Background to the Collection
Ian Brazendale was approached by 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 had nowhere to display them; a number of nautical museums had been approached but showed little interest.
We were 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 I would love to hear from you - my contact details are at the bottom of this page
The collection consisted 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. This was a lifetime's work of collection and cataloguing by two very dedicated and knowledgeable people.
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. Over time it is hoped to classify most of these ships and incorporate them into shipping line pages.
The Allens' approach to numbering photographs of ships was often unhelpful with sometimes different ships with the same name being listed as e.g. Framlington Court 1, and Framlington Court 2. The numbers used referred 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. This will be remedied as the relevant pages are rebuilt.
Preserving these photos and making them available to the general public was very much a collaborative effort by a number of shipping history enthusiasts.
Scanning was done at 600dpi to preserve the quality of the pictures. Initially they were put on line at medium resolution but over time the photos are being enhanced and higher definition copies put online. The information recorded on the back of the photos by the Allens was transcribed into a spreadsheet and included on 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 in April 2008. The latest site rebuild in February 2019 standardisee the layout with other Benjidog sites and made many corrections. Over time I am enhancing the data put together by the Allens using internet resources. This will take many years to complete.