L-R John Gale, Alan Taylor and Frank Bond of the Fishing History Museum Photo: Ray Duff

Story by Ray Duff – On Thursday afternoon a large group gathered outside the Fishing History Museum, within Folkestone’s historic Fishmarket area, to view the official unveiling of the town’s memorial to Samuel Plimsoll, known as the ‘Sailor’s Friend’ by author and biographer Nicolette Jones.

The memorial mural work, by renowned local artist Shane Record, was commissioned by the GoFolkestone group on behalf of the Folkestone Samuel Plimsoll Commemoration Group. It was painted at Shane’s studio in the Old High Street before being resin coated by John Hammonde which ensured the vibrant colouring shone through. Finally it was sealed into a steel frame.

It features a portrait of Plimsoll observing with great concern, through a rain soaked window, a ship in distress, due to overloading, and the rescue attempts being made to save the vessel.

The crowd assembles outside the Fishing History Museum Photo: Ray Duff

The event was attended by around 50 people and after the introduction by Plimsoll group chair Angela Conyers, Nicolette Jones gave a brief speech about the great man, the local group, and thanked all who have been involved with it. 

This was followed by the unveiling.

Artist Shane Record -left- discusses his work Photo: Ray Duff

GoFolkestone chair Cllr Richard Wallace spoke about how the mural came about and then artist Shane Record spoke about the ideas behind it.  Following this former town Mayor Cllr Michelle Keutenius thanked all involved for their work over the years and for producing the memorial on behalf of the town.

Father Mark Haldon-Jones of St Peter’s Church then blessed the mural followed by chair of the Fishing Museum, Alan Taylor, inviting all inside for tea and cakes!

The Mural in full and the information board Photo: Ray Duff

About the Folkestone Plimsoll Memorial Campaign

The Plimsoll group had formed after an initial meeting in February 2011 at St Martin’s Church in Cheriton, where Plimsoll is buried, with biographer Nicolette Jones joining locals author & lecturer Nicholas Reed, Angela Conyers, Ray Duff , and the sadly now late Nick Spurrier, alongside then vicar, the original group was formed chaired by the late David Dickinson.

Subsequently, an annual commemoration, and wreath laying by local Mayors, has been held at the church initially in February, to mark his birth, but later in early June near the date of his death, in Folkestone, in 1898. This has attracted speakers across a range of marine subjects including by the RNLI, historical novelists and the Lord Boyce, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports on the Royal Navy.  In the February the group also helped to involve local primary schools in the Plimsolls On for Plimsoll Day event raising money for the RNLI.

In the last few years the memorial was again proposed and local campaign group Go Folkestone became involved. Both groups worked with local artist Shane Record to produce an appropriate design and with the Fishing History Museum building selected as the site of the artwork memorial. The information plaque was also designed and added by the museum staff.

Nicolette Jones officially unveils the memorial mural watched by Stephen Shaw of the MNA Photo: Ray Duff

Plimsoll’s life and work

Mr Plimsoll was originally born in 1824 in Bristol, and grew up there before trying to go into business. He failed and briefly became destitute though this heavily influenced his views thereafter. Following his successfully staring a coal business he became Liberal MP for Derby and always championed the rights of miners and seafarers in particular.  

He became hugely concerned about the regular and serious loss of seafarers lives on ships lost having been sent out, grossly overladen, with only the cargo’s insured against shipwreck.

After another disaster during the Great Gale of Bridlington in 1871 he introduced a Shipping Safety Bill into Parliament but had to battle past selfish ship owners and Disraeli’s government. At one point he stood in the House of Commons, shaking his fist at the Government calling them “villains” for blocking the Bill.  However it passed in 1876, following a further disaster, and established what is now known as the ‘Plimsoll Line’ or more accurately the load-line or waterline on ships to stop overloading. In doing so it has saved millions of lives ever since.

He later retired at Augusta Gardens in Folkestone with his wife. He became involved in the Congregational church, and other local matters.  He even went to Washington DC in 1896 to lobby against anti-British education in US school, and scored another success. On return though he warned against the rise of corporations.

Sadly in 1898, after suffering poor health, during which his wife laid one of the foundation stones of the then new Church near the central station, he died in June 1898 and was interred in a lovely and still well maintained grave in St Martin’s Churchyard in Cheriton alongside his wife.


The Folkestone memorial joins others in London on the Embankment and in Bristol.  It is also hoped that some related upcoming anniversaries will be marked locally and beyond.

Next year sees the 125th of Plimsoll’s death in 1898 and the following year, 2024, is the bicentenary of the great man’s birth. 

2026 sees the 150th anniversary of the passing of the Shipping Act of 1876.

More information

Samuel Plimsoll Commemoration Group: https://en-gb.facebook.com/pg/FolkestonePlimsollMemorialCampaign/posts/

GoFolkestone: https://www.facebook.com/GoFolkestone

Folkestone Fishing History Museum. 


Shane Record Studio: https://www.facebook.com/people/Shane-Record-Paintings/100063500793356/


Nicolette Jones. Book -The Plimsoll Sensation.  https://www.nicolettejones.com/

By Ed

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