Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter LI

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Thursday, May 9, 1850

In the present letter, which is the last that I shall devote to the Seamen of the Port of London, I shall give an account of the principal charitable institutions for sailors in the vicinity of the Metropolis.
    Before proceeding, however, to treat of the several establishments that have been designed with the view of alleviating the ills to which seamen are especially liable, let us endeavour to arrive at some idea as to the number of lives annually lost by shipwreck. The Government Returns upon this subject, though by no means so full as could be wished, still enable us to form some rough notion of the result. The following table is copies from the Report of Shipwrecks:


Year Number of vessels stranded or wrecked  Number of vessels missing or lost Number of vessels of which the entire crews were drowned Number of persons drowned in each year by vessels known
1816 343 19 15 945
1817 362 40 19 499
1818 409 30 15 256
Total 1114 89 49 1700
1833 595 56 38 572
1834 454 43 24 578
1835 524 30 19 564
Total 1573 129 81 1714

The returns since the year 1835 are less particular. The following table is copied from the Shipping Returns; in this, it will be seen, no account is given of the number of vessels missing, nor of the number of persons drowned:


  Number of sailing vessels Tonnage Number of steam vessels Tonnage Total vessels Total tonnage
1846 529 91221 8 678 537 91889
1847 533 95590 4 1037 537 96627
1848 501 93848 13 3072 514 96920
Total 1563 280659 25 4787 1588 285446

By referring to the preceding tables, we find that in the first period of three years (1816-18), the number of vessels wrecked was 1,114; in the second period of three years (1833-35), 1,573; and the third triennial period (1846-48), 1,588.
    The number of vessels wrecked during the last period of three years is fifteen more than those wrecked in 1833-35. If, however, we take into consideration the increase in the number of vessels since that period, we shall find that the proportionate number of shipwrecks has diminished to a considerable extent.
    Calculating the vessels wrecked and missing in the three periods above named to have been of the average value of 5,000 for each ship and cargo (this is the estimate given in the Report on Shipwrecks), the loss of property occasioned by these wrecks would amount in the first three years to 6,015,000, being an average of 2,005,000 per annum; in the second three years to 8,510,000, being an average of 2,836,666 per annum: and in the last three years assuming the number of ships missing to be 130 (which bears the same proportion to the number wrecked as those in 1833-1835), to 8,590,000, being an average of 2,863,333 per annum.
    The number of ships of which the entire crews were drowned will be seen to have been in the first period 49, and in the second period 81 - while for the third period there are no returns. Reckoning the average number of persons in each of the vessels of which the entire crews were lost to consist of twelve individuals, including officers, seamen, and passengers, it would appear that in the first three years the total number of persons drowned at sea was 2,288, or 763 per annum; in the second three years, the total number of persons drowned at sea was 2,682, or 894 per annum; and in the last three years - assuming the proportion between the vessels wrecked and lost to have been the same as in the previous three years - the total number of persons drowned at sea would be 2,707, or 902 per annum.
    But these results do not embrace the whole extent of the loss of property and lives occasioned by shipwrecks, among the vessels which belong to the United Kingdom; for the returns include only the losses entered in Lloyd's books; whereas it is well known that many vessels and lives are lost by wreck or foundering at sea of which no entry is made at Lloyd's, and of which, as no record is kept, no return can be given.
    The whole loss of property in British shipping, wrecked or foundered at sea, may therefore be assumed as amounting to nearly three millions of pounds sterling per annum. The value of this property, though covered by insurance to the parties immediately concerned, is not the less absolutely lost to the nation.
    The annual loss of life occasioned by the wreck or foundering of British vessels at sea may, on the same grounds, be fairly estimated at not less than one thousand souls in each year - which loss is also attended with increased pecuniary burdens to the British public, on whom the support of many of the widows and orphans thus left destitute must ultimately fall.
    From the foregoing calculations we arrive at the conclusion that the annual loss by shipwreck amongst the vessels belonging to the United Kingdom is, on an average, one vessel in every 42; and the annual loss of property engaged therein, 1 in every 42. The average number of sailors drowned amounts to one in every 203 persons engaged in navigation.
    The principal causes of shipwreck which are susceptible of removal or diminution appear, from the Report of the Select Committee on Shipwrecks, to be the following:
    1. Defective construction of ships. 2. Inadequacy of equipment. 3. Imperfect state of repair. 4. Improper or excessive loading. 5. Inappropriateness of form. 6. Incompetency of masters and officers. 7. Drunkenness of officers and men. 8. Operation of marine insurance. 9. Want of harbours of refuge. 10. Imperfection of charts.
    Concerning shipwrecked men's wages, I was informed that, in the case of a total wreck with all hands lost, the widows or personal representatives of the dead seamen cannot legally recover one farthing of the wages due from the owner; because a certificate of the seaman's having exerted himself properly up to the time of the wreck is required by law for the receipt of the wages, and there is no survivor to give such certificate. When a vessel is reported at Lloyd's as "not since heard of" - dates being given - it is concluded that the vessel is lost. The insurances are paid; but the lost seamen s representatives have no remedy.
From the subject of shipwrecks to that of marine insurance the transition is easy and natural. I have been at some pains to obtain an account of the number of vessels, as well as of the value of marine property insured, but to no avail. There are no direct means of ascertaining either the one point or the other. The sole mode by which the information can be arrived at is through the duty paid to the Government upon the amount of the premiums. Subjoined is a statement of the gross sums received annually since 1839, by way of duty on Marine Insurance.


