Services to Liverpool Seafarers

As a result of the many hardships connected with seafaring a number of charities were set up in 19th century Liverpool especially to help seafarers and their families in difficult circumstances. Spiritual guidance as well as more practical help was given to seafarers by the Gordon Smith Institute and the Mersey Mission to Seamen. The Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society helped victims of shipwrecks and rewarded the bravery of people who saved others’ lives. The Liverpool Sailors' Home was set up to protect sailors from dishonest lodging house keepers who attempted to take advantage of them. The children of seamen who lost their fathers were cared for in the Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution.
The four charities are still in existence today but operate on a much smaller scale. The decline of the shipping industry meant that there were fewer seamen and their families in need of help. The growth of the British welfare state also meant that charitable help in general was not needed as much as it had been.

The origins of the The Seamen’s Friend Society and Bethel Union this charity was set up on 12 September 1820. Its aim was to give spiritual as well as more practical help to seafarers. It became known as the Gordon Smith Institute at the turn of the 20th century. Then new headquarters were built in Paradise Street. This building was named after the dead son (Gordon) of a wealthy Liverpool merchant, Samuel Smith.

A similar establishment in Kirkdale, the Gordon Working Lads Institute


Founding fathers of the Gordon Smith Institute
The Liverpool Seamen’s Friend Society owed much to the work done by a Baptist minister called Charles George Smith. Born in London in 1782 Smith went to sea at the age of fourteen before beginning to train for the ministry in 1804. Smith set up a number of seamen’s charities in London and elsewhere. Most importantly he was the first person to have the idea of opening a floating chapel, which he did on the River Thames in 1819.