Victorian London - Charities - Marine Society

MARINE SOCIETY; Office 54, BISHOPSGATE STREET. Instituted 1756, by Fowler Walker, Esq., Sir John Fielding, and Jonas Hanway, for the purpose of fitting out beggar-boys and others for service at sea. This Society places out annually from 500 to 600 boys, principally in the merchant service.  A yearly subscription of 2 guineas or of 12 guineas at one time constitutes a governor. The present house was built for the Society in 1774.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

The MARINE SOCIETY,-office, 54 Bishopsgate Street,- educates and maintains young lads until they arrive at a suitable age for employment in the Royal Navy or merchant service. Their home and training-ship is the Venus, moored in the Thames between Charlton and Woolwich. About 550 boys, well trained and carefully instructed, are yearly drafted by this society on board Queen's ships or merchant vessels. Its income is only 50001. per annum.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

Marine Society, Office, Bishopsgate-street-within. Training ship, Warspite, off Charlton Pier, Woolwich. - The report of the society for 1879 gives the following complete account of its history and progress. The Marine Society owes its origin to the sentiments of humanity and benevolence exerted on behalf of a number of wretched and distressed boys, who at the suggestion of an individual nobleman, were in the spring of the year 1756 collected together by that active magistrate Sir John Fielding, clothed at the expense of the Duke of Bolton, and sent to serve on board His Majesty's ship Barfleur, then under his grace's command. The utility of this humane design, in rescuing from misery and reclaiming as many as possible of this class of neglected youths from the paths of idleness, and too probably of infamy and perdition, was so obvious, that the plan was immediately followed up with the most active philanthropy by a private gentleman (Mr. Walker, of Lincoln's-inn), who had accidentally met with those lads on their way to join the Barfleur. By subscription, which he promoted, from three to four hundred boys were in a short time clothed and provided for in a profession most likely to make them useful and creditable members of the community. At a subsequent meeting of merchants and shipowners in June, 1756, Mr. Jonas Hanway, a merchant totally unconnected with the noble lord, and both the gentlemen before mentioned, proposed that they should form themselves into a society to give clothing to boys for the sea service. The proposal being readily adopted, the Marine Society was instituted; and eventually, in the year 1772, incorporated by Act of Parliament. The boys selected for the sea service are taken from the following classes: 1. Boys who are destitute, without relations, without friends, and without support 2. Boys in abject distress, recommended by governors, or occasionally by individuals of respectability, who have witnessed the misery and wretchedness; 3. Boys who have been apprenticed, charged with petty offences, of a truant disposition, under complaint of disinclination, unconquerable aversion, or total inability to follow their trades, on the indentures being legally cancelled, and the masters requesting the society to fit them out for the sea service 4. Boys of a hardy daring disposition, devoid of instruction or employment (being the sons of poor widows or other worthy labouring persons in distress, who are burdened with large families), applying, with their parents' consent, to be fitted out for the sea service; 5. Boys, under similar circumstances, from various parts of the country, when town boys do not offer in sufficient number; and 6. Boys from the country, recommended by governors, as being in the paths of danger in civil society. Parish boys may be received to fill vacancies on board the society's ship, on payment of 4 4s. No boys are received whose friends appear to be in a capacity to fit them out for sea at their own charge. Various plans were at different times brought under the contemplation of the society for a more beneficial arrangement as to some receptacle for the objects of the charity, in which they might be taken care of, and receive the benefit of instruction, both religious and professional, until such time as they could be properly provided for. In the year 1786, a proposition, originating with Alderman Brook Watson, MY., was adopted by the society. They first procured a merchant vessel, named the Beatty; this ship having become decayed and worn out an 1799, application was made to the Admiralty for the loan of a Government ship. The application was complied with, and from that time the Lords Commissioners, in order to promote the views of the Marine Society, have accommodated them with one of Her Majesty's ships as a training vessel for boys. The Warspite, a noble two-decker, formerly the Conqueror, is the ship now lent to the society. The society holds in trust the following special funds, devoted solely to the purposes for which they were given or bequeathed: 1. Consols. 17,045 9s., under the will of William Hickes, Esq of Hamburgh, for apprenticing poor boys and girls. In time of war the income of this fund is a propriated, with the general funds of the society, in clothing and fitting out boys for sea, rendering them thereby fit for service in the Royal Navy. 2. Consol 14,333 6s. 8d., ten thousand pounds of this amount being the gift of the late Isaac Hawkins, Esq. The annual interest of this trust fund produces 430, which is appropriated every year in the month of June, in donations of 10 each, to 43 widows of captains and lieutenants in the Royal Navy. The Marine Society is also entrusted with the payment of certain annuities to the widows of the sufferers in the engagement of the 11th of October, 1797, under Admiral Lord Duncan, under rules and regulations transmitted by the Chairman of the Committee of Lloyd's Coffee House, on the 15th of October, 1802. From the establishment of this institution in June of the year 1756 to the close of the war, 1763, the governors clothed and fitted out for the sea service the following number: Boys for His Majesty's ships and _ for the merchant service, 5,174. From May, 1769, to the 31st December, 1878 sent into the Royal Navy, 26,973; sent into the Indian Navy, 3,760; sent into the Merchant Service, 22,712. The total number of boys fitted out and sent to sea since the commencement of the establishment in June, 1756, to the 31st December, 1878, is 58,619. Number of landsmen to whom a bounty of sea-clothing was given by this society (on condition of their serving on board ships in the Royal Navy) from the first establishment of the institution in June, 1756, to the year 1814, 39,360.  Total number, 97,979. 

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881