Lucania Luxury

7 December 2009 by Stephen

Black and white photo of crowds on a dockside beside a liner.

Crowds see off the Lucania. Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

It is unlikely that we will ever see the likes of this ship again because she was very much a product of the age which inspired her.

I find it difficult to imagine what it would have been like travelling on such a vessel. The reactions of the passengers and crew can only be guessed when they first saw her amazing interiors.

The beautiful Cunard liner Lucania offered the most luxurious First Class facilities  available to Victorian travellers.

She and her sister Campania were the embodiments of late 19th century opulence. The high quality and attention to detail were sea-going reflections of the confident and prosperous late Victorian era and would never really be matched on any other ships.

Although the predominant style was Art Nouveau, the top-paying passengers could relax in surroundings reflecting other golden ages of the past. For example, the forward First Class entrance hall was in the French Renaissance style.

The Lucania’s top public rooms and en-suite upper deck staterooms were mostly heavily panelled in the finest woods with thick carpets and velvet curtains muffling intrusive sounds. The finest room was probably the Italian-style First Class dining saloon with a coffered ceiling rising three decks to a skylight.

There was a novelty in the Elizabethan First Class smoking room – the first open fireplace ever fitted on a passenger liner. This was truly a home-from-home on the ocean wave.

In Merseyside Maritime Museum there is brief and tantalising film footage from 1901 showing Lucania at Liverpool’s landing stage. Crowds in Victorian finery wave enthusiastically to friends and loved ones.

There is no foreboding of the sad end that would befall this popular vessel just eight years later in a nearby dock.

Both the Lucania and Campania had the largest triple-expansion engines fitted on Cunard ships.The two ships were partially financed by the British Admiralty, no doubt because of justifiable fears of impending war. Cunard also had to agree that the ships go on the naval reserve list to serve as armed merchant cruisers if necessary.

Lucania thankfully never went to war. Following the arrival of the super liners Lusitania and Mauretania, Cunard decided she was no longer needed. Laid up in Huskisson Dock, she partially sank after being badly damaged by fire on 14 August 1909.

Lucania was sold for scrap and the beautiful interiors that had escaped the flames were sold to the highest bidder.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1.50 p&p UK).

  1. Ken Kasalis says:

    What a wonderful site…these photos bring back such memories. I was a boy in New york in the 1950’s and my mom used to take me to the Hudson River docks to visit the liners before they departed. In winter, spring, summer and fall from 1959 to 1966 I visited the following liners: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Caronia, Mauretania, Empress of England, Canberra, Queen of Bermuda, Ocean Monarch, United States, America, Constitution, Liberte, Flandre, France, Leonardo da Vinci, Gripsholm, Nieuw Amsterdam, and Rotterdam .the last two Holland America liners sailed from Hoboken, across thew river in New Jersey. Mom used to take me to the shipping offices in lower Manhattan, by Battery Park. I now have a collection of 500 pieces of memorabilia – deck plans, brochures, poster, writing paper, etc. Did eventually sail on the France in 1973 and 74 to Le Havre and Southamton, and the Rotterdam in 1996 from Vancouver to Long Beach. I have plastic models of many ships including the President Wilson/American President Lines and Brasil/Moore-McCormack lines.The joy liners have brought to my life are limitless. So happy to see others so interested in the wonderful ships.

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