In 1930, Douglas Allan the director of Liverpool (now World) Museum experimented with a new display. In the corner of the zoology collections a small number of ship models were put on display. By 1935 the collection was so popular it needed its own gallery and not one but two collection handbooks.
When the museum’s staff and collections appeared in a special edition of the magazine ‘Liverpolitan’ (see images below) the shipping gallery had its own article and was described by it’s curator Miss S Heughan as ‘the department which probably holds the greatest public interest’. The ship model featured in the Liverpolitan article was a builder’s model of the SS. Francis Henderson. Made in 1896 it had been gifted to the museum by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. The year after it was sent to the Sunderland Model Making Company for major repairs so it could feature in the popular gallery.
As it became clear that Liverpool was a bombing target, many of the ship models were evacuated to a number of locations across North Wales and Cheshire. Douglas Allen recalled:
“For fully ten years the Liverpool Shipping Collection has been displayed in part of the main Horseshoe Gallery of the City Museum …… until the hazards of unrestricted air warfare sent most of the little ships to that haven alleged to be every sailor’s goal- a home in the depths of the country.”
The SS. Francis Henderson survived the war and was most likely one of the ‘little ships’ evacuated to an estate in the country. This decision saved the Francis Henderson. On 3 May 1941 the shipping gallery on the Upper Horseshoe was saved from the fire, but badly damaged by the water pouring in from the fire hoses.