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In the nineteenth century there was no welfare state for the relief of unemployed or destitute sailors, their families or even their orphaned children. The shipowners and merchants of Liverpool played an integral role in raising the interest of the people of Liverpool in welfare provision for seamen and their families. The archives, which relate to maritime charities and missions, demonstrate the importance of trained merchant seafarers to the maritime economy. However, they also reflect how the people of Liverpool came to realise the numerous hazards, physical and moral, affecting the life of a sailor.
Royal Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution
A group of leading shipowners, concerned about the lack of provision for orphaned children of seamen, invited members of the Liverpool public to attend a meeting at the Mercantile Marine Services Association Rooms on 16 December 1868.
Liverpool Seamenís Orphan Institution Committee members
Mr James Beazley, a shipowner and member of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, attended the December 1868 meeting, and was elected chairman of the Orphanageís Executive Committee. Beazley donated the first £500 (worth over £23,000 in 2001) to the fundraising appeal.
Mr Ralph Brocklebank was the Orphanageís first President. In 1879 he paid for a hospital to be built at the Newsham Park premises. Alexandre Bafour was also the joint founder of the Seamanís Orphanage as well as the Seamanís Institute and a Sailorís Home.
Alexandre Balfours statue in St Johns Gardens
His statue in St Johns Gardens bears the inscription "Alexander Balfour merchant, ship-owner, born 2nd September 1824, died 16th April 1886, His life was devoted to God in noble and munificent efforts for the benefit of sailors, the education of people, and the promotion of all good works. He was also the joint founder of the Seamanís Orphanage, Seamanís Institute and a Sailorís Home."
Why was a seamenís orphanage needed?
Sadly, over the centuries many seamen have been lost at sea or killed in accidents on board ship, causing great suffering to their families. On 16 December 1868 a group of Liverpool merchants and shipowners met to discuss how to help the children of dead seamen. They decided to raise money to set up an orphanage in which to house and educate these children. An appeal for funds was launched on 27 March 1869. The appeal revealed that 4866 British merchant seamen had died in 1866, including 2390 by drowning.
In August 1869 the Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution opened in temporary
accommodation in Duke Street. By the end of 1869 sixty children were already in residence.
In 1870 Liverpool Town Council approved a resolution to give land at Newsham Park to the committee to construct a permanent building for the Institution and in January 1874 the children were transferred from the Duke Street premises to Newsham Park with an
additional forty-six newcomers.