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Beaufort House P&O Passenger Divison.

Updated: Nov 15, 2020



Recently I was in the Aldgate area of London and thought I would retrace my youth trying to find Beaufort House, St Botolph Street where l had my first interview with P&O. Beaufort house was the headquarters of the passenger division.



Of course, it was long gone and in its place is a massive skyscraper also called Beaufort House.

Beaufort House in the 70’s was a low white building, built in the style of a cruise liner. But what I remember most about it was the paternoster lift system, there were no doors, a small cubicle that would hold two or three people, continually on the go so that you could hop in and hop out at the required floor. Of course, if you overran your destination floor you were carried through darkness until you were descending once again. The construction of new paternosters is no longer allowed in many countries because of the high risk of accidents.

It was here in August 1973 that I started work for P & O Steam Navigation Company – Passenger Division and the excitement was just starting.

The cruise booking office was located in this building. As a newly joined Purser Cadet part of our training was working alongside the regular booking clerks. You sat around a very large carousel on which traveled manual ledgers for each ship and cruise. When you answered a call, you waited for the carousel to come around with the require cruise ledger, of course on some occasions the ledger was already in use by another operative and you would later call back.

In those days you were mostly dealing with travel agents who knew what they were talking about, but on some occasions prospective passengers would ring in, these were harder to deal with as you generally had to explain the location of the cabin in great detail, this was difficult as a new P&O employee who had never been on a ship at this stage. After the initial cabin was offered and passenger details taken, the paperwork would be passed to the back office to be completed and fares collected.


One thing I remember about working in this office was the tea lady, I don’t know why I remember this so vividly and sadly l cannot remember the lady’s name, who had been with P&O for many years. The tea was served in a plastic cup that was placed in a red holder.

I worked on the carousel as a purser cadet for a few days and loved every moment. It was great for learning the layout of the ships and various cabin types. No computers in those days.

Also located in this building was the personnel department. The purser’s department was presided over by Mr. Atkinson who had very heavy black rimmed spectacles. He announced to me that my first appointment would be to Oriana as a junior assistant purser. You can imagine the excitement that I felt at this news.

Four of us were to join Oriana for a five-month trip to Australia. This was in the days of line voyages and a very different beast to cruising. After five weeks we would arrive in Australia and then embark upon a season of Aussie cruising before voyaging back to the UK.




Today


Beaufort House

15 St Botolph St.








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I first visited Beaufort House in around 1969 - it was my first job as a new articled clerk in Chartered Accounting firm Deloitte Pender Griffiths, who were responsible for the audit. I remember ticking off the victualling ledger, particularly with 40,000 tea bags being loaded onto one of the cruise liners! One of the P&O clerks was a Mr Wood-somehing, & I made a note in the audit file that if you had any questions you had to see him in the morning as he always took an hour's liquid lunch from 2 to 3 and was incomprehensible after that.

David Rice, Sydney, Australia

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I worked for Three Quays Marine a subsidiary of P&O in Beaufort House in 1974. I used to go in the back entrance in Gravel Lane so didn’t have to use the paternoster as although I don’t mind lifts I only went in it a couple of times and didn’t trust it. There was a cheap bar in the basement there and you got huge discounts on cruises if you stayed working with them for many years

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I remember going there in 1974 for a interview for a junior engineer with Panocean which was a chemical tanker outfit owned by p and 0,the lift is one thing that really amazed me

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Barry Armstrong
Barry Armstrong
Oct 23, 2021

I also joined P&O in August 1973 and remember the excitement of joining my first ship Orsova as a ABS. Finished up on Canberra as a PRS working in the Bonito club. Happy memories.

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I too worked at the old P & O Beaufort House in Aldgate in the 1970s - as a member of their Gas Ships chartering department in Tankers Division, between mid-1976 and mid-1979 before moving on to work as a shipbroker nearby in the City with H. Clarkson & Co. Good memories of the place and my colleagues, Patrick Mitchell was a superb manager of my small but then-growing department.


Tea lady in those days who came around every morning with her loudly-rattling trolley and ever-friendly conversation was an older lady whose first name - if I recall correctly - was Doris. Or maybe even Dolly! Something like that, really. A living legend, I don't know if she served morning…

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