Capt. Long John Silver, as he preferred to be known, lived in The Look Out, a small house in Royal Pier Road, Gravesend. It had its interior fitted out like a ship wherein the worlds largest collectioin of merchant ship's figureheads and nautical treasures were stored.
There are several accounts of what it was like in The Lookout. We are fortunate to have some black and white photographs of the interior which can be seen here.
Sidney Silver Cumbers
Britain in the nineteenth century had its fair share of unique characters, among them was Sidney Silver Cumbers (also known as Capt. Long John Silver) now perhaps remembered only by mariners and enthusiasts of nautical history. He was among other things a collector of figureheads and nautical artifacts.
When only ten years of age he lost an eye through an accident with a toy gun. Any stolid boy would have been sadly affected by such loss. Team games for him ceased to exist and even ordinary boyish companionships were largely denied him through the inherent collousness of the young male. as a result he became self sufficient, being driven more and more into himself as the full extent of his disability came home to him.
The lonely little lad found an absorbing hobby in the stream of shipping entering and leaving the Thames Estuary. He had begun to spot and study house flags and ship silhouettes and to read the shipping papers. Being denied a sea career he entered the family business and lived in london. This famous Thames-sider was a successful London business man who lived normally in a conventional flat and dressed in a conventional city style. At weekends and on other occassions he came down to the Look-Out at Gravesend and kept an almost open house for all interestedi n the sea:he wore a yachting cap and a black patch over his glass eye.
The unique collection of figureheads, eighty- four in all ,represented four centuries of the craftsmanship of carving and formed the largest private collection in existance. The rarest of them is that called the Golden Cherubs dated 1663 and reputed to have been carved by Grindling Gibbons. This lovely figurehead once adorned the bows of the piratical frigate owned by John Jacobs.
The Lookout Timeline
|1931||Mr Sidney Silver Cumber comes to Gravesend.|
|1932||He starts his collection at The Lookout.|
|1936||The Lookout occupies annex of the Royal Clarendon Hotel|
|1951||Certain exhibits selected for showing at the Festival of Britain.|
|1953||The Duke of edinburgh thanks Mr Sidney Silver Cumbers (alias Capt. Long John Silver) for his generous gift to the Cutty Sark of the figureheads and other nautical artefacts.|
|1953||Some 150 people attend farewell party at the Lookout to celebrate 21 years of its being.|
|1959||Mr Sidney Silver Cumbers died just before his 84th birthday.|