Skip to main content
Port of Liverpool
1869
British Sailors

Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution

The Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institute was established in August 1869 in a temporary accommodation in Duke Street. Supported by leading shipowners and philanthropists it provided protection and education for the mercantile marine’s orphaned children.

 

Source: The Illustrated London News, 8 Oct. 1871. 

In the 1860s, Liverpool had established itself as one of the leading and busiest port cities in Britain when it embarked on institutional care for the children of the seamen who were sick, destitute, or those who lost their life to the sea. The idea was generated in a well attended public meeting held at the Mercantile Marine Service Association in December 1868. Ralph Brocklebank (Director, London and North Western Railway) and Bryce Allan (Manager, Liverpool Branch of Allan Line) proposed a resolution to provide protection and education for the mercantile marine’s orphaned children. Leading shipowners and philanthropists of the city agreed and started securing subscriptions. The Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution opened in August 1869 in a temporary accommodation in Duke Street with a mission to protect ‘our streets and courts and alleys full to overflowing of perishing innocents!’ (Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution 1870, 8).

Image: Cover of Report of the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution for the Year Ending 31st December 1869. Source: The Archives Centre, Merseyside Maritime Museum. Reproduced with permission.

By the end of 1869, there were 60 children in the residence including 46 boys and 14 girls, all between six and 14 years of age. The school hours ran from 9 am to 12 noon and 2 to 4 pm, during which children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, history, mapping, geography and dictation. Additional training included free hand drawing for young children and mechanical drawing for more mature students. Girls learned needlework and knitting, while the boys were taught carpentry. The Institution also provided opportunities for the boys who were keen for a career at sea to transfer themselves to the training ship. In a sermon in 1872, Rev. William Lefroy outlined the daily life of the orphans as divided into hours specified for ‘devotion, instruction, recreation, or rest’ (Lefroy 1872, 14). Study of the Scriptures was important and compulsory. The children memorized the Bible and recited a verse to the assistant standing on the landing at the dormitories when passing them.

Image: ‘The Duke of Edinburgh Opening the Seamen’s Orphanage, Liverpool’. Source: The Illustrated London News, Seamen’s Orphanage Newsham Park: Newscuttings, Programmes, Illustrations Prepared in Library 1940, Liverpool Record Office. Reproduced with permission.

In 1870, the Liverpool Town Council gifted another 7000 yards of land to the northeast of Newsham. Brocklebank laid the foundation stone for a new building in 1871 (Programme of the Proceedings 1871). In January 1874, the 68 children living in the Temporary Home on Duke Street were shifted to this new house along with 46 new boys and girls (Evans 1997). The Duke of Edinburgh, the ‘sailor prince’, opened this Liverpool Seamen’s Orphanage and announced royal patronage (Programme of the Opening Ceremony 1874). The Orphanage accommodated 268 orphans and provided relief to 168 widows on the first year. Sermons given at the Orphanage reported that many applications could not be considered due to the funds, since the annual operating costs of the institutions at £7,000 was already higher than the £2500 raised through subscriptions and interest on investments (Brown 1875). in the building On the second anniversary of the Orphanage in 1876, the Bishop of Carlisle delivered an evocative sermon emphasising the gravity of the Christian duty towards children. Having noted that no less than 4500 seamen died from shipwrecks and other causes in service, leaving a large number of widows and orphans without the means to support themselves, he exhorted the people of Liverpool to donate generously to the Orphanage’s fund (Carlisle 1876).

Image: ‘Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution’. Source: Liverpool Diocesan Calendar 1912, Seamen’s Orphanage Newsham Park: Newscuttings, Programmes, Illustrations Prepared in Library 1940, Liverpool Record Office. Reproduced with permission.

The most important aspect of the orphanage was the eligibility of children of all religious denominations, setting it apart as more inclusive than the Sailors’ Home. This inclusivity may have resulted in the orphanage outlasting other institutions for seamen’s welfare. It was able to provide a sense of safety and belonging to seamen’s orphans. Further research on the life of the children in residence and in employment after leaving the institution will shed light on the impact of the religious charity on youth development.

References

Bishop of Carlisle. 1876. “Angels and Children”: A Sermon (Liverpool: Lee and Nightingale). Liverpool Record Office.

Brown, Hugh Stowell. 1875. “The Love of Christ”: A Sermon (Liverpool: Lee and Nightingale). Liverpool Record Office.

Evans, Bob. 1997. Mersey Mariners (Wirral: Countyvise).

Lefroy, William. 1872. “The Saviour by the Sea”: A Sermon (Liverpool: James Woollard). Liverpool Record Office.

Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution. 1871. Programme of the Proceedings on the Occasion of the Laying of the Foundation Stone, on Monday, September 11, 1871 (Liverpool: Lee and Nightingale). Liverpool Record Office.

Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution. 1874. Programme of the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 30th, 1874 (s.l..: s.n.). Liverpool Record Office.

Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution. 1870. Report of the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution for the Year Ending 31st December 1869, The Archives Centre, Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Citation for this article

Manikarnika Dutta, 'Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914, https://mar.ine.rs/stories/liverpool-seamens-orphan-institute/
Retrieved 22 February 2024