This rare, early white bronze bell is from the very first ship of the famed Royal Mail Steamship Packet Company, the RMSP THAMES. This was the vessel that established the West Indian Mail Service when she was launched from Falmouth on January 1, 1841, carrying passengers and mail to Barbados. The THAMES was a wood hull, paddlewheel steam-sail vessel with a weight of 1,889 gross tons and was able to accommodate about 60 passengers.
The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was a British shipping company founded in London in 1839 by Scotsman James MacQueen. The line's motto was Per Mare Ubique (everywhere by sea). It became the largest shipping group in the world in 1927 when it took over the White Star Line.
Queen Victoria granted the initial Royal Charter of Incorporation of "The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company" on 26th September 1839. In 1840 the Admiralty and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company made a contract in which the latter agreed to provide a fleet of not fewer than 14 steam ships for the purpose of carrying all Her Majesty's mails, to sail twice every month to Barbados in the West Indies from Southampton or Falmouth.
Fourteen new steam ships were built for the purpose: Thames, Medway, Trent, and Isis (built at Northfleet); Severn and Avon (built at Bristol); Tweed, Clyde, Teviot, Dee, and Solway (built at Greenock); Tay (built at Dumbarton); Forth (built at Leith); and Medina, (built at Cowes). In reference to their destination, these ships were known as the West Indies Mail Steamers.
Ships of the RMSP Company, later shortened to RMS, would dominate British shipping for nearly 100 years. In 1932, the company was continued under the RML title (Royal Mail Lines) through the end of the dominance of ocean liners for such cargoes in the latter half of the 20th century.
Early ship's bells are rare, as bronze was an expensive commodity that was often reused, particularly in times of war, when it was melted down for cannons. The fact that it comes from such an important ship is another plus. This bell retains a great ringing tone when struck.
The images of ships shown here for reference are of THAMES' sister ship RMSP TRENT and the similar RMSP AMAZON of the period. THAMES would have looked nearly identical to these vessels.
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