RMS Titanic, sources at Surrey History Centre

The RMS Titanic, owned by the White Star Line, was 882 feet/ 268 metres long, the largest steamship in the world. Weighing over 46,000 tonnes she took 3 years to construct in Belfast. Titanic was the grandest ship of her time, offering the ultimate in luxury to her passengers, and was thought by many to be unsinkable.

Postcard of RMS Titanic leaving Southampton 10 April 1912
(Surrey History Centre reference 387.2(p))

Titanic left Southampton bound for New York on 10 April 1912, under Captain Edward J Smith. The ship was running smoothly to her full speed of 23 knots.

Upon receiving iceberg warnings Captain Smith charted a new course, which he believed to be safer.

However at 11.40pm on 14 April Titanic hit an iceberg. The total impact was estimated to have lasted 10 seconds, but the ship had sustained too much damage to remain afloat.

After the damage was assessed CQD and SOS distress calls were sent out by Jack Phillips (Chief Wireless Operator) and Harold Bride (Junior Wireless Operator). Although several vessels received the distress call they were not close enough to reach Titanic before she sank in under 3 hours.

Lifeboats were launched, but despite there being sufficient to comply with ship regulations there were not enough for all passengers. Women and children were the first to board, with men after. Of a total of 2,224 people aboard Titanic only 710, less than a third, survived.

Men and members of the 2nd and 3rd class were less likely to survive. Of the male passengers in second class 92% perished, and over three quarters of 3rd class passengers died.

Replica postcard showing a newspaper seller with the headline
Titanic Disaster’ (Surrey History Centre reference PC/70/ALB1/37)

Postcard of Lea Park, Witley, home of Lord Pirrie,
Chairman of Harland and Wolff
(Surrey History Centre reference 1197/3 and 1225)

In the Godalming United Reformed Church meeting minutes of May 1912, (copy shown above) it is decided that a letter of sympathy should be sent to Mr and Mrs Leonard of Witley for the loss of their daughter, Mrs Lucy Snape, a second class stewardess onboard the wreck of the Titanic.

Titanic remained lost to the sea until 1985 when a joint American and French team located her 370 miles off the Newfoundland Coast. Since then, many expeditions have photographed the ship and collected artefacts from the seabed to display in exhibitions around the world.

At the Surrey History Centre you can see some of the connections Surrey has to this infamous disaster. Click here to see a bibliography (pdf (PDF) format) of books and articles available for study at the Surrey History Centre.

Titanic Commutator, the official journal of the Titanic Historical Society 1996-2002
(Surrey History Centre reference J/175)

Click here to read a transcript summary of Dr Nick Barratt’s brilliant talk at Surrey History Centre on ‘Lost Voices from the Titanic’, back in 2012. Known for shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? Nick’s interest in Titanic may come as a surprise but his book ‘Lost Voices from the Titanic: The Definitive Oral History’, shows his true skill as an historical researcher separating the myth and fiction of the fateful ship from the truth. Find out more about what happened at the event and how more Titanic connections were unconvered.

Read about Lady Julia Chance, Mary Watts, Mary Elizabeth Turner, Gertrude Jekyll, and Iona Davey, who were all members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and members Godalming Town Council Ladies Committee for the design and commission of the Jack Phillips Memorial Cloister. The garden was built to commemorate death of Jack Phillips, the wireless operator on the Titanic who sacrificed his life transmitting the SOS calls as the ship sank.

You can search this website and our online archive collections catalogue for more items relating to Titanic in our collections.

For Godalming Museum collections, see https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/subjects/womens-suffrage/march-of-the-women-museum-resources/godalming-museum/, and for the story of the Jack Phillips memorial https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/a-night-to-remember/.

For a compilation newsreel film footage, “The Path of Duty was the Path of Glory” recording the opening of the Phillips Memorial Garden, shown at Godalming Picture House in 1914, see http://screenarchive.brighton.ac.uk/detail/1291/. A copy is held at Surrey History Centre under the reference F/56.

Stanley C Sutherland, a tanner at the Sunbury Leather Company Ltd, had a narrow escape after he purchased a 2nd class ticket to emigrate aboard Titanic but cashed it in to travel later in the season. Read his story here https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/subjects/industry/sunbury_leather_company_ltd/

Read about the Phillips Memorial in the Surrey Historic Environment Record Blog “A Night To Remember”: https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/a-night-to-remember/