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Sailors' Home & Red Ensign Club

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 SAH
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Sailors' Home & Red Ensign Club
Date(s): [1841-1974]
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 80ft: 24m
Name of creator(s): Sailors' Home & Red Ensign Club


Administrative/Biographical history:

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 in direct competition with the crimps, 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. Later a school of navigation was opened. The Asylum was transferred to a new building in Well Street in 1836, renamed the Destitute Sailors' Rest and placed under the management of the Home.

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 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 was opened by 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 and 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. When bomb damage prevented this in 1941, the men were accommodated at the Home. 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. However, by 1974 the Home was in financial difficulties and had to close at the end of that year.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sailors' Home & Red Ensign Club. They consist 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.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were loaned to the museum in 1975 and 1976.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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