The Sailors Home & Red Ensign Club

The loaned material consists of:

Minutes: Directors monthly meetings, 1841 to 1919, 1934 to 1958, 1934 to 1958, 1961 to 1974; annual general meetings, 1904 to 1973; seamen's church sub-committee, 1845 to 1846; building sub-committee, 1910 to 1922; General Purposes Committee, 1933 to 1974. Correspondence: Secretary's letters, 1841 to 1934 (from 1892 the volumes are indexed); letters to the Secretary, 1910 to 1927; letters to and from the Secretary, 1931 to 1956; general correspondence, 1959 to 1962.

Accounts: cashier's records, 1840 to 1964; accountant's records, 1841 to 1960. Within these records is a long series of ninety-three entry books, which record details of each man, age, rating, name of ship and destination between 1877 and 1956. Other volumes record the large number of the sailors' transactions; Secretary's accounts, 1840 to 1847; sailors' money transactions, 1855 to 1966. There are also Institution accounts, 1847 to 1962; departmental accounts, 1871 to 1965, including food and clothing accounts. Superintendents' Records: these consist of seven large volumes, 1870 to 1877, which contain the amount paid by each seaman, the name of his last ship, age, rating, birthplace and destination.

There are also staff wages books, 1873 to 1958. There are also a large number of printed reports, appeals and publicity material and loose papers relating to individual events. Although the Destitute Sailors' Fund and the School of Cookery were separate entities, their administration was combined with the management of the Home and references to their activities can be found in the main minutes and correspondence. There are, however, separate groups of records: the Destitute Sailors' Fund, ledgers, 1924 to 1959; annual reports, 1892 to 1898, 1931 to 1941; cash book, 1937 to 1960: the London School of Nautical Cookery, minutes, 1909 to 1956; correspondence, 1948 to 1960; visiting committees' notes, 1907 to 1919. There are also some records of the relief given by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Society, 1896 to 1945.

Administrative / biographical background
A group of philanthropists opened the Destitute Sailors' Asylum in 1827 in a warehouse in Dock Street, in Whitechapel to provide shelter and food for shipwrecked and destitute sailors. It was soon realized that sailors who were not destitute also needed somewhere to stay when they were ashore as an alternative to the notorious boarding houses of the time, and a fund was started to build a sailors' home upon the site of the old Brunswick Theatre in Well Street (now renamed Ensign Street). The Committee for the home had already begun finding berths for sailors before the Home was opened in 1835. Agents were then employed to meet ships on arrival and persuade the men to stay at the home. Other facilities provided by the committee included a sailors' bank, a slop shop, a chapel and an evening school. The Asylum was transferred to a new building in Well Street in 1836, renamed the Destitute Sailors' Rest and placed under the same management. Over the years various extensions were added to the home to provide further accommodation until the buildings covered the whole of the site between Well Street and Dock Street. In 1882 a branch of the Sailor's Home and a Rest were opened at Gravesend and the Well Street Rest was closed. The Gravesend Home and Rest were handed over to the Government during the First World War and afterwards were sold to the Shipping Federation for their new sea school. It soon became evident that provision was still needed for the destitute and the Beresford Rest was built in Wellclose Square near the Well Street Home in 1923. In 1851 a Mercantile Marine Office was opened in the home and in 1854 the Secretary of the home was appointed as the Shipping Superintendent. The Mercantile Marine Office moved to Tower Hill in 1873, but in 1895 part of the Home was demolished and a new Mercantile Marine Office and examination rooms were built in Dock Street for leasing to the Board of Trade. In 1893 the London School of Nautical Cookery and the London Nautical School were opened in the home in conjunction with the London County Council. When the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906 made it compulsory for all British foreign-going ships to carry a certificated cook, the School was enlarged to help meet the extra demand. The Shipwrecked Fishermen & Mariners' Society rented a room at the Home from 1895 until 1958. The object of the Destitute Sailors' Fund had been to provide practical help through the Rest. In 1947 it was decided to use the Rest Fund for the purpose of assisting the inmates of the Home in temporary need of help. At the home a rebuilding programme was carried out between 1951 and 1961 and it was re-named the Red Ensign Club. However, by 1974 the club was in financial difficulties and closed.

Record Details

Item reference: SAH; GB 0064 MSS/75/008 MSS/76/144
Catalogue Section: Records of semi-governmental and non-governmental organisations
Measurements: Overall: 24 m
Credit: On loan to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, from a private lender

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.