Years England Scotland Great Britain Ireland United Kingdom
1838-39 264,906 15s 3d 29,897 13s 9d 294,804 9s 0d 1,539 10s 8d 296,343 19s 8d
1839-40 269,623 6s 9d 32,001 10s 0d 301,624 16s 9d 1,326 15s 9d 302,951 12s 6d
1840-41 254,493 13s 6d 31,794 13s 9d 286,288 7s 3 d 1,475 10s 0d 287,763 17s 3d
1841-42 224,072 5s 6d 28,626 11s 6d 252,698 17s 0d 1,638 6s 3d 254,337 3s 3d
1842-43 226,449 18s 9d 28,879 10s 0d 255,329 8s 9d 968 3s 9d 256,297 12s 6d
1843-44 174,492 0s 9d 18,663 17s 9d 193,155 18s 6d 1,632 2s 3d 194,788 0s 9d
1844-45 131,945 18s 6d 14,876 11s 3d 146,822 9s 9d 1,898 6s 6d 148,720 16s 3d
1845-46 132,121 12s 6d 17,064 19s 0d 149,186 11s 6d 2,355 0s 3 d 151,531 11s 9d
1846-47 160,949 4s 3d 19,303 19s 0d 180,253 3s 3d 2,079 17s 3d 182,333  0s 6d
1847-48 149,661 8s 6 d 14,090 9s 0d 163,751 17s 6d 1,667 10s 6d 165,419 8s 0d

