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White Star Line, RMS Olympic. First Class stateroom parlour suites C-62 & C-55. Ormolu light fixtures. C-1911.

by Jonathan Quayle |

This year we purchased three of the finest articles ever to appear on the open market from the mighty Olympic, three important light fixtures, wall mounted sconces, from two of the most famous rooms onboard, two of her fine parlour staterooms, The Empire & Louis XIV parlour suites, along with impeccable provenance. Probably manufactured by N. Burt & Co, the company responsible for much of the liners fine ormolu light fixtures.

When the Olympic first entered into service in June 1911 her first class appointments were amongst the most lavish ever to take to the high seas. No expense was spared by the fittings used within her first class public rooms, staterooms & parlour suites.

White Star Line prided themselves on the comfort afford by their lavish ships interiors over the more speed conscious steamships of the Cunard Line. The sister ships of Cunard, "Mauretania" & "Lusitania" set new standards for luxury on large scale steamers on the north atlantic run, the birth of the Olympic class was a direct response.

As a result White Star Line commissioned returned to its tried and tested shipbuilders of choice, Harland & Wolff. After decades of fruitful collaboration building many of the companies steamers, and the delivery of the highly successful and popular big four, the forerunners to the Olympic class, they would produced a trio of liners, that had not fate intervened, would have been amongst luxurious ever to put to sea.

The ships parlour suites would match any hotel on land and the classes interiors would often be compared favourably to the great capital hotels such as the Ritz in London. The creme de la creme of high society of the gilded era would call these suites home whilst crossing the atlantic. The Astor's, the Guggenheim's, as well as european royalty would stay within them.

In the event although all three liners were completed we all know the premature destinies of Titanic and Britannic, sadly never to even see peacetime passenger service. The only member to survive being the classes namesake, old reliable herself, the Olympic.

A favourite of the discerning Atlantic trade from the outset, the ship earn't a reputation and love few ships ever find. She had a distinguished war service, and bar a few mishaps with an odd light vessels and a battle ship, was a successful liner, a credit to her builders.

The end would only come for the liner after an unstoppable series of world events that spelt the end for the mighty Olympic. With the continuing aftermath of the great world depression and the seismic sea change that was occurring in the passenger ship Atlantic trade, a ship the size & age (24 years old) of Olympic in the newly formed Cunard White Star Line, 1935 would see Olympic sail into the history books being broken up, her final remains gone by 1937. 

Olympic however would go on to have a second life, a resurrection. Due to several factors the Olympic legacy would be long lasting and far reaching, her dispersal sales by her ship breakers, Thomas ward and auctions would see the ships fine fixtures and fittings dispersed throughout the country. Olympic always held a fascination to the greater public being the sister ship of Titanic. Her appointments were as described above amongst the finest ever installed on a ship. The country was just emerging from the great depression, money was tight, the opportunity to purchase 1st class articles from the famous liner at rock bottom prices was too good an opportunity for many to pass. A year before the ships one time rival of the Atlantic, RMS Mauretania, was broken up. A large and successful sale was held within Southampton Docks of the ships fixtures, it would prove as a template as to want would happen to Olympic.

One of those in attendance at the main Ward sale was Douglas Smith, of Smith & Walton paint factory, Haltwhistle. Smith travelled to the sale in the hopes of securing paneling that would ultimately be reinstalled into his factory to furnish his board room and canteen. He ended up purchases vast quantities from the liner, everything from major elements of the ships grand 1st Class staircase, to countless ormolu light fixtures from the reception decks. It was the single biggest collection of re used Olympic articles to exist with the exception of the White Swan, in Alnwick. 

So enamoured with the luxurious fixtures that Mr Smith bought from Olympic he even installed some them at his home a short distance from the main factory. When Mr Smith passed away in his will he left three light fixtures from the ship to a Mr John Bryden, Mr Smiths gardener and also handyman at the paint factory. I was lucky enough to have recently been contacted by Mr Bryden's daughters, from whom I purchased these fixtures.

They are in unrestored as found condition, they are in the condition they would have left the ship in 1935. 

A rare opportunity to own an exquisite article from the ships birth, c-1911 and onboard the liner all her commercial life.

The fixture from the Empire parlour suite, c-1911. Probably manufactured by N Burt & Co.

The fixture from the Louis XIV parlour suite, c-1911. Probably manufactured by N Burt & Co.



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