The Grand Staircase was one of the most impressive features on board the RMS Titanic and the centre of First-Class activity. It was an opulent, lavish staircase that spanned six decks (from the Boat Deck to E Deck), continuing through to F Deck as an ordinary stairway. It was located between the 1st and 2nd funnel.
The main stairwell was located in the forward part of the ship and began on the Boat Deck, extending six flights down to E Deck. B and D Decks contained entry foyers on either side where First Class passengers would embark and disembark, the D Deck entryway leading directly into the Reception Room. Each level was constructed in solid English oak with sweeping curves and the surrounding spaces paneled in the sleek neoclassical William and Mary style. The balustrades displayed distinctive wrought iron grilles with ormolu swags in the style of Louis XIV. The A Deck level was undoubtedly the most spectacular and is the most recognizable due to its frequent depiction in film.
The staircase was crowned by an extravagant wrought iron and glass dome with a large chandelier at the centre. The wrought-iron dome was installed on the roof of the boat deck and provided natural light to the stairwell before being artificially lit at night from behind. On the central landing of the A-Deck staircase was an exquisitely carved clock with allegorical figures on either side, known as Honor and Glory Crowning Time. At the foot of the staircase, on the newel post of the middle balustrade, was a bronze cherub holding an electric torch. B and C Decks probably had smaller replicas of these cherubs at either corner of the staircases, and contained landscape oil paintings as the focal points of their landings instead of the unique clock on A-Deck.
From the Grand Staircase a passenger could access almost all of the facilities available in First Class, level by level:
- The Boat Deck level gave access to the outside promenade space, sun deck, the lifeboats, and the adjoining Gymnasium. The A Deck level accessed First Class accommodation at the forward part of the ship and the grand public rooms located further aft via a long corridor. Entry vestibules opened onto the encircling Promenade Deck from the stairway.
- B and C Decks connected to the main corridors containing the bulk of First Class accommodation, including the extravagant 'Millionaire's Suites' located immediately off the B Deck level staircase. On the Starboard side of the C Deck staircase was the Purser's Office, where passengers stored their jewelry and other valuable belongings during the voyage.
- On D Deck the staircase opened directly onto the Reception Room and adjoining Dining Saloon. Instead of a cherub, the central post of the staircase contained an impressive gilt candelabra with electric lights. Behind the staircases were installed the three First Class elevators which ran between E and A Decks.
- On E-Deck the staircase narrowed and lost the sweeping curve of the upper flights; a modest single flight terminated on F-Deck, where the Turkish Bath and Swimming Pool could be reached.
After the ship sank, it was discovered that Titanic's Grand Staircase had never been photographed, so people started to re-use some images of Olympic's Grand Staircase instead. Slowly, several well-known images are claimed to be from Titanic, while they are all from Olympic.
The A Deck landing had a magnificent clock, flanked by the oak-carved allegorical figures of Honor and Glory Crowning Time.
On A Deck and Boat Deck in the Grand Staircase, the ceiling lights were surrounded with crystal balls instead of the glass covering over the lights on the lower decks.
Directly forward of the staircase, there were three lifts going from A Deck to E Deck, operated by three lift attendants: Frederick Allen, William Carney & Alfred John Moffett King. The lift attendants knew the ship very well, and could provide directions to passengers if needed. They all died in the sinking.
On the aft section of the ship, there was the Aft Grand Staircase, a smaller and somewhat less ornate staircase, but otherwise strongly resembling the forward Grand Staircase. When the Titanic split in two right behind the aft staircase, a large chunk of the aft staircase dome remains intact in the debris field at the wreck site.
There is also a life-sized replica of the [forward] Grand Staircase in the Titanic Museum, Belfast.
The upcoming video game Titanic: Honor and Glory also will prominently feature the Grand Staircase.
The Grand Staircase remained the same layout except it was colored a blue-ish color, and on the aft wall on A Deck and Boat Deck, a pipe organ would be installed. It would have the ability to either be played manually with keys, or using a roll to play it automatically. The instrument still exists today in playable condition in the Museum für Musikautomaten in Seewen, Switzerland. The addition of the large instrument also made for the removal of the flooring on Boat Deck on the aft side of the stairwell, so passengers could only get from one side of the staircase on Boat Deck by walking down to the central landing and back up the other side. The floor on A Deck would have also been made of a dark green-blue tiles in a different pattern, instead of the black and white floor pattern on Titanic. In addition, the lifts on Britannic went up to Boat Deck instead of terminating at A Deck like they did on Olympic and Titanic.