      It is difficult, from the above table, to arrive at any correct conclusion concerning the value of the property insured, as the premiums paid on the different classes of vessels and cargoes vary to a considerable extent, and the duty varies with the premiums. Thus the rate of insurance for some vessels is only 10s. per cent, and then the duty is as low as 3d. for every 100 insured. When the rate of insurance is 20s. per cent, the duty amounts to 6d.; for an insurance at the rate of 30s. per cent the duty is 1s.; for 40s. per cent, 2s.; for 50s. per cent, 3s.; and for 60s. per cent, 4s. If, however, we take an average of the whole, and assume the entire amount of property at sea to have been insured at 30s. per cent, and the duty consequently to have been is. on every 100 insured, we shall find that in 1839 the total value of the vessels and cargoes insured amounted to the enormous sum of 592,688,000 - very considerably more than half of the National Debt. In the year 1847-48 it will be seen that the duty of marine insurance amounted to only 165,419 8s., whereas in 1839-40 it was nearly twice that amount. According to the preceding supposition the value of the property insured in the first-named year would have been only 330,838,800. This decrease is the more extraordinary as the number of vessels, as well as the maritime commerce of the country, had increased considerably since 1840. I am informed, however, that now colliers very rarely insure; while coasters insure only at intervals, in winter or stormy weather, and seldom or never when the weather is settled.
    The principal institutions for the relief of the seamen belonging to the mercantile marine, are - l,the Merchant Seamen's Fund; 2, the Asylum for Destitute Sailors; and 3, the Dreadnought Hospital for Seamen of all Nations.
    First, of the Fund:
    In the course of my present inquiry I heard many complaints from the seamen concerning the Merchant Seamen's Fund. Many of the men seemed to know nothing about it, beyond the fact of 1s. a month being deducted from their wages towards it. (The masters in the merchant service pay 2s. a month, and are entitled to twice the amount of pension granted to the seamen). The Fund dates its existence from the year 1747, the 20 Geo. II, c. 82, incorporated "the President and Governors for the relief and support of sick, maimed, and disabled seamen, and of the widows and children of such as shall be killed, slain, or drowned in the merchant service." But widows whose husbands were neither killed, slain, nor drowned, in the service, are now entitled to pensions, provided their husbands have contributed to the fund for 21 years. The provisions of the act of Geo. II are mainly in force still; but the collection and appropriation of the funds have been regulated, and, in some respects, materially altered, by the 4 and 5 Win. IV, c. 52. Previously to the passing of the last-mentioned act (in 1834) the payment of the sailors to the fund was 6d. a month; but no additional impost is now levied on them, as they previously paid 6d. a month to Greenwich Hospital  - a charge which was then abolished, or, rather (virtually), transferred to the Merchant Seamen's Fund - 20,000 in lieu being charged on the Consolidated Fund as compensation to the Hospital. The same act also abolished the payment to the Fund by apprentices, they having previously paid at the same rate as adult seamen. The average payment of each seaman is computed at 9s. a year, and the yearly amount realised throughout the country was assumed - no full and precise returns for the whole kingdom being given - before a Select Parliamentary Committee in 1844, to be in round numbers 50,000. The payment is collected wherever the vessel unloads, and until it has been made a certificate of clearance is not granted. The corporation of the President and Governors of the Merchant Seamen's Fund comprises above one hundred merchants and shipowners. The act does not require any precise number. A committee of the body meets every fortnight. In addition to the port of London there are the following thirty- nine out-ports under the immediate management of the London board or corporation: Aberystwith, Aldborough, Beaumaris, Bridport and Lyme, Boness, Baltimore, Carnarvon, Chester, Chichester, Cowes, Chepstow, Deal, Dublin, Dundalk, Faversham, Fleetwood-on-Wyre, Gloucester, Gweek, Galway, Grangeinouth, Harwich, Inverness, Ipswich, Kirkcudbright, Kirkaldy, Leigh, Llanelly, Newry, Rochester, Ross, Ramsgate, Scilly, Sligo, Stornaway, Stranraer, Woodbridge, Waterford, Wick and Thurso, and Wigtown.
    The greatest number of recipients among the men in the Port of London were, according to the Parliamentary return, from 60 to 64 years of age, the number being 226; the smallest number were from 20 to 26, being only 12; the greatest number of widows in receipt of pensions were from 50 to 56 years old, numbering 310; of widows whose age was from 20 to 26, there were 28; of the men, there were 44 pensioners who were 80 and upwards; of the widows of the same years, there were 24. The following was the average yearly rate paid in London in 1843:

1,269men,each 4  8s 0d
1,805widows,do 2 11s 5d
l,378children,do 1 3s 7d

At the out-ports enumerated the average was lower.

