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Titanic and Liverpool

Posted on Tuesday 12th April 2011

New 2012 exhibition to mark centenary of sinking

The only known surviving Titanic First Class ticket and other rarely-seen items linked to the disaster will be displayed in Liverpool in 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The ticket belonged to Reverend Stuart Holden. His wife became ill the day before the Titanic sailed, forcing him to cancel his voyage. Mr Holden had the ticket mounted and kept it above his desk until his death in 1934.

A compelling new exhibition explores little-known links between Titanic and Liverpool, the city that inspired the biggest ship in the world doomed to be most notorious shipwreck in history. 

The exhibition opens at Merseyside Maritime Museum in March 2012 in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking on 15 April 1912 when more than 1,500 people lost their lives.

It explores Liverpool’s central role in the Titanic story. Told from perspectives of key personalities in the drama, it gives a unique insight into events surrounding the launch, voyage, the sinking and its aftermath. This is an incredible story told from a Liverpool angle.

The year-long show draws on previously unseen collections of international significance including material from the museum’s extensive archives. 

It complements Merseyside Maritime Museum’s existing display, the hugely-popular Titanic, Lusitania and the Forgotten Empress. 

Dr Alan Scarth, exhibition curator and author of Titanic and Liverpool (Liverpool University Press), says:

“Titanic was built as a result of Liverpool’s leading position as a major world port. The city and its people are at the heart of the story. 
“Not only was the Titanic’s sinking a major world event, the tragedy was a bitter blow to the port and the people of Liverpool. The new exhibition lifts the lid on this largely-overlooked turmoil in the wake of the sinking which resounds to this day.”          

                                                                                                                                                                                 
Visitors in the new gallery will experience dark atmospheric spaces forming the backdrop to a series of dramatically-lit areas, each telling a part of the powerful story. 

Among the many featured personalities are:

  • J Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, who controversially survived the disaster in one of the last lifeboats to leave the stricken liner.       
  • Former Crosby resident Captain Edward Smith, the veteran master approaching retirement when he went down with his ship.  
  • Chief Officer Henry Wilde, Liverpool-born, who lived in Walton.
  • Survivor Lily Bonnell, a First Class passenger from Birkdale.
  • Joseph Fynney, a Liverpool rubber merchant who died on his voyage in Second Class to see his widowed mother in Canada.
  • Seaman Thomas Storey, originally from Liverpool, was travelling Third Class with five other American Line employees. He and four of the others died. 
  • Fred Clarke, Liverpool member of the ship’s specially-hired band who all died after they heroically played on as the ship sank.
  • First Class stewardess Elizabeth Leather, from Port Sunlight, Wirral, slept through the  impact but escaped in a lifeboat. 
  • Fred Fleet, abandoned as a child in Liverpool, was the lookout who spotted the iceberg. He survived after taking charge of a lifeboat.

As well as the First Class ticket, exhibits include the Ismay Testimonial Silver– a stunning parcel-gilt dinner service presented to White Star founder Thomas Ismay, father of J Bruce Ismay. This is the first time the majority of the table service has been on public display.                                                                                                                                                               

There are letters from passengers, many photos including J Bruce Ismay and crew survivors returning to Liverpool, an original copy of the British inquiry proceedings, postcards from passengers and crew plus items salvaged from the wreck. 

A Titanic launch pamphlet recalls the pride and confidence in the new liner while telegrams from the rescue ship Carpathia reflect emotions after the disaster. 

Merseyside Maritime Museum already has a permanent Titanic exhibition. Titanic, Lusitania and the Forgotten Empress opened in 2007 and features the original 20 ft long builder’s model of Titanic, personal things belonging to those on board, a lifejacket, lifeboat items and many other exhibits.   

More information at http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/collections/liners/titanic/liverpool.aspx|   

The Titanic exhibition is part of the National Museums Liverpool’s Liverpool and the World exhibition series part-funded by the European Union.