RMS Olympic - Southampton to Jarrow (Behind the Scenes)

Sep 28, 2004
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Recorded in the minutes of the Directors of Thos W Ward Ltd on Monday September 2nd 1935 are the beginnings of the demise of the Olympic. Sir John Jarvis had already agreed to purchase the Olympic from Cunard-White Star and September 2nd 1935 is the first time the considerations are recorded of the purchasing the RMS Olympic are made at the head office of Thos W Ward Ltd, who would eventually break up the Olympic and disperse her fittings to many corners of the UK and even the World.

In the directors minutes for Monday September 2nd 1935 they recorded that the tender for purchasing the Olympic would be left in the capable hands of Mr A. S. Ward and George Wood to settle. The purchasing of the Olympic may well have entered their considerations following their offer of £71625 on Saturday January 19th 1935, and the consequent successful purchase of Palmers Shipyard in Jarrow with 30 acres of land. During the meeting of Monday September 16th 1935, Mr Joseph Ward reported back to the board of the purchase of the RMS Olympic. A cheque for £9750 (the total paid for Olympic was £97500), the agreed 10% deposit was sent to the estate of Sir John Jarvis near Godalming on September 13th 1935, the remaining £87500 was due within 30 days of the deposit date. To allow for Wards to arrange the removal of Olympic from Southampton to Jarrow, the price also included 500 tons of fuel oil, but the minutes recorded that as owners of the berth where Olympic would be broken up, they were required to enter into a contract with the Tyne Improvement Commissioner to arrange the necessary dredging of the berth to allow Olympic's mooring, which added a further cost of £2600. At this meeting the directors also discussed the questions of putting the vessel on view and the charge for admission and also arrangements for a trip for Wards staff to visit the vessel, the directors eventually decided to leave the details over to another meeting. Interestingly, due to the size of the purchase, Wards had arranged a loan for the remaining amount with the Provincial National Bank Ltd. On Monday October 7th 1935 discussions were had as to the plan to pay the balance of £87500 to the White Star Line on Wednesday 9th October and that having been completed begin the voyage from Southampton on Friday 11th to arrive in Jarrow on Sunday 13th October. The arrangements for the staff trip were left in the hands of Mr A. J Ward and Mr T W Pasmore and receive no further mention in the directors considerations. On Monday 14th October a Civic Reception was held on board the RMS Olympic in Jarrow and the services of the Palmers Prize Band were employed for the benefit of the guests at a cost of £9 and a Mr E Hargreaves was employed for the purposes of entertaining press & c on board the ferryboat Tynemouth at a cost of £11 19s 6d. On Monday November 25th it was stated by the Chairman that the 'auction sales had been very disappointing, only realising just over £4000, and the expenses had been very heavy. On Monday 2nd December 1935 discussions were already being had as to the ways & means of finishing the Olympic with a Mr J E/B Wilson (interestingly a J B Wilson and J Wilson purchased 11 lots from the Sale of Fittings from the RMS Olympic, whether they are the same person is currently unknown) who also received an increase of his salary to £500 per annum on the understanding that he would remain until the ship was finished. Suggestions for means of finishing the Olympic at Jarrow included to put down winches and haul up slipway or excavate and cut off piles to make a level berth of about 350 ft long.

This info was gleened during a recent research trip to Sheffield to attempt to find more information related to the installation of fittings from RMS Olympic at the Albion Works in Sheffield. The carved panel from the pinnacle of Olympic's Forward Grand Staircase entitled 'Honour and Glory Crowning Time' was photographed at T. B & W Cockayne Ltd on 31/5/40 by a Wards photographer and I am assuming must have been removed to another location before the Angel Street location which I'm am currently also assuming is where it was photographed was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz. The carved mahogany surround from Olympic's First Class Smoking Room which had been separated out as Lot 3512 A and had been labelled as 'New York Harbour' in the auction catalogue (it is also rather interesting that gilded text labelling was put under the painting when it was installed at the Albion Works which included the label of 'New York Harbour' which was seemingly drawn from the auction catalogue instead of the official label of 'Approach to the New World'. Not the only time an error had appeared within Wards own printings, the 1938 publication by Wards called '60 Years of Service 1878-1938' showed a picture of Cutlers Hall with the First Class Lounge Electrolier and the 2nd Class Library panelling included a caption which stated 'The splendid electrolier from the first-class drawing room of the Olympic is now hung in the Cutler's Hall Sheffield...'. The auctioneers catalogue labelled lots 374-388 as 'Drawing Room' when in fact lots 374 to 377B were from the First Class Reading and Writing Room and lots 378 to 388 were from the First Class Lounge), the 21 light Electrolier from D Deck (relabelled as C Deck in one of the refits during the 1920's-30's) which was held back in the auction but had been included as lot 1338 and the Clock from the bookcase wall of the First Class Lounge were all installed at the Albion Works.

If you would like to assist in funding my further research and would also like to see what the A La Carte Restaurant panelling in the Norton's flat in Southport looked like then please see my E-Bay listing for rms olympic | eBay

If you have any further comments or would like to ask me any questions then please feel free to post a reply. I will also soon be making a transcribed protected PDF version of the auctioneers catalogue available for purchase by any interested parties for research purposes to continue to fund my research, again if you are interested then send me a private mail via my other listing or via Encyclopedia Titanica. Apart from these two items, which I have reluctantly decided to make paid items, everything else research wise (I must also make note that the details of anyone who is a private owner of fittings that I discover will not be disclosed) will be made available for the benefit and perusal of others.

Stu Lythgoe (15 years a successful RMS Olympic fittings/stories researcher, see Stairway a Titanic discovery (From Lancashire Telegraph) and the attached image of cupboards made up for Mae Bamber from the left over bar fittings from the Olympic's A La Carte Restaurant, both finds discovered through research by myself)

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