Britannic Interiors and Fittings


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Jim Kalafus

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I have seen references made to the unused fittings from the Britannic (which included, I'm assuming, the unused panelling and other architectural elements) being auctioned after the war. Have any survived, and if so, are there any links to sites with photographs?
 
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Kathy Savadel

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Hello, James --

Someone told me recently that some of the Britannic's unused (i.e., original) fittings and interior elements are going up for auction this spring in England. I have lost the URL but will try to track it down for you.

Best regards,

Kathy
 

Eric Sauder

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Hi, Jim:

With regard to Britannic's fittings, here is a post I made on another list back in May of 2000 (with some alterations because I've learned more since then).

Someone asked: "Britannic Interiors - Where they dispersed a la Olympic across the planet when converted to a hospital ship?"

That has been a subject of many disagreements among historians over the years. Just how complete Britannic was when she was requisitioned as a hospital ship the second time is in some doubt, and no one has ever come forth with any proof to back up their stated positions one way or the other.

What we can do is examine the evidence we do have -- On 13 November 1915, Britannic was requisitioned as a hospital ship. Author Simon Mills states: "The few luxury fittings that were on board at this time were landed and placed in storage, to be replaced by the more practical fittings necessary in a hospital ship."

On 6 June 1916, Britannic was released from government service and, again according to Mills: "...the reconditioning of the Aquitania and Britannic for service on the North Atlantic went on undisturbed."

On 28 August 1916, Britannic was once again requisitioned as a hospital ship and left Belfast on 4 September. Between the time she was released from duty until the time she was recalled, Britannic had been at Harland & Wolff being reconditioned as a passenger liner for nearly three months. No doubt work proceeded rapidly and many of her fittings were on board. (Although three months doesn't seem like a lot of time, remember that Titanic was completely fitted out in just under a year.)

My feeling is that the six days between White Star being informed of her being taken over (28 August) and her departure from Belfast (4 September) is just not enough time to pull out any significant amount of fittings that were on board, especially when there were so many other things that had to be done to ready her for her hospital-ship role.

After an overnight voyage from Belfast, Britannic arrived in Southampton the following day. The important thing here is that she was only berthed in Southampton for a few days and was then moved to an anchorage off Cowes on 9 September, only *five* days after leaving Belfast, certainly not enough time to remove the fittings. She remained at this anchorage until departing for Naples on 24 September. In light of this, it seems likely to me that anything on board Britannic when she was re-requisitioned and left Belfast was lost with her when she sank.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the hospital personnel occupied many of the cabins intended for first-class passengers and senior crew. Violet Jessop was assigned to what would have been the doctor's cabin on Britannic had the ship entered commercial service and remembers thinking how "cozy" her cabin looked as she left it for the last time. To me this implies that the cabin was complete. And by extension (and I'm taking a leap here since I have no hard evidence), I would guess that a great many other cabins were also complete.

An auction of fittings from Britannic was held on 4 July 1919 and the items scattered to the wind. The whereabouts of a few Britannic fittings is known.

*A pub in Belfast that has a few bits and pieces of her Dining and Reception Rooms and some suite details.

*A private flat in Belfast has a large amount of paneling from two of her first-class suites.

*In the early 1990s, an auction house in Northern England was going to offer the bookcase from the second-class Library. Shortly before the sale, the auction house was contacted by a private party, and the bookcase was withdrawn. The purchaser was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

*A collector in Germany has had a fair bit of luck tracking down some fittings and paneling from her first-class staircases among other things.

*The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum has a panel from the first-class Lounge.

*Some of it wound up on other ships. A bed that had found its way onto Olympic was sold at auction a number of years ago. It was stamped "433" and sold for just over $1,000. My guess is that a fair bit was placed on Olympic. After all, these were fittings from a near-identical sistership, and there would have been no reason for White Star to "unload" a lot of the furniture at auction when it could simply be placed in storage and put on Olympic when her fittings wore out or were broken.

*And a huge amount of paneling was discovered just a few years ago in a warehouse in Belfast. (It was subsequently sold, but off hand I can't remember to whom.)

Although I've seen copies of the catalogues for Mauretania, Aquitania, and Olympic dispersal sales, one has never turned up for Britannic that I know of.

I don't know of any sites that have photos of authenticated Britannic fittings, but there is one that has photos of paneling that supposedly came from Britannic's first-class Smoking Room. I'm not convinced since no hard evidence has been produced to show that it was indeed intended for Britannic. There are no photos of Britannic's Smoking Room, only a rendering of what it was supposed to look like. It appears that it was going to be a completely different style from the ones on Olympic/Titanic, more of an American Federalist look. Of course, it is only a rendering and, to my mind, cannot be considered real evidence. And keep in mind that a lot of the paneling from the period was quite similar in style. To be honest, there was nothing special about what was produced for the White Star Trio. As evidence, look at a lot of the Holland America ships of the time. They were all built by H&W, and many, many fittings and furniture are identical to that on Olympic, etc. The easiest way to know whether this woodwork is authentic or not is to remove a panel or two and look for the tell-tale grey paint and the number "433" or the name of the room on the back side. So far this hasn't been done.

