Background to the Collection and Website
The Allen Collection first came to the attention of Ian Brazendale through the curator of the Martello Tower/Museum at Pembroke Dock. Two elderly ladies had been clearing the house of their late brother and wanted to find a good home for his collection of shipping photographs. The museum accepted them out of courtesy, but they had nowhere to display them. A number of nautical museums were approached about the collection but showed little interest.
On first inspection, the collection was found to consist of several boxes of photographs - mainly British merchant ships - going back over 60 years. They were indexed and listed by company, and included ships from both well-known and lesser-known shipping companies.
Each photo had hand-written notes on the back giving the ship's name and other information. There was also a boxed collection of Sea Breeze magazines going back 20 years, and an HMSO gazette listing the names of every merchant ship lost in World War 2. On further investigation, more boxes of photographs were discovered at another location taking the total number to over 6,000. Clearly this was a lifetime’s work of collection and cataloguing by two very dedicated and knowledgeable people.
Sadly we have been unable to find out more than the sketchiest details of the collectors. We know that Mr. W Allen was a merchant seaman, and that his son Frank helped his father with the collection but had not been a seaman himself. If you have any additional information about the Allens please email the site owner. Contact details are at the bottom of this page
Those who have collaborated on this project were extremely enthusiastic about saving it for posterity and making it available for research and educational purposes.
Scanning was done at 600dpi to preserve the quality of the pictures though they are only available in medium resolution on this website for performance reasons. Information recorded on the back of the photos by the Allens was transcribed into a spreadsheet for later incorporation into the website. Scanning and data compilation took many weeks of effort by the indefatigable Barrie Rees.
We decided to add background information about the shipping companies represented in the collection as, in many cases, this is not readily available. This added many weeks of research effort using extensive Internet searches and visits to the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
The website was launched on 2 January 2008 and completed in its original form in April 2008. Since then it has been updated several times to improve the usability and maintainability of the software. A further complete rebuild of the site commenced in January 2015 and this is changing the page layout, adding to the data and correcting errors in data put together by the Allens based on various resources that are now available.
Organisation of Content
The Allens system of classification and naming has largely been retained, but it is a bit quirky with most ships being classified by shipping company and pages for specific types of ship like tugs and colliers. Where the Allens did not record the shipping company, the information is recorded on pages for ships with names beginning with specific letters of the alphabet and finally there is a page with completely unclassified photos. I intend to incorporate the alphabetical and unclassified page content into shipping line pages over time.
As completed by the Allens, where the collection contains two photographs of ships with the same name they are listed as e.g. Framlington Court 1, and Framlington Court 2. This is confusing where there have been two or more ships with the same name. The numbers refer to the photographs and do not indicate that the first of those in this example is of the first ship named Framlington Court and the second to the second ship named Framlington Court. The confusion that this entails will be removed over time as the pages are rebuilt.
- Project initiator: Ian Brazendale
- Photo scans and data transcription: Barrie Rees
- Original shipping company research: Fred Henderson, Brian Watson, Neville Young
- Website design and realisation: Brian Watson
- Additional shipping company information:George Robinson