341 men 4  4s 5d
741 widows 2 10s 4d
1,109 children 1 2s 3d

    The fund, in other outports, is managed by local trustees. In his evidence before the committee, Lieutenant Brown, R.N., the registrar of seamen, expkssed an opinion that these trifling pensions were of little value to the seamen. If a seaman became disabled, and had to accept parish relief, he was i~ no better situation than if he had never contributed to the fund. Seven hundred seamen, in 1847, were chargeable to the poor-rate. If however (Lieutenant Brown stated) compulsory payments from the seamen brought them pensions of not less than 10d. a day, such a circumstance would be a strong check against desertion, and would make the men anxious to preserve their character and the evidence of their identity - an anxiety not called into existence by the prospect of 4 a year.
    The average age of the male pensioners on the fund is 55; the rate of pension for superannuation, which is from 55 to 60 years of age, is 4 a year in London; the loss of a limb ensures 5 a year; blindness, 7; and the loss of both arms, 7. No man who has not contributed five years to the fund is entitled to assistance from it. Many Swedes and Danes are pensioners.
    The inequality of the pensions is a fertile source of dissatisfaction. The amount is often dependent upon local arrangements, and upon the state of the fund. According to a return laid before Parliament the highest annual pensions awarded to mariners are 13 17s. 6d. in Cork, 13 in Belfast, 13 in Liverpool, 12 10s. in Hull, 12 in Aberdeen, 10 in Bristol; while the highest rate at Ulverston and at Weymouth is 10s. The seaman is entitled to a pension from the fund at the port from which he has sailed for the longest period during the last five years; and thus he may have been contributing to the Liverpool fund, and yet from accident, or from circumstances beyond his control he may only become entitled to a pension from Ulverston.
    The subjoined table of the annual Receipts and Expenditure of the Fund is everyway deserving of attention.

  1838 1839 1840 1841 1842 1843 1849
Duties received 9523  19  3 10696  11  9 10076  7  0 10058  17  6 8945  4  7 10253  18  0 10454  11  7
Dead men's wages 122  6  7 232  6  9 222  16  3 426  1  11 531  16  2 596  18  2 620  7  1
Benefactions 3  0  0 915  0  0 10  0  0 128  15  5 5  8  3 384  2  3 ...
Interest on capital 1782  0  0 1905  0  0 1980  0  0 2010  0  0 2013  4  2 2031  4  6 1404  0  0
Total 11431  5  10 13748  18  6 12229  3  3 12623  14  10 11495  13  2 13266  2  11 12478  18  8
  1838 1839 1840 1841 1842 1843 1849
Pensions and gratuities 8407  19  0 9091  15  0 10021  13  6 10599  8  0 11874  15  0 12842  7  4 13843   14  0
Expenses of management 1670  0  10 1444  17 10 1432  11  4 1451  8  2 1449  0  8 1427  16  5 1713  13  6
Other unenumerated expenses ... ... 1498  19  0 ... ... ... 487  18  3
Total 10077  19  10 10536  12  10 12953  3  10 12050  16  2 14270   3  8 14270  3  8 16045  5  9

