England wants the Wavertree back

I thought this was so curious I had to mention: somehow I stumbled across a petition to bring the Wavertree, the historic steel-hulled ship parked at Pier 17 and part of the South Street Seaport Museum, back to Southampton in England by 2025.

“An important part of Britain’s maritime history, she must be returned to her home port from the United States,” the petition reads. “This would require compensating the current Seaport Museum landlords…then towing her hull to Southampton, but there is precedent: in 2004 the German Government purchased the Peking from the Museum and returned her to the Port of Hamburg.”

They have 16 signatures so far of a goal of 25. And I would think they are dreaming.

Photo courtesy of the South Street Seaport Museum

The Seaport Museum saved the ship from her role as a floating warehouse in Chile and a sand barge in South America in 1968. And the city granted the museum a $13 million grant to restore it in 2015, so safe to say she is not going anywhere.

The history, according to the museum, goes like this: Wavertree was built at Southampton, England, in 1885 and originally named Southgate. Two years after her launch she changed ownership to R. W. Leyland & Company of Liverpool and was renamed Wavertree. She was first employed to carry jute between eastern India and Scotland and soon after entered the “tramp trade,” taking cargoes around the world.

In 1910, after a 24-year sailing career, she was caught in a Cape Horn storm that tore down her masts and ended her career as a cargo ship. Rather than re-rigging her, her owners sold her for use as a floating warehouse in Punta Areas, Chile, and then a sand barge in South America, where waterfront workers referred to her as “the great sailing ship” because even without her masts she made an impression.

In 1968, the Seaport Museum made her sea-worthy and towed her to New York where she arrived to great fanfare — a parade of fireboats, tugs, and ferries, with helicopters overhead, on August 11, 1970.

Back in 2018 I made my daughter go to a museum with me every week for a few months of the school year — I called it The Weekly M — and though she probably hated it, I ended up with these great shots of the ship, including some from the hold, where at the time we were allowed to wander. Totally worth a visit if you have never been. See the schedule here.



  1. ROFL. A repatriation request from England is just so… rich.

  2. British Museum which is full of historical pieces stolen from other countries should take note. This is how it feels!