Monday, January 10, 2011

Express Freight Parcel Carrying Heritage Revealed

National Maritime Museum Exhibition Runs to March
Shipping News Feature

UK – For anyone interested in the inception of the ocean freight trade who is travelling in the South West in the next couple of months the latest exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall would be well worth a visit. In this quiet corner of Britain much of the basis of the nation’s reputation as a merchant and military marine force was formed.

The waters at Falmouth formed the third largest natural harbour in the world and, as visitors as far removed from Antigua to Massachusetts, from Virginia to Jamaica will know the name was exported along with the trade goods and British settlers to ports all over the globe.

Falmouth started trading as a harbour before the birth of Christ and has been in continuous use ever since and the exhibition, which will be open until the 30th March, focuses particularly on the heyday of the docks in the 1950’s. In 1689 Falmouth began acting as home port for the embryonic mail packet service, a role it held uniquely as the only port allowed to handle the Royal Mail for the next couple of centuries with up to 3,000 vessels a year calling and, for a long period, a complete ban on the freighting of general cargo.

Falmouth was ideally placed for the mail trade, closest point to the America’s, easy transit to Spain and Portugal and far enough away from the French and Dutch marauders who wanted to spoil the party intermittently, but, with the age of steam, the docks role changed and now floor to ceiling windows at the exhibition allow visitors to witness the hustle and bustle of the working docks today whilst surrounded by models, film, objects, paintings and stunning photographs illustrating their history.

Photo: Still from live webcam courtesy of the National Maritime Museum showing the harbour (looking seaward).