23 August 2018Read more
Two hundred years ago, a determined group of preachers and laymen pledged to “alleviate the worldly woes” of distressed sailors in London. Their passion for this cause saw the beginnings of the oldest maritime charity in the world.
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3 July, 1833, another public meeting was held at the same tavern as before and it was resolved with the then Port Society to form a merged society between it and the newer national interdenominational seamen’s mission society known quite simply as the Sailors’ Society. So the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society was formed for promoting the moral and religious improvement of the sailors of the day.
Catherine Gladstone, wife of the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, opened the Sailors' Bazaar, held at the Town Hall in Kensington on 1 April 1884. His Highness the Khedive of Egypt and many others gave generously to the event. Money raised went towards replenishing the Society's general funds as well as the founding of a special fund to support aged missionaries.
The Society held its 75th annual meeting on 1 May 1893 at its then headquarters Sailors' Institute in East London. Speakers included J. Hutton, Chairman of the London County Council and C. W. Macara, founder of the Saturday Lifeboat Fund.
The Society purchased the old general post office in Dover and transformed it into the Bethel and Seamen's Rest. A memorial stone was laid at the unveiling ceremony which read "The sea is His and He made it."
At the height of World War II, the Society funded a sea ambulance to help injured seafarers. The vessel was 60 foot long and contained a ward equipped to carry 10 stretcher cases and 12 sitting cases.
Between 1949 to 1982 the Scottish branch of the British Sailors’ Society ran a children’s home in Rhu.
In 1960, the Society provided some young lads down on their luck with welfare. The Beatles were far from home in Hamburg when they came across the Society at the seafarers' centre and recognised it as the same charity that helped seafarers in their native Liverpool. According to legend, the band even composed some songs on the centre's piano.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, one of the Society's Patrons, attended the 150th anniversary service at Westminster Abbey. The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster with a guard of honour provided by pupils from the Society's Prince of Wales Sea Training School in Dover.
Speedy III is launched as a mobile seafarers' centre in the Port of Great Yarmouth. At 32 feet in length, Speedy III was slightly larger than her sister mobile centre Speedy II and had two separate lounges, a radio telephone and a microwave.
The Society's Patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attends the charity's 175th anniversary service at Southampton Docks. The service was filmed by Songs of Praise and saw a flotilla of vessels take part including the Royal Yacht Britannia.
It was a year of firsts. We began the year with the launch of our ground breaking Wellness at Sea programme. In the summer we opened our first Crisis Response Centre in South Africa and in September unveiled our first app, the ShipVisitor-ICMA App.
2016 saw a flurry of activity from the release of our Wellness app to taking part in the Patron’s Lunch to celebrate the Queen’s 90th in June and the launch of our BySea coffee in August.
In April 2018 we celebrated our bicentenary with a special anniversary service at Southwark Cathedral. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent spoke at the service about his family's long links with the charity.