    The salaries included in the expenses of management for each of the years 1841-2-3 amounted to 924 12s.
    It Will be seen that in the year 1842 the expenditure exceeded the receipts by 1,678 2s. 6d; in 1843 the outgoings were 1,004  0s. 9d. more than the incomings; while in 1849 the sums paid were as much as 3,566 7s. ld. beyond those received. It will therefore surprise no one who is at all acquainted with the defective and unscientific data on which annuities were calculated until of late years, to learn that Messrs. Finlayson and Ansell, the eminent actuaries, have shown that the Fund cannot continue to meet the demands upon it; and this conviction induced the Commissioners to recommend "that the required addition to the Merchant Seamen's Fund be raised by the imposition of a tonnage duty of ls. a ton by the year, upon all vessels belonging to the United Kingdom entering or clearing out, such duty being imposed upon the owners, and the owners being permitted, in part reimbursement of this charge, to appropriate to their own use the dues now payable by seamen and masters to the fund." The allowance to widows and orphans is disproportionately great: "From the 31st December, 1837, say the Commissioners, "to the 31st December, 1946, the pensions increased from 28,912 to 55,257, the present value of these pensions having been, at the first of these dates, 264,858; at the latter date, 506,586; while, after deducting in each case from these sums the amount of invested capital, the balance against the fund was at the former date, 131,833; and at the latter date, 333,826." Of the 506,586 no less than 354,547 was for pensions to widows and children.
    The matter is now before Parliament. The principal provisions of the proposed measure, in order to relieve the fund from its embarrassments, are that 1s. 6d., instead of 1s. per month, be paid by each seaman, and twice that sum by masters; and that pensions be granted of not less than 9 a year to seamen, and 18 to masters. These pensions have been calculated on the scientific data of assurance companies; while Government will give 30,000, so that the fund may be placed on a durable and equitable footing.
    Concerning the Pensions given by the Fund, I received the following statement from an old sailor, who had contributed his shilling per month to it for thirty-five years, and who is now in the receipt of the munificent pension of 9s. a quarter: "I am a Swede, but I have been at sea 35 years, in different services, in the English trade; to the West Indies, North America, Hamburg, and North Shields and other coasting voyages. For that time I have paid 1s. a month, and I'm now 63 years old. That is, I didn't pay it, but my captain always stopped it out of my wages. I paid it without asking what it was about, because I knew it was the rule. Eight or nine years ago, I applied for a pension on account of my age and services. At the Fund-office they told me to write to Whitby, according to the rules, as the ship that I last belonged to hailed from that port, though she sailed from London to North America. I told them I couldn't write, and a clerk said, 'I'll write for you; come in a fortnight.' I went in a fortnight, and was told that there was an answer from Whitby with 9s. a quarter for me, as the Whitby fund was not so large as the London fund. I said to the clerk, 'Give me back the money I paid, that's all I ask,' but he said, 'I can't do that.' And what's a poor man to do? I'm now forced to work at the London Dock. I suppose - indeed I'm sure of it - that I paid 1s. a month for 35 years. I shall never live long enough to receive a quarter of it back again."
    Within a few doors of the Sailors' Home is the Asylum for Destitute Sailors. It was established prior to the Home, and in last year's Report of the Institution there is the following statement relative to its establishment:
    "The war which stained the early growth of this century,... had no sooner ceased, than the absence of the unusual demand for seamen immediately threw upon the country a large number of men unfit for any other profession; and each winter brought with it intense suffering to the sailors... . It was in the years 1825 and 1826 that the attention of a few good men was invited by the distress to seek its alleviation. They found often, at night, groups of poor men lying huddled together near the sugar-houses, to gather a little heat, without shelter and without food. First, those kind benefactors employed an agent to distribute money to the outcasts, and afterwards they fitted up a room for their reception. This was the commencement of the Destitute Sailors' Asylum. In about nine years a commodious building was erected in Well-street, and the establishment placed on a proper footing. Since the period of its commencement the miseries of 27,855 seamen have been relieved; vast numbers of these have been sent to sea. The sick have been sent to the hospital, and convalescents from the hospital have been received into the Asylum, from whence they have procured berths on board sea-going vessels. During the last year 1,350 have been received into the institution of whom 130 came from the hospital-ship. This number has exceeded that of last year by 193."
    The Asylum is under the management of the same president, directors (with two or three exceptions), chaplain, general secretary, cashier, and collector as the Home. The institutions, however, as regards funds, are - as it was described to me at the Asylum - as independent, one from another, "as if the one were in London and the other in Liverpool. The Asylum is for the reception of seamen who are destitute; the Home is for those who are able to maintain themselves. The rules of the Asylum (which have not been printed) exclude all who have not been to sea upwards of a year, or who have not served as seamen in the course of the twelve months previous to the application for admission. Beyond this, no other test is asked for but destitution. Any foreigner is admissible. "Indeed," said Mr. Partridge, the superintendent, "we sometimes have men of all sorts of countries here - north, east, south, and west - speaking all sorts of tongues."
    When I visited the Asylum only five men had been inmates on the preceding evening, so small a number being rarely known. As many as 165 had been admitted, 160 being the number undertaken to be accommodated; but there was overcrowding, and sickness resulted. The superintendent would now be unwilling to admit more than 100, as more than that number, he considered, could not be comfortably lodged. On the ground floor are the kitchen and proper offices, and a large room, or hall, in which the destitute seamen have their meals. These consist of thick oatmeal gruel and sea biscuit in the morning, and soup and biscuit in the evening. During the day the men are required to absent themselves to "look out ships, and they are not allowed to remain in doors, unless they are sick, or the weather is such as to present an obstacle to any out-door inquiry being made by destitute or ill-clad seamen. I was told by a gentleman, familiar for some years with the matter, that at very slack times the inmates of the Asylum may be seen sitting - as many as thirty at a time perhaps - on a wooden rail in front of a piece of ground rendered waste by the pulling down of some houses, and known as "the rail." "It's called so," said a boarding-master to me, "and it's looked on as 'the rail' where the poor fellows are to be found." Here boarding and sailing masters may find them. The limitation of a sailor's reception in the Asylum is six weeks; but the managers exercise a discretion as to a longer or shorter period. Men have been - under peculiar circumstances - as long as six months, and some of the men admitted are employed in cleaning the place. Above the room where the men have their meals, is the dormitory. There is but one, as the men sleep in hammocks swung singly from a frame; this consists of a light transverse beam, on which the hammock is slung, resting on two upright poles, with the usual feet and props. The sleeping apartment is lofty, and all is scrupulouly clean. Among the regulations of the establishment are the following:

