Skip to main content
British Sailors
Sailors’ Homes

Wesleyan Seamen’s Mission

The Wesleyan Seamen's Mission opened in 1843. It was succeeded by the grand Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest in 1902.

Methodists were among the first to engage with the religious needs of seamen, but initially they were happy to engage through non-denominational means. Lay Methodists, including Zebedee Rogers, were important catalysts for the spread of shipboard prayer meetings which began among colliers on the Thames. For this reason, they were relatively slow to create their own institutions for the support of marine workers.

This changed in 1843, when a number of lay members of St George's Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Cable Street formed the Wesleyan Methodist Seamen's Mission. They were responding in part to the impoverishment of London's docklands, which began with the expansion of London's docks beyond the Pool of London. As new docks were created, they generated a hinterland of marine workers with low pay, intermittent employment and high levels of social and physical ailments.

The Wesleyan Seamen's Mission was a modest reading room with accommodation above. The first minister was the Rev. Richard Chapman. The significance of its work is indicated by the high level of the patronage. In 1856, the Earl of Shaftesbury agreed to be patron, as he had done for the Anglican Missions to Seamen in the same year.



Wesleyan Seamen's Rest, Mission and Reading Room. Source: Carest Thou Not?, p. 56.



Other Methodist mission work for mariners followed on a grander scale. Possibly the most impressive of all the seamen's homes was the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest which opened in 1902. This is now the only surviving Seamen's Home in London, and one of the few still operating in the United Kingdom. A scene 'After the Bible Class', shows an impressive number of seamen in attendance, along with a mother and baby, and men of all nations and ranks.

Source: C.J.O. Sanders, Carest Thou Not? Facts and Incidents in the History of the Seamen’s Mission. (Culley, 1908), p. 24


Sails, George. 1970. At the Centre: the story of Methodism's Central Missions, 99-101

1993. The Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest: the story of the Seamen's Mission of the Methodist Church, 1843-1993.

Campbell, Alexander and David A.N. Hurrell. 2018. Saving Jack.

‘Seamen’s Mission, London’. A Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland 

Citation for this article

Hilary Carey, 'Wesleyan Seamen’s Mission' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914,
Retrieved 25 June 2024