Society for Nautical Research

The Society for Nautical Research was founded in 1910, initially to encourage research into nautical antiquities such as seafaring, ship-building in all ages and nations, into the language and customs of the sea, and other items of nautical interest.[1] The Chairman of the Society is Dr David Davies MA DPhil FRHistS FSNR.[2] Past chairmen include Alan Villiers,[3] Professor Michael Lloyd,[4] Professor Richard Harding [5] and the immediate past chairman, Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton.[6]

HMS Victory PreservationEdit

In 1922 the Society initiated a national public appeal to raise funds to save Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, launched in 1765, which was then in a very poor state of repair.[7] The appeal was the recipient of funding from Sir James Caird, and the Save The Victory Fund raised sufficient funds to secure HMS Victory in dry dock in Portsmouth and provide a permanent endowment for the ship.[8] The Victory Technical Committee was established to undertake research into appropriate preservation measures and the Society ensured that artefacts from the ship were properly conserved in the Victory Museum.[9]  In 1972 the Victory Museum expanded to become the Portsmouth Royal Naval Museum, under Admiralty administration, and subsequently the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.[10]  The Society still supports HMS Victory by funding research into areas such as paint samples and wood marks.[11] Since 1922 the Society has provided over £1 million to the upkeep of the ship.[12]

Creation of The National Maritime MuseumEdit

In 1913 the Society assisted in the reorganisation and rationalisation of the collection of the Royal Naval Museum in the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.[13]  During World War 1 the collection was dispersed, but in 1924 the Society catalogued and created an inventory of the collections. In 1925 during a meeting of the Society’s Council the concept of a National Maritime Museum was raised for the first time, when the task of setting up a permanent home for the Admiralty’s collection of ship models was given to a new Trust.[14]

In 1927 the Admiralty made an official announcement: “It having become necessary for a body of trustees to be appointed to take charge of the interests and property of the National Naval and Nautical Museum which is eventually to be accommodated in the Queen's House at Greenwich, The First Lord of the Admiralty has obtained consent of the following, Earl Stanhope DSO, Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Admiral Sir George P.W. Hope, Chairman of the Council of the Society for Nautical Research, Sir Lionel Earle KCB KCVO, Secretary of the Office of Works, Mr Roger C. Anderson, FS A, Member of the Council of the Society for Nautical Research, Prof Geoffrey Callender, FSA, Royal Naval College Greenwich.[15]

The Trust, which was largely staffed by officials of the Society, eventually created a home for the large collection of items, prints and drawings, including the Macpherson Collection, in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

The Macpherson Collection Endowment FundEdit

In 1927 an appeal was launched to raise £120,00 in order to save 11,000 maritime prints, drawings and paintings collected by yachtsman and collector Arthur Macpherson from being sold abroad.[16]  Sir James Caird stepped in again and purchased the entire collection.[17]

This enabled the funds raised by public subscription to be used to establish the Macpherson Collection Endowment Fund, which purchases art, prints and drawings for the nation, which are held in the National Maritime Museum.[18] The Macpherson Collection Endowment Fund is administered by the Society.[19]

Research and AwardsEdit

The Society for Nautical Research supports new research by providing grants to students undertaking nautical research and seminars and conferences on maritime themes.[20] It also provides financial support to the annual conference for new researchers in maritime history.[21]   In addition the Society presents the annual Anderson Medal book award in memory of founder and naval scholar Dr Roger Charles Anderson [22]  and the Victory Medal, awarded to those who have displayed notable dedication in the conservation of a historic vessel.[23] Since 2017 the Society has also organised its own conferences in partnership with other institutions. The most recent was held in Bristol in 2019 with SS Great Britain and the Brunel Institute.[24]

The Mariner’s MirrorEdit

The Mariner’s Mirror is the peer-reviewed quarterly journal of the Society for Nautical Research. First published in 1911, the journal publishes original papers, articles, notes and book reviews on a wide range of topics relating to humankind’s relationship with the sea, including archaeology, shipbuilding and design, historic vessels, naval tactics, administration and logistics, merchant seafaring, shiphandling and seamanship and other subjects of nautical interest.[25]

The Mariner’s Mirror is ranked as an ERIH Plus journal by the European Reference Index for the Humanities and is published quarterly in collaboration with Taylor & Francis.[26]

The Editor of The Mariner’s Mirror is Dr Martin Bellamy.[27]

Fellows of the Society for Nautical ResearchEdit

In 2016 the society instituted Fellowships to recognise members’ contribution to its work. As of 1 November 2018 there were 43 Fellows of the Society.[28]

Other ActivitiesEdit

In 2020 the Society launched a podcast covering all themes and periods of maritime history.[29]


  • Mariner's Mirror (1911-date), quarterly ISSN 0025-3359
  • Newsletter: Topmasts


  1. ^ The Times, 3 Dec 1910; The Times 21 June 1912.
  2. ^ "J. D. Davies", Wikipedia, 2020-12-06, retrieved 2020-12-15
  3. ^ The Times 5 March 1982
  4. ^ The Times 9 April 1986
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Times, 3 March 1922
  8. ^ The Times, 4 July 1928
  9. ^ The Times, 2 Feb 1925
  10. ^ The National Museum of the Royal Navy: A century of British naval heritage, Scuttlebutt, Spring 2012,
  11. ^ HMS Victory repainted in her Trafalgar battle colours,
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Times, 23 March 1914
  14. ^ European Collections of Scientific Instruments, 1550-1750, Giorgio Strano, Stephen Johnston, Mara Miniati, Alison D. Morrison-Low, BRILL, 2009, 9047426177, p. 170
  15. ^ "National Naval Museum", The Times, 9 June 1927.
  16. ^ Of Ships and Stars: Maritime Heritage and the Founding of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Kevin Littlewood, Beverley Butler, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998, 0485121468, p. 78
  17. ^ Sextants at Greenwich: A Catalogue of the Mariner's Quadrants, Mariner's Astrolabes, Cross-staffs, Backstaffs, Octants, Sextants, Quintants, Reflecting Circles and Artificial Horizons in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, W.F.J. Mörzer Bruyns, Richard Dunn, OUP Oxford, 2009, 0199532540, p. 72
  18. ^ History of the National Maritime Museum,
  19. ^ Macpherson Collection Endowment Fund
  20. ^ Centre for Maritime Historical Studies, University of Exeter,
  21. ^
  22. ^ English/British Naval History to 1815: A Guide to the Literature Issue 15 of Bibliographies and indexes in military studies, Eugene L. Rasor, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, 0313305471, p. 385.
  23. ^ The Northern Echo, 25 March 2013
  24. ^
  25. ^ Society For Nautical Research." The Times, 3 Dec. 1910
  26. ^ European Reference Index for the Humanities and Social Sciences,
  27. ^ Fischer, L. R.; Starkey, D. J. "Editors' Note". International Journal of Maritime History. 24 (1): xi–xii. doi:10.1177/084387141202400101.
  28. ^
  29. ^

External linksEdit