As a child I first came across ships in bottles at my late uncle’s house. He used to make them and I remember being fascinated about how the ship ended up in the bottle. Now as Curator of the ship models collection, the Museum’s ships in bottles still evokes the same fascination and intrigue.
The maritime art of making ships in bottles can be traced back as early as the 18th century.
They were mostly made by men at sea or enthusiasts. These miniature ships themselves are exquisite in detail and each feature has been painstakingly crafted. Some have a background where we can see landmark details that give us a sense of place. Many have a ‘sea’ of putty on the base to give a feeling of the ship on water.
A new display has opened in the Art and the Sea gallery at the Merseyside Maritime Museum that features many different types of ships in bottles, varying in shapes and sizes and including examples made in gin bottles and light bulbs! Various makers are represented, including a large collection by Arthur George Dashwood Howard. He was a merchant seaman for many years and whilst in his teens purchased a sailor-made ship in bottle and decided to try and create one himself, starting a hobby he passionately pursued for the rest of his life. One of my favourites is the ‘ship in a bottle maker in a bottle’!
On display we have the Lively Lady ship in bottle which was made by Des Newton whilst demonstrating ship bottling in the museum in 1985.
Elsewhere in the museum you can also see Leader, a Liverpool Pilot ship in a bottle which was also made by Des, and is currently on display in In Safe Hands, our new Liverpool Pilots exhibition.