    "Any man who swears, uses improper language, or quarrels with another in the Asylum, must expect to be immediately sent out. No man shall leave the house before prayers in the morning, or after prayers at night, without the permission of the superintendent. The men are to attend Divine service on Sundays and Thursdays at St. Paul's-church for seamen, Dock-street, and the evening service at the Asylum. Any man refusing to go into the Queen's service, or take any employment that may offer, will not be allowed to remain in the Asylum. Men who get any work about the docks while in the Asylum, will be expected to purchase clothing with whatever money they may earn. Any man neglecting to be clean in his person, as far as the condition of his clothes will admit, must expect to be discharged from the institution. Every man in his turn will have to assist in the work necessary to be done at the Asylum."

    The following is the return of the receipts and expenditure from April30, 1848, to April 28, 1849:


To balance at last audit 185 14 7
Donations 266 11 2
Annual subscriptions 214 13 0
Collection at public meeting 2 9 0
West of London Auxiliary 20 0 0
Bath Association 11 6 6
Derby do 1 15 0
Edinburgh do 2 5 0
Guernsey do 11 9 8
Norwich do 19 19 0
Newcastle do 3 1 0
Ryde do 20 10 0
Torquay do 18 6 7
[Total] 778 0 5


By advertisements 2 14 11
Biscuits 32 11 0
Coals 25 12 6
Clothing and shoes 19 5 0
Collector's poundage 8 16 4
Cleaning, scrubbing, hammocks, rugs, &c 6 7 6
Carriage of parcels and waterage  0 14 2
Expenses of sick men at hospitals, and tea, sugar, &c., for patients  5 11 8
Exchange upon Guernsey currency  1 3 10
Gas  4 13 6
Insurance  2 15 0
Oatmeal, barley, and peas 50 17 9
Ox-heads  50 12 0
Printing 8 3 0
Petty cash and postage 8 4 9
Rent 35 0 0
Rates and taxes 6 6 8
Repairs, improvements, and furniture  20 1 0
Soap, candles, and oilman's account  10 18 9
Salaries to chaplain, secretary, surgeon, and cashier  150 0 0
Vegetables 4 3 8
Wages to superintendent, cook, porter, and night watchman  96 4 0
Savings Bank  100 0 0
Balance at Messrs. Williams, Deacon, and Co 127 3 5
[Total] 778 0 5

