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Date updated: 26/01/2023

Brief guide to Merchant Navy material held at Guildhall Library

Guildhall Library holds the Lloyd's Marine Collection, including the historical printed and manuscript records formerly held by the library at Lloyd’s of London. The collection offers the maritime and family historian information on ships' details, shipping movements and shipping news and casualties from 1741 to the present.

A Guide to the Lloyd's Marine Collection is available to purchase at Guildhall Library or online and is recommended for any detailed research.

Details of our holdings can be found on the Library Catalogue

Guildhall Library also holds the Newall Dunn Collection, an important photographic and reference resource on merchant shipping from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. It was donated by the eminent shipping historian, the late Peter Newall, and includes the photographic collection which belonged to Laurence Dunn.

Lloyd's Register of Shipping

Guildhall Library holds Lloyd's Register of Shipping, 1764 to the present.

The Register is an annual list of vessels, giving details current at the time of publication.  Until 1890 Lloyd's Register was almost exclusively confined to British registered vessels.   From 1875 vessels which had not been surveyed and classed by Lloyd's were introduced into the Register and from 1890 all British and foreign sea-going merchant vessels over 100 tons were included.

The Register gave dimensions, date of construction and Lloyd's class from inception, but from the mid-nineteenth century onwards much more detail was given about the vessel eg on engines if the ship was steam or motor powered.

Mercantile Navy List

Guildhall Library holds Mercantile Navy List from 1857-1977 (with some gaps in publication)

It was the official list of British-registered Merchant Navy vessels, published by the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.

Like Lloyd's Register, it listed technical details of vessels alphabetically by vessel name.  It included Commonwealth vessels and is useful for tracing smaller vessels, notably large yachts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which did not appear in Lloyd's Register.

Lloyd's Register of Yachts

We also hold Lloyd's Register of Yachts, 1889-1980 (with a few gaps) and Lloyd's Register of Classed Yachts 1981-1995/6 which covered pleasure and private craft all over the world.

Lloyd’s List and Lloyd’s List Intelligence

Guildhall Library subscribes to these resources for world-wide shipping, with online archives 1997 to the present.  Available on site only (proof and identity required).

Our main sources for shipping movements are Lloyd's List, a newspaper in which movements of ocean-going vessels were reported and the Lloyd’s Voyage Record Cards.  Casualties and other incidents were also reported.

Shipping movements were recorded in Lloyd’s List from 1741- 2003.   Movements were indexed by vessel name from 1838 – 1975 and Guildhall Library holds these on microfilm and on the Voyage Cards (c1927-1975).

Advance ordering is required for Voyage Record Cards with a minimum of five days’ notice.  Please write or e-mail your request in vessel name order with the dates required.

If you are looking for convoy movements; we offer exclusive access to the Convoys Database in the library.  This resource is searchable by vessel name, convoy number, port and date for World War Two and by convoy number and vessel name for World War One. 

Guildhall Library subscribes to Lloyd’s List and Lloyd’s List Intelligence with online archives 1997-present.  Available on site only (proof and identity required).

Brief reports of casualties appeared in Lloyd’s List  from 1741 onward.  

Lloyd's Shipping Index, 1880 - 1920 was a useful source for shipping movements but also for casualties.

Not all British shipping losses were subject to a Board of Trade Inquiry, but all are listed in the Board of Trade Casualty Returns. They commenced in 1850 with wrecks around the UK occasioning loss of life. In 1865 the scope was widened to include British vessels at sea elsewhere and from 1873 any British vessel involved in an incident which caused loss of life.

We also hold separate volumes of Board of Trade Inquiry Reports for 1908-1965.

Lloyd's Weekly Casualty Reports, 1920-1994, covered casualties and losses and reports are often detailed.

Losses during the two World Wars were covered in Lloyd's War Losses.

Most resources in the collection are arranged by vessel name but useful resources for searches by date or place include Lloyd’s Loss and Casualty Books and Richard and Bridget Larne’s Shipwreck Index of the British Isles and Ireland.

Contemporary sources such as The Times and the Illustrated London News are also worth checking.


Captains Registers

Lloyd's Captains Registers listed masters and mates who received their certificates between 1869 and 1948. Information listed includes dates of qualification and names of vessels in which they served.

The first volume was printed in hard copy facsimile and is available at Guildhall Library. It lists all captains and mates who were still alive or still in active service in 1868. All other volumes are at London Metropolitan Archives.

Passenger and crew lists and ships' logs

Guildhall Library does not hold any original passenger and crew lists or ships' logs, however, upon request we are able to supply a list of locations that do hold them.

Guildhall Library subscribes to the websites Ancestry and Find My Past, both of which hold details of incoming and outgoing passenger lists and are free to use in the library.  Find My Past also offers Merchant Navy Crew Lists 1861-1913 for England and Wales.

The Library also holds several printed, published volumes of shipping indexes and passenger and immigration lists for North America, Australia and New Zealand.

The Newall Dunn Collection comprises one of the world’s most comprehensive photographic and ephemera resources for Merchant Shipping history.

This collection offers material from about 1880 to the turn of the 21st century.  A key feature is a comprehensive series of images of ocean-going liners, cruise ships, cargo vessels, including tankers, coasters & colliers, in fact vessels of all types and sizes. 

In addition, there are over three hundred information files consisting of press releases and cuttings going back to the early 1930s, a large number of shipping company brochures, menus & other ephemera representing a wide-ranging pictorial history.  

The Collection is new to Guildhall Library and is currently being listed, catalogued and conserved.  We hope to make it available for ordering (in stages) during 2020.  See Guildhall Library Blog and our other social media platforms for updates.

We offer a distance enquiry service with up to twenty minutes free research.  For more information email Guildhall LIbrary.

The following help sheets can be supplied as an attachment by emailing us.

  • Sources for Merchant Navy history at Guildhall Library
  • Passenger and crew lists
  • Immigration records in Australia and New Zealand
  • Immigration records in North America
  • Voyage Record Cards 1927-c1975
  • Voyage Record Cards: abbreviations used
  • Lloyd's List Indexes
  • Casualty returns and reports in the British Parliamentary Papers
  • Shipping loss information in the Lloyd's Marine Collection
  • E-resources for maritime research at Guildhall Library
  • Guide to the Newall Dunn Collection