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Port of Liverpool

The Birkenhead Mission to Asiatic Seamen

In 1900, a mission room for lascars was established at Morpeth Docks, liverpool. It was known as 'The Birkenhead Mission to Asiatic Seamen'.

The Duke of Edinburgh opening the new entrance to the Great Northern Docks at Birkenhead, 1866. Illustrated London News.

On 23 October 1900, a mission room for lascars began its work at the entrance to Morpeth Docks, Liverpool. Located at 42 Park Street, it adopted the name ‘The Birkenhead Mission to Asiatic Seamen’. The mission was the initiative of a Mr W. Sinclair Shearer, who had previously worked for a year as a Baptist missionary in India, before setting up a similar mission for lascars in London’s Tilbury Docks. The organisation was, no doubt, created to cater for large numbers of non-British Seamen arriving in Liverpool, as one newspaper remarked, Birkenhead was ‘visited by more Asiatic seamen than any other in the Kingdom’.

Reports from the time state the mission premises comprised 'sitting, reading, writing and recreation rooms' indicated at the front window by 'Bengali Hieroglyphics'. After 1902, the mission amalgamated with the Mersey Mission to Seamen described as its 'Asiatic branch', and Mr. Charles Madhusudan Seal, originally from Calcutta, was appointed as missionary to the branch. By 1903, the mission claimed to be visited by 400 lascars each month. In addition to being ‘regaled with tea and biscuits’, playing musical instruments from home, and engaging in games like bagatelle, draughts and dominoes, were among the activities listed. Religious instruction was, of course, a key feature of the Missions’ work. Tracts and the Gospel were stocked in various languages, which reportedly included ‘Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, and Arabic’.

Due to the large numbers attending the mission house, and instances of overcrowding, an appeal was made for funds of £300 to build a corrugated iron building. These funds were exceeded and a new mission hall was opened at the docks, at the corner of Bridge Street and Freeman Street. This was a strategic location, upon the opening, the Liverpool Journal of Commerce told readers, ‘The Hall is most conveniently situated, almost at the entrance to the Morpeth Docks, where the clan, City and Hall line steamers, which carry native crews, have their berths’.




Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 16 Sept. 1905.

Birkenhead News, 26 Dec. 1903, p.5.


Citation for this article

Lucy Wray, 'The Birkenhead Mission to Asiatic Seamen' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914,
Retrieved 22 February 2024