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Port of London
1864 – 1939
British Sailors

St Andrew's Waterside Church Mission

St Andrew's Waterside Church Mission was a high church mission at Gravesend catering not just for seamen but fishermen and emigrants.

St Andrew's Waterside Church Mission for Sailors, Fishermen and Emigrants, 1864-1939 was established in 1864 to serve merchant seamen, fishermen and emigrants passing through the parish of Holy Trinity at Milton-next-Gravesend on 'sound Church principles', (ie 'high' or mainstream rather than 'low' church within the Church of England). 


St Andrew's Arts Centre, formerly the St Andrew's Seamen's Chapel, Gravesend. Source: John Winfield/ CC BY-SA 2.0


The Society supplied clergy, libraries and literature to port workers, including sailors on the principal London docks, navvies, coastguards, and railway men. At home ports, which included Liverpool, Great Grimsby, Brixham, Sharpness and Devonport, books were supplied to sailors, emigrants and fishermen. In the 1870s, money and books were also supplied to about 40 foreign ports, as well as to Sailors' Homes and Hospitals (Official Year Book of the Church of England 1884).

A chapel to serve the mission was built on Royal Pier Road, Gravesend, Kent in 1871. Its distinctive features include a ceiling which resembles an upturned boat. There is also a memorial window to Lady Palmer, daughter of Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, in whose memory the church was built. Two memorial windows were also donated by Lady Franklin in memory of the crews of the Erebus and the Terror, all of whom were lost in the ill-fated Franklin expedition, which departed from Gravesend in 1845.

Engraving of St Andrew's Waterside Mission Church

St Andrew's Waterside Mission Church, Illustrated London News,13 January 1872, p. 37.

St Andrew's benefitted from its location on the edge of the port of London, which meant that nearly every incoming and outgoing vessel was anchored nearby for at least some time. According to an advocate of the mission: 'No spot could be more favourable for Church work on board ship. The sailors and emigrants proceed from Gravesend straight to sea, and the last words heard in the old country are therefore those of the Church's minister' (Halcombe 1872: 314).

St Andrews Waterside Church Mission merged with the mainstream Anglican Missions to Seamen in 1939. The original mission chapel now houses the St Andrew's Arts Centre, Gravesend.


Halcombe, J. J., ed. 1872. 'The Church's work in seaport towns', Mission Life: An Illustrated Magazine of Home and Foreign Church Work, 3: 312-16.

Official Year Book of the Church of England. 1884.  (London: SPCK).  Link 


St Andrew's Waterside Church Mission for Sailors Fishermen and Emigrants (case 6121 or 3/1882a): correspondence and papers, 1880-1935. London Metropolitan Archives.

St Andrew's Arts Centre

Citation for this article

Hilary Carey, 'St Andrew's Waterside Church Mission' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914,
Retrieved 22 February 2024