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Norfolk mariner who sailed into Cutty Sark’s history

PUBLISHED: 18:26 25 January 2011

Cutty Sark at sea taken by her commander Captain Richard Woodget from a small boat in 1888. Picture: Cutty Sark Trust, Greenwich, London.

Cutty Sark at sea taken by her commander Captain Richard Woodget from a small boat in 1888. Picture: Cutty Sark Trust, Greenwich, London.

Archant

In a county which has produced so many great sailors, Gill Elliott tells of Norfolk’s Richard Woodget who commanded the famous Cutty Sark which will soon be open to visitors again after restoration

Captain Richard Woodget, commander of the Cutty Sark. Picture: Merchant Navy Association.

It might be tantamount to treason in some quarters to suggest Norfolk has more than just one great sailor to boast about, but I’ll risk it. Hopefully the great Admiral Nelson himself will turn a blind eye (or should that be ear?) to the mention of one Captain Richard Woodget, commander of the Cutty Sark, back on the nautical radar as the great clipper prepares to take centre stage again at Greenwich.

Masters of the high seas in their own distinctive ways, both men felt the wind in their sails for the first time as they meandered among the creeks and crannies of the North Norfolk coast.

Richard Woodget was born on November 21, 1846 at Burham Norton where his father farmed. It seems young Woodget was high-spirited and a bit of a handful at school, and in the best sea-faring tradition, ran away to sea at 12. After working as a hand on the east coast bullyboys, he progressed quickly, becoming skipper of his first merchant ship in 1881.

Four years later, he took command of the Cutty Sark, one of 12 clippers built for the China tea trade. Wool soon overtook tea as the prized commodity and Captain Woodget steered the famous ship through the glory days of the wool trade between Australia and the UK.

With his bushy whiskers and booming voice, he was a rather scary individual. He drove his ship and his men hard, brandishing the revolver he took on all his trips if his crew were slow to get his drift, as it were.

His last voyage at the helm of the Cutty Sark was in 1895, after when he headed back to Norfolk. And so another chapter in his inspiring life began.

For the full story of this famous Norfolk mariner see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday’s EDP.

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