Situated tucked away on the banks of the Thames not far from Borough Market and London Bridge station is the replica of The Golden Hind, the ship that circumnavigated the globe between 1577 and 1580.
This is a great attraction to visit, especially good for children as there are actors in period costume who will engage and tell of life as an Elizabethan sailor. It’s surprisingly good value too, costing £5 each to go onboard or £15 for a family of four, remarkable for a central London attraction.
The original ship had left England in 1577 named the Pelican and captained by Sir Francis Drake. Drake had met with Elizabeth 1st before his voyage and the intention was for him to sail round South America and explore the coast that lay beyond, looking for opportunities for trade and profit, a very English thing.
Unnoficially however Drake was to cause as many problems as he could for the Spanish, disrupting their trade and capturing their cargos where possible, operating as a privateer in actions that would eventually contribute toward causing the anglo-Spanish war.
In 1578 Drake renamed the Pelican the Golden Hind in tribute to his benefactor Sir Christopher Hatton who had a Golden Hind as his family crest.
1579 saw Drake make the largest ever capture of Spanish cargo, attacking and taking a Spanish galleon and looting a haul of gold, silver and other goods that would equate to £480M in today’s money.
In September 1580 Drake sailed back into English waters after his voyage, the Queen’s share of his take was enough to clear the entire English annual debt and left money to invest into other ventures. Queen Elizabeth declared that the Golden Hind would be kept in Deptford (London) on display as the first ‘museum ship’.
The Golden Hind remained on display in Deptford until around 1650, seven decades after her return until she was eventually too rotten and was broken up. A chair was made from part of her timbers which is still in the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
The replica available to visit was built in the early 1970’s and launched in 1973. Fully sea worthy she spent the early part of her life on the world’s oceans, her maiden voyage taking her from Devon to San Francisco and has sailed all over the world since. She has covered over 140,000 miles in her lifetime, far more than the original ship ever did and in 1979/80 she retraced Drake’s original circumnavigation.
Since 1996 she has sat by the Thames as an educational and museum ship. One of the striking things when you visit is just how small the ship is, it seems incredible to us in modern times that 80 men left on board (56 returning) and spent more than two years living and working shoulder to shoulder on this tiny vessel while braving all the elements had to throw at her.