10 Feb 2013

Plimsoll Line creator remembered

11:49 am on 10 February 2013

The life of an English politician credited with protecting the lives of thousands of sailors has been commemorated at the church where he is buried in Kent.

Samuel Plimsoll was born in Bristol on 10 February, 1824, and died in Folkestone 74 years later.

He is best remembered for creating the Plimsoll Line, which appears on the hull of seafaring ships to show safe loading limits, preventing accidents.

Civic leaders on Saturday attended a service at St Martin's Church, in Cheriton. It was the first time a commemoration had been held for him at the church beside his grave.

In 1868, the Liberal MP for Derby proposed a compulsory load line to prevent shipping accidents.

He highlighted the fact that nearly 1000 merchant seamen were drowned each year on ships around the coast and cited the greed of ship owners who insisted on loading their vessels with too much cargo.

In 1876 the Board of Trade recorded that 856 British merchant ships were lost in conditions "that were no worse than a strong breeze".

After a tireless campaign, a government bill was introduced in 1875, but Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli later announced it would be dropped.

Eventually, the Merchant Shipping Act was introduced in 1876, introducing a mark on the hull of all ships to ensure they were not overloaded.

The Plimsoll Line symbol later became the inspiration for the London Underground sign.

The BBC reports Plimsoll Day on 10 February was celebrated in various parts of Britain for many years and 15 towns have streets named after him.

There are memorial statues of Plimsoll on Victoria Embankment in London and in Bristol, and a plaque marks one of the houses where he lived in Folkestone.