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Benjamin Martell

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Benjamin Martell (1826-1902) of the Lloyd's Register of Shipping

1826 May Born. Educated at the Portsmouth Dockyard.

Apprenticed to John Fincham, a master shipwright.

Became manager for Charles Lamport, a shipbuilder of Workington.

1856 Appointed assistant Surveyor to Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping.

1872 Made chief surveyor to Lloyd's.

1899 Martell retired from this position. Full write up in The Engineer 1899/08/11, p 138.

1902 Died


1902 Obituary [1][2]

THE announcement that Mr. Marten died on Tuesday evoked a feeling of much regret in a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. In many ways he was a remarkable man, and has played a very important part in the development of the great shipbuilding industry of this country. Indeed, his influence has been in a sense world wide. He was born in May, 1826, and learned his profession in one of the best possible schools, to wit, the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth, then under the control of John Fincham, a master shipwright whose reputation was world wide.

On the expiration of his apprenticeship, and the completion of some literary work in which he assisted Mr. Fincham, he became manager for the late Mr. C. Lamport, shipbuilder of Workington, and had entire direction of the building and repairing of vessels there.

In 1856 he was appointed as an assistant surveyor to Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping, in whose service be remained for the rest of his active life, and attained great distinction.

He started his career as a surveyor at Sunderland, and successively served for varying periods at different outports, including Greenock, Southampton, Leith, Sunderland, and North Shields, before he was promoted to London.

In 1872 he was appointed to succeed the late Mr. Bernard Waymouth as chief surveyor to Lloyd's Register of Shipping, which high office he filled with conspicuous ability for twenty-seven years.

When in 1899, through advancing years and declining health, he had to lay down his official duties and retire from active service, he was made the recipient of many gratifying expressions of the high estim1tion in which he was held by the shipowning, shipbuilding, and underwriting community. At an influential meeting at the offices of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, presided over by Sir Thomas Sutherland, Mr. Martell was presented with a handsome piece of plate, and it was decided to found in his honour a Martell scholarship for students of naval architecture. The staff of Lloyd's Register also presented him with an illuminated address and with a service of silver plate, and an opal necklet for Miss Martell.

As chief professional adviser to the Committee of Lloyd's Register, Mr. Martell was called upon to take a foremost part in the great changes which have occurred in ship construction, and in that capacity he rendered services of the very highest value to Lloyd's Register and to the mercantile marine. Distinguished as he was in general naval architecture, there was one subject, however, which be made peculiarly his own. The question of the proper loading of ships had exercised the public mind for a considerable time.

Mr. Chamberlain, when President of the Board of Trade, endeavoured to have the problem solved; but it proved to be beyond the capacity of his department at that time. Mr. Martell had worked at this problem for many years. He brought to its consideration a fully matured store of information.

The position which he held had carried him into direct personal contact with a multitude of persons interested in shipping. He was in possession not only of all shades of opinion, but of those facts which are the special property of Lloyd's; and approaching his subject with an open mind, competent to regard a many-sided question from every point of view, he arrived at conclusions which, if they have not given general satisfaction, are still regarded as the best that the conditions permitted. The result was the construction of Tables of Freeboard, regulating the load-draught of vessels of all types and dimensions, and these tables, with some slight modifications, were adopted by the Load Line Committee, and have been the law of the land for the last twelve years.

Mr. Martell was for many years a vice-president of the Institution of Naval Architects, in the annual proceedings of which he took an active part, being the author of several papers on important professional subjects. He was also a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, of the Iron and Steel Institute, and of other bodies. Apart from his high standing in his profession, Mr. Martell was a man of many-sided qualities. He was an excellent speaker, and has helped out many a languid and perishing discussion. He was a very good mathematician, and had no small literary capacity. He was a man of many friends and few enemies. For the latter fact be was largely indebted to his unflinching honesty of purpose.


1902 Obituary [3]

BENJAMIN MARTELL died on July 15, 1902, at his residence, The Briars, Lee Road, Blackheath, at the age of seventy-seven years. For more than thirty years he had played a prominent part in the many important changes which have taken place during that period in connection with the development of ship construction in this country.

Mr. Martell was born in 1825, and his professional career began at Portsmouth Dockyard, where he served his time as an apprentice. His training there, together with his fortunate association during some of those early years with the late Mr. John Finch in preparing designs of warships and working out problems for the displacement and stability of vessels, laid the foundations of that technical knowledge which enabled him in after years to fill with so much distinction the important position to which he attained.

Mr. Martell joined Lloyd's Register Society in 1856, and in sixteen years, after serving the Society at several of the important shipbuilding centres in the country, was called to the position of Chief Surveyor, which he held until his retirement in 1899. The subject which brought Mr. Martell's name before the general public was the much vexed one of the loading of merchant vessels.

In the early seventies Mr. Plimsoll had, after strenuous efforts, succeeded in making compulsory on British shipowners the marking on a vessel's sides of the depth to which she was intended to be loaded, without, however, in any way indicating the position at which the mark might with safety be placed. It was left to Mr. Martell to find a solution of this intricate problem, and this he did in a manner that has been considered to meet admirably the requirements of all classes of the shipping community. The tables of freeboard prepared by him, and issued by Lloyd's Register Society, were adopted with some slight modifications by the Load Line Committee, and in 1890 they were placed upon the Statute Book of the United Kingdom.

He was a vice-president of the Institution of Naval Architects, and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1879.


1902 Obituary [4]



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