On the Olympic, the Grand Staircase was identical. Later on in Olympic's career, the Grand Staircase was painted green(In an attempt to match the Art Deco style which became popular in the 1920s) and extra handrails were installed on the staircase.
E Deck, the deck where the staircase ended began to flood at about 12:20 A.M. Water would probably make it to D Deck at probably 1:15 A.M. C Deck would begin to flood at 1:40 A.M. Sinking of the ship begins to get faster. B Deck starts to flood at 1:55 A.M. Water reaches A Deck at 2:07 A.M. It isn't known if people were standing in the staircase when water was at the A Deck landing. A Deck windows begin to shatter which increases the rate of flooding. On the outside of the staircase on the boat deck, water begins to rise over the walls. Water by now is a 1/4 covering the Boat Deck stairwell. Pressure from the water shatters the Boat Deck windows and more water comes in. The windows begin to form a little whirlpool, sucking in passengers nearby. There is a claim that the only girl in first class who died was sucked into the staircase with her mother but it is not for sure. Water completely submerges the exterior of the grand staircase, trapping passengers in there. The dome implodes due to pressure from the water above it. The rushing water breaks the Boat Deck to C Deck stairwells. The rest of the stairs from D Deck and E Deck remain on and break off when the bow hits the ocean floor.
Another theory of the staircase's destruction: The staircase (Boat-C Decks) were ripped out of the foundation of the ship while it was sinking and D-E Deck staircase was destroyed by the down-blast effect
The Grand Staircase was completely destroyed twice, first when the domed skylight collapsed during the initial sinking. Then secondly, the Grand Staircase was completely ejected from the ship up through the hole left by the skylight during the plunge of the bow section to the ocean floor. The stairs to the decks were never found because any remaining stairs completely disintegrated when the bow hit the bottom of the ocean. However, a chandelier that hung in The Grand Staircase A deck landing foyer was seen hanging from the ceiling and photographed extensively in 1986 (the year after the wreck of Titanic was first discovered in 1985) for the filming of the National Geographic documentary Secrets of The Titanic (released in 1987) and also during later expedition dives to the wreck (such as James Cameron's dives for his 1997 film).
On the wreck of the Titanic, the staircase has long gone. the ornate panels have been eaten away and the glass dome is gone leaving a gaping hole, however with the staircase now gone from the wreck the large hole does provide easy access for exploring submersibles to get into the ship. As of 2012, the Boat Deck level of the deckhouse has collapsed onto A Deck. The framework of the D & E Deck staircase are still in the wreck
In popular cultureEdit
- The Nazi propaganda film shows the Grand staircase as a metaphor for the avarice of the British and American upper classes.
- Jean Negulesco's 1953 film has a number of scenes set on the Grand Staircase, though it bears only a superficial resemblance to the real one.
- A Night to Remember features scenes on the Grand Staircase, with recreations of the A and D Deck levels. The sets were based on archival photographs of the Olympic, lending them a general appearance of authenticity.
- S.O.S. Titanic used a staircase from a mansion in London's Belgrave Square; it bore no relation to the appearance of the one on Titanic.
- The 1996 CBS miniseries Titanic features a recreation of the Grand Staircase, though it wrongly locates the A-Deck level, with its distinctive clock and cherub light fixture, opening directly onto the D-Deck dining saloon. It also eliminates the glass dome and the entire Reception Room.
- The staircase was a major focal point in James Cameron's 1997 film as well. The forward Grand Staircase, decks A through D, were accurately built to the correct proportions, although the model that was used was 30% larger than the actual staircase.
- The staircase is never seen in the 2012 mini-series, making it the only major production about the Titanic not to feature it.
Sadly, the Titanic's Grand Staircase was never photographed before she sank, however Olympic's Grand Staircase was identical to that of her sister ship.