PortCities London

The welfare of seamen

The Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest
 

The longest survivor

While all the early homes and chapels founded for seamen in inner London have disappeared or been converted to other uses, one valuable institution still retains its original function after more than a century. This is the Queen Victoria Seaman's Rest, founded by the Wesleyan Methodist Church in the 1890s.

The Wesleyan Methodist initiatives

Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest.
View full size imageThe Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest. © NMM

The Wesleyan Methodists had always been connected with ministries to seafarers through their support for the British and Foreign Sailors' Society. They created their own institution for seamen in London as an offshoot of their general Missionary Society.

Further impetus came from their Forward Movement, launched in 1886. This set up missions in the poorest urban areas in order to tackle poverty. Their missions went far beyond preaching - they also acted as welfare centres.

Children outside the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest.
View full size imageChildren outside the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest. © NMM

The Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest opened in 1890. It was in Jeremiah Street, Poplar, just around the corner from the East India Dock Road and from Wade's Place, where the dockers' Strike Committee had met in the previous year.

A black billiard player at the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest.
View full size imageA black billiard player at the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest. © NMM
The Seamen's Rest provided accommodation and educational and recreational facilities for seamen staying in London. Its resident clergy also visited ships berthed in the port.

The staff of the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest, c. 1922.
View full size imageThe staff of the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest, c. 1922. © NMM

In late 1921, Kamal Chunchie joined the pastoral team at the Seamen's Rest. Chunchie later founded the Coloured Men's Institute and worked tirelessly for the welfare of non-white seamen and the wider black community in the port.

   

The Seamen's Rest today

The modern building of the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest.
View full size imageThe modern building of the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest. © NMM

Despite the closure of the inner London docks and wharves, the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest still occupies the same spot. It now extends its services to anyone connected with the port. Apart from the original building in Jeremiah Street, it also uses a modern extension, dating from 1965-80, which is around the corner in the East India Dock Road.

 





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