top of page
  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

The RMS Queen Mary in Trafalgar Square, Jig-Saw Puzzle

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Manufactured for Cunard White Star Limited by The Chad Valley Co. Ltd., Harbourne, England, 1936.

This magnificent puzzle was produced by Chad Valley for Cunard White Star in 1936, the year of RMS Queen Mary’s maiden voyage.

The jigsaw is a beautifully executed illustration of Queen Mary’s scale and the artistry, knowhow and effort involved in her design, engineering and construction.

Her bow is grazing Drummond’s Bank and pointing down Whitehall, her stern is blocking Charing Cross Road, St Martins Lane and the corner entrance to The Chandos.

The east wing of the National Gallery and at least one of Nelson’s lions have been crushed on the starboard side.

To port, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Strand seem unaffected. Traffic appears to be moving remarkably smoothly everywhere.

The artist was William McDowell, a maritime painter and commercial artist. He worked with Cunard White Star on other projects, including other jigsaws made by Chad Valley. All of these jigsaws must have been appreciated as wonderful souvenirs of voyages and very possibly first completed on board a liner, mid-Atlantic. I don’t know if they were ever available to buy more widely.

A postcard of this image of Queen Mary in Trafalgar Square was mass produced, Liverpool’s Maritime Museum have one on display. A black and white image was also used in a very informative contemporary article in Shipping Wonders of the World.

The jigsaws were certainly impressively presented, in stout boxes designed to look like books, fastened with ribbons and covered in bright pink marbled paper.

The National Maritime Museum have a set, their box is in better nick than mine.

The Queen Mary in Trafalgar Square is unique among these jigsaws for showing the entire vessel. All the others show ships sailing in and against a background largely of sea. For a landlubber like me I can’t really grasp, or get excited about, what I am looking at.

Put a ship in Trafalgar Square and I can begin to understand and appreciate the scale immediately.

The square and its surrounding area may seem timeless but comparing images, then and now, there are many changes to be found, statues, fountains, roadways and buildings. Perhaps the most striking difference today is the absence of the road directly passing the front of The National Gallery. Back in the 1930s this was just a road, it wasn’t until 2003 that Lord Foster’s bold vision to pave over it and create London’s first dedicated haven for Floating Yodas, and other artistically challenged performers, became a reality.

The puzzle has approximately 150 wooden pieces. It is not a “fully interlocked” puzzle as many pieces on the left and right sides do not have any tabs* (the sticking out bits) or blanks (the gaps filled by the tabs). These unattached pieces simply rest against each other and only become fully linked when the puzzle is complete. Modern cardboard jigsaws tend to have tabs, blanks, or a combination of both, on every piece and thus can say that they are “Fully Interlocking”.

The high quality wooden pieces with their unfamiliar and interesting shapes and the image itself made this a very satisfying puzzle to complete.


bottom of page