1879. They form a meticulous account of the professional life of Sopwith, detailing his work, projects and his travels both for business and for enjoyment. The diaries also include sketches and illustrations of people, views, and buildings and often include descriptions of lectures and conversations with people Sopwith met on his travels.

Click here, to find out more about the Thomas Sopwith Diaries.

The Outbreak of World War I: “Charlie” Resigns – July 2014

Photograph of Charles Philips Trevelyan & Molly Trevelyan
Photograph of Charles Philips Trevelyan and Molly Trevelyan.

The 28th June marked the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. This became known as the ‘shot heard round the world’ because of the diplomatic crisis it caused between Britain, Germany, and Russia, leading to the outbreak of World War I.

Such hostilities were not universally welcome, especially amongst the more radical elements of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s Liberal party. Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870 – 1958), was one such dissenter, who felt Britain’s declaration of war was wholly unjustified.

In her diary, contained within our Trevelyan Papers, his wife Mary “Molly” Katharine Trevelyan (1881 – 1966) explains:

EXTRACT 1

Extract from Molly Treveylan's diary "Towards the end of July, an Austrian Grand Duke, on a visit to Servia, had been murdered. Austria demanded an apology, Servia would not give it. On July 28th Austria declared war on Servia. Russia at once joined in as Servia's ally, and Germany as Austria's"
Extract from personal diary of Molly Trevelyan, April 22nd 1912 – December 28 1914 (Trevelyan (Charles Philips, CPT/2/1/14)

TranscriptionTowards the end of July, an Austrian Grand Duke, on a visit to Servia, had been murdered. Austria demanded an apology, Servia would not give it. On July 28th Austria declared war on Servia. Russia at once joined in as Servia’s ally, and Germany as Austria’s.

Molly goes on to detail Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Sir Edward Grey’s now much derided lack of clear communication towards Germany. She states on two occasions when asked whether Britain would act if Belgium was invaded or France was engaged, he merely replied cryptically “we must keep our hands free.” Molly also touches on the view held by many Liberal radicals that Grey “had in secret committed himself so deeply to France, in what was practically an alliance, that in honour he could do no less than declare war on Germany.”

Indeed, her husband was chief amongst this opposition. She writes:

EXTRACT 2

Extract from Molly Trevelyan's personal diary "I had expected him home on Sat. Aug. 1st but he telegraphed to say the state of affairs kept him in London. He and Norman Angell had formed a Neutrality C'tee and were trying to get people together to support their views. On Aug 5, Wednesday, we heard that war had been declared at midnight. That same day Charlie resigned"
Extract from personal diary of Molly Trevelyan, April 22nd 1912 – December 28 1914 (Trevelyan (Charles Philips, CPT/2/1/14)

TranscriptionI had expected him home on Sat. Aug. 1st but he telegraphed to say the state of affairs kept him in London. He and Norman Angell had formed a Neutrality C’tee and were trying to get people together to support their views. On Aug 5, Wednesday, we heard that war had been declared at midnight. That same day Charlie resigned.

Sir Charles’ crisis of conscience led to widespread hostility from his contemporaries, including the press, his constituents, and members of his own family. He lost his place in parliament in the 1918 election and spent 4 years in the political wilderness. He was vindicated only amongst likeminded radicals and through the support and comfort of his wife Molly and the affairs of their estate at Wallington.

Royal Wedding Treasure Special – Royal Wedding 2011

Postcard photograph of Mr and Mrs Charles Trevelyan
Postcard photograph of Mr and Mrs Charles Trevelyan, c. 1904 (Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT 1/3/4)

To celebrate the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday 29th April 2011 we bring you a special ‘wedding’ treasure!

The postcard photograph above shows Mr. and Mrs. Charles Trevelyan with the Trevelyan family crest, which bears the motto ‘Time tests faith’. Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870 – 1958) married Mary Bell (1881 – 1966), the half sister of Gertrude Bell, in 1904. Special Collections holds Charles’ papers, the Liberal MP who famously defected to Labour in 1918. It is unknown what this postcard was used for. It dates from after their wedding in 1904 as they are identified as ‘Mr and Mrs Trevelyan’. It may have been part of a thank you note to guests for their wedding presents or simply a portrait of the newly-married couple that they sent out to family and friends.

Special Collections also holds the papers of Mary Trevelyan (who was known as Molly), including her diaries for the years 1892 – 1917. The page below is taken from her diary for 1904 and is among a series of entries regarding their wedding day.

Newspaper clippings from Molly Trevelyan's diary, listing the presents that were gifted to Charles and Molly Trevelyan on their wedding day
Newspaper clippings from Molly Trevelyan’s diary, listing the presents that were gifted to Charles and Molly Trevelyan on their wedding day, 1904 (Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT 2/1/9)

They include her handwritten account of the wedding day with cuttings from the press and a complete list of gifts received by the bride and bridegroom.

This page shows one of three cut-out from the newspaper listing all the wedding presents they received and who they were from.

The fact that this was published in the press shows that the public appetite for information about the rich and famous has always been strong!

Gifts included a grand piano from the mother of the bride; a fur coat from the father of the bride to the groom; numerous collections of books and poems, including The Life of Gladstone from Mr and Mrs Gladstone; some letters written by Dickens; tea sets; writing desks; two grandfather clocks; hundreds of items of silverware; and more candlesticks and inkstands than anyone could ever find occasion to use!

Wedding presents have been given since ancient times. They have normally been practical items for the new couple’s home. However, in some cultures guests would have been expected to contribute to the wedding banquet as a thank you for their invitation! The idea of the wedding trousseau or ‘bottom-drawer’ put together by the bride’s family has its origins in the dowry. Dowry is an ancient custom, which has been practised around the world throughout history. This has often been money but can also include a selection of goods paid for by the bride’s family to furnish the newlywed’s home. As many newlywed couples did not have much money, the bride’s mother would put away household goods, including homemade items often in a bottom drawer, starting before their daughters had even met their future husband! The idea was to create a collection of everything a young woman setting-up her first home would need. Some ostentatious Victorians even introduced a ‘trousseau tea’ in an effort to out-do each other, where wealthy families would display trunk loads of linens, china and clothes they had put together for their daughters!

Nowadays, as many couples live together before marriage, wedding gift lists are more likely to include luxury items rather than practical ones and many couples choose not to have traditional gifts at all, instead asking guests to contribute money to a honeymoon, they could perhaps not otherwise afford. Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton have asked guests to donate money to charity rather than buy them wedding presents. This is likely to lead to hundreds of thousands of pounds being donated to the twenty-six, not very well-known, charities that the couple have chosen. Of course there are some advantages – they are less likely to end up with things they do not need. The Queen and Prince Philip received five hundred cases of tinned pineapple and ingredients for their wedding cake from the Australian people when they married in 1947. However, William and Kate they are still likely to receive numerous presents from the general public. Prince Charles and Princess Diana received thousands of presents from well-wishers around the world after their marriage at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981, including a roomful of antique furniture from Canada and twenty silver platters inscribed with their wedding date from Australia. A selection of the presents was placed on display at St. James’s Palace and some items were later distributed to charity. After all there are only so many toasters and kettles that a Royal couple needs!