the first centenary

1843 – 1944

The freehold of No 1 Jeremiah Street and its adjoining properties was purchased in 1899; it was proposed to clear the whole site and erect a new Seamen’s Home and Institute to include restaurant facilities, recreational and reading rooms, dormitories for various ranks and a block of “model dwellings” where seamen could, for a modest rent, leave their families under the wing of the Mission workers. Following the death of Queen Victoria in the early days of the new century the new King, Edward VII, gave his royal consent for the new Seamen’s Rest to bear his mother’s name and the foundation stone was laid in Coronation Year on 17 December 1901 by the Lord Mayor of London. The Seamen’s Hospital Society ‘Dreadnought’ rented a portion of the building to use as a sailors’ dispensary clinic providing free medical treatment on the premises. In addition free banking was available and a lawyer held an advice surgery once a week. The Association with Seamen’s Homes Beyond the Seas had been inaugurated and men from the Mission were introduced to similar institutions in foreign ports. While a great deal of money had been donated or pledged to build the new Seamen’s Rest, £6,000 was still outstanding so a scheme was devised to raise further income. Rooms could, for a price, be dedicated to the memory of the donor or his nominee; the 25 Sailors’ Cubicles were £30 apiece. The large Assembly Room was sponsored by John Cory of Cardiff for £750 and became the Cory Hall. The Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest was formally opened by HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, on 13th November 1902, and she readily consented to become the Patron of the Mission. As the work of the mission prospered a resolution was made to extend the building by another storey to increase the number of beds from 25 to 60. A Nelson Memorial Fund was started (the centenary of Trafalgar was approaching) and on 4th November 1905, TRH the Duke and Duchess of Connaught opened the Connaught Floor. In order to function effectively, QVSR needed a separate hall for public worship and meetings. The cost of providing such a hall would have been prohibitive had it not been for the timely and generous gift from Miss E. J. Emery in memory of her father. The new hall, seating up to 400, bore her name and was built on freehold ground to the rear of QVSR in Augusta Street. The Emery Hall was opened on December 5th 1907 by the Patron, HRH Princess Louise. In the First World War, 20,000 unarmed Merchant Seamen lost their lives and the Mission began an appeal to raise funds for a War Memorial Wing with room for another 100 beds; however, the  General Strike of 1926 and the Depression increased the burden on the Mission’s resources. The shipping industry was particularly badly affected with one in three unemployed and the extension had to be put “on ice”. By 1931 enough money had accumulated in the Memorial Fund; land was purchased alongside the Rest and work on the extension proceeded quickly so that just 9 months after the stone laying, Prince George (nephew of Princess Louise) performed the opening ceremony on 20th October 1932. The new extension comprised of three stories of private cubicles, 66 in all, a lounge and the New Agar Hall. Each cubicle was plainly furnished with an iron bedstead, dressing table, wooden chair, rug and electric light. In 1940 the Dunkirk evacuation caused much excitement; 21 men were seconded from the Rest and all returned safely to a hero’s welcome. As the Mission’s Centenary approached, despite the austere wartime conditions, an ambitious scheme was launched to increase the accommodation by another 60 bedrooms and other communal rooms. Priorities were naturally affected by the bombing and centenary celebrations were deferred to happier times. However, the new Patron, HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, did pay an informal visit. 1944 brought a fresh menace to the Mission. On June 21st a V1 Flying-bomb fell in Jeremiah Street and the whole of the staff quarters were destroyed. Mercifully, there was no loss of life. Disaster struck again on August 3rd when another bomb displaced the temporary repairs and added further damage, but restoration was done by the seamen lodgers and it was a source of pride that the Rest never closed.

  1945 to the Present Day