Hope this helps.

Eric Sauder
 

Jim Kalafus

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ERIC: As usual, your answer is appreciated! That American Federalist look Smoking Room intrigues me, and I'm hoping that a photo might somehow show up! Now, if someone would taken the time to penetrate, and photograph, the wreck's interiors it might help clear up some of the lingering questions. Now, how about that story which claims that the Mauretania's Dining Saloon was removed intact and stored? I've seen bits and pieces of it, and wonder whatever became of the rest?
 

Eric Sauder

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Hi, Jim:

You asked: "...how about that story which claims that the Mauretania's Dining Saloon was removed intact and stored? I've seen bits and pieces of it, and wonder whatever became of the rest?"

Many of the public rooms were sold to a single bidder who wanted to reassemble them in a hotel in New York. Unfortunately, this never came to pass, and the fittings were disbursed.

Sorry to say I don't know where most of the Mauretania's Dining Room is at present, but a collector in England has a number of fittings from the room, including chairs and the sideboard from the forward end of the room. What bits and pieces have you seen? And where?

Other fittings from the first Mauretania that survive are:

Two wall sconces from the first-class Smoking Room were sold about a year ago, as well as sections of the famous "Dolphin Frieze" from the same room.

A private home in Dorset, England, has the second-class Ladies' Room and the Captain's bedroom.

Both paintings from the first-class Smoking Room survive. I haven't seen the originals, but I have seen photos of them.

The "Mauretania Pub" in Bristol has quite a bit of paneling. They also had the name from the bow (I don't know which side off hand) hanging on the front of the building, but I have heard that it was recently taken down.

A restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, has a fair bit of paneling. I have never seen good photographs of it, but people who have seen it tell me it's from the first-class Lounge.

The first-class Reading-Writing Room is at Pinewood Studios.

A museum in Northern England has a large selection of artifacts, including a statue from the first-class Lounge, a telegraph from the Engine Room, and a bridge telegraph.

I know there is more, but that's all I can think of at the moment.

Now, can someone please ask a technical question so I can go back into sleep mode? :)

Eric Sauder
 
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Kathy Savadel

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Well.....I tracked down that URL, Jim, but now that I have read Eric's posts I am even more inclined to doubt the veracity of this alleged auction of Britannic fittings. I skimmed through the auction house site and didn't find much, but I am too swamped to really take the time to do a proper search. So, I'll send you the URL privately if you care to check it out yourself if you like.

Best regards,

Kathy
 

Jim Kalafus

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Kathy: No I wouldn't mind being sent the URL off board at all!

Eric, Thanks yet again for a wonderfully detailed reply! The bits and pieces of the Mauretania to which I referred were those in Bristol. I will be passing through St. Louis in a week or so, so if you know the name of the restaurant with and it's still in business I'll try to check it out. That is the first I had heard of it.

I was trying to think of a technical question so that you could enjoy a well earned rest, but none came to me SO I'll just sit on the Aquitania interiors question for a while before asking it.....JIM PS, Thanks again.
 

Remco Hillen

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The link Michail posts above leads you to photo's from panneling which most probably comes from Britannic.
The panneling is applied in the Billigham Arms Hotel, not really far from the White Swan Hotel BTW.

It seems to me that the fitting there are from the Lounge, the likeness between the drawing from the Lounge and those photo's is rather large.

Regards,
Remco
 
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Nicolas Roughol

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This thread itself was started more than 2 1/2 years ago, no wonder the link is not working anymore ;)
 
Jan 7, 2002
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Not long ago Britannic wood surfaced for sale on Ebay....
I believe grand staircase wood..

What I am curious about is if this wood had never been installed on Britannic, or if it had bveen installed, but was later removed.
Any ideas?

regards

tarn Stephanos
 

Jeremy Lee

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Any of the two is possible, but I would go for the 'never been installed' one.

A closer examination of the wood might provide further clues.....
 

Jeremy Lee

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Hi Michail, do you know when the fittings from the A1 Bar was auctioned or sold off and how they managed to get hold of the Britannic fittings in the first place?

Thanks!
 

Steve Olguin

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I was thinking tonight, would it be possible that some of Britannic's furnishings ended up on her "replacement" Majestic?
 
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Lajos Berínyi

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Hello all!

I have a question: I saw the firemen's spiral staircase in one Britannic footage. On the Tank Top deck. /I don't remember on what page/ The tiles around the staircase was excellent condition. These was like what I saw in the Titanic exhibition /Now that is in my city!
happy.gif
/
My question: Was the same the tiling of this area in the titanic too? Or I can't this picture reference for my model?

///And I don't know, you're knew it, but on the page, which posted Michail, the dressing table was exactly wich I saw on the Father Browne's room photo of A 37 in Titanic///

Lajos
 
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