A NEW exhibition will open in Falmouth on Friday to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the launch of Cutty Sark – one of the world's most famous historic ships.

It was on Monday, November 22, 1869 that Cutty Sark first took to the water in Scotland.

The ship has an illustrious past, with Falmouth playing a key role in its history and ultimate survival.

A new exhibition at National Maritime Museum Cornwall, opening this Friday to coincide with the anniversary, celebrates Cutty Sark’s time moored in the town.

Cutty Sark, the last remaining tea clipper, was built in Scotland and designed to transport tea from China to the UK as fast as possible.

Its maiden voyage in 1870 took wine, spirits and beer to Shanghai and on the ship’s return it carried 1,305,812 lbs of tea.

Modern technologies, such as the arrival of steam power and the opening of new trade routes, meant that Cutty Sark, after 52 years of shipping, made its way to Falmouth to become a training vessel.

The ship was bought by retired Captain Wilfred Dowman in 1922 for £3,750, far more than the ship was worth. Dowman set about restoring Cutty Sark to its original state as a tea clipper at huge personal expense.

Sarah Riddle, National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s curator, said: “The Cutty Sark had a home in Falmouth from 1922 until 1938.

"During this time she became a much loved sight amongst the ships in the harbour. As well as a tourist attraction where visitors would be rowed out to see her close up, she was used as a training ship for cadets, bound for the Royal Navy or Merchant Marines.

“Many souvenirs of her were made for the visitors including postcards and handkerchiefs which you can see in the exhibition. The exhibition also includes scale models, photographs and clothing and is a fascinating insight into the history of the ship as well as the area at this time.”

Richard Doughty, the museum’s director and former director of the Cutty Sark Conservation Project, added: “The Cutty Sark is amongst the most famous ships in the world and we are delighted to share Falmouth’s connections to her as we celebrate 150 years since this historic vessel was launched.”

Cutty Sark left Falmouth amidst sadness and fanfare in 1938 when Dowman’s widow could no longer afford to keep her and was sold to the Thames Nautical Training College.

From there Cutty Sark went on to form a key part of the Festival of Britain displays in 1951 before being acquired for the nation in 1954 at Greenwich, where she can still be visited today.