    From this account it will be seen that the cost of the domestic arrangements of the Asylum, including the maintenance of the inmates, and the lighting, heating, cleaning, and the insurance of the institution, come to only 207 16s. 8d. - while the salaries and wages of the officers and servants for the year are no less than 246 4s.; or, in other words, that the sum paid to the officials is very nearly one-fifth more than the amount disbursed in charity to the destitute inmates. This is the more glaring as the officers of the Asylum are, with the exception of the superintendent, the officers of the Sailors' Home, where the salaries, as we have already seen, amount every year to no less than 1,200! If the receipts of the asylum are but 778 per annum, surely the salaries should not be allowed to swallow up very nearly one-third of the charity, especially when those salaries are principally paid to persons who are already in receipt of an income from the Home.
    Men discharged as convalescent from the Dreadnought Hospital have in many cases to resort to the Asylum, and, so in some cases have men who must leave the Home (according to the regulations), when unable any longer to defray the cost of their board, as well as those destitute from other causes. The officers of the Asylum endeavour to find ships for the men under their care, which is generally a very difficult thing to accomplish, as the poor destitute fellows are usually in debt and in want of clothes.
    From a man who had been an inmate in the Asylum I had this statement:
    "I was once in the Straw-yard (Asylum) for a few days. Men generally consider going to the Asylum a degradation, far more than landsmen think of going to a workhouse. We pay 1s. a month to the Merchant Seamen's Fund, and - isn't it shameful? - we have no benefit from it that I know of. All the men I know complain of this fund, as no benefit to them. I was once cast away, and applied to the Merchant Seamen's Fund - it was when the Mary Anne struck on St. Mary's, Scilly - and the people at the Fund-office gave me an order, as I understood it, to the Sailor's Society; and I went to the Sailor's Home, in Wells'-street, and the people there sent me to the Straw-house (Asylum)."
    This man represented the victuals dispensed at the Asylum as being of an inferior description, but other seamen whom I saw and interrogated upon this subject made no complaint upon this head; they said the Asylum was a sort of workhouse for them, and described the food as of that character. Indeed, with the exception of the salaries paid to the officers of the Home, the Asylum appears to be not only well conducted, but especially worthy of the support of the benevolent. Were the 2,000 subscription and donations that are devoted to the Sailors' Home, given to the Asylum, and the Home made to support itself entirely by a decrease of expenses, or an increase of the charges, a vast amount of good would be effected.
    Any account of the state of the seamen of the Port of London would be incomplete without some description of the Dreadnought, or Hospital for Seamen of all Nations, an institution which has no parallel in any foreign land. All who have travelled by water from London to Greenwich have remarked the huge hull of a man-of-war, with her black deep sides relieved by numerous windows, bordered with white lines. On her deck, on a fine day, may often be seen night-capped and feeble-looking men, of all climes and complexions - white, black, and the many shades between white and black - patients sufficiently convalescent to breathe the air of the river. The Dreadnought is moored near Greenwich, on the Deptford side, and close in shore. She has been employed in this capacity since the 31st October, 1831. She was a 104-gun ship, and was launched in 1802, and during the war was employed in cruising off Toulon and off Cadiz. She was Lord CoIling- wood's ship, and was one of the vessels engaged in the momentous battle of Trafalgar. The Dreadnought was a heavy sailer, and together with the Prince, a 98-gun ship, was late in the action, but was serviceable not only in completing the victory, but in rendering aid to the crippled ships, and in rescuing the wounded, or others afloat on the spars or timbers of the battered vessels. She was afterwards one of the Channel squadron ships, but nothing notable is known of her after Trafalgar, until her present capacity presented so beautiful a contrast to her warlike career.
    On board the ship some relics of her former condition preserved. Among these one of the most curious is an old pane from one of the skylight windows, on which the master of the ship wrote with his diamond ring nineteen names, chiefly the names of officers. There is preserved on board, also, the Times of Nov. 7, 1805, No.6,572, containing the Gazette, and the account of Nelson's last fight. The paper is of four pages - the page the present size of the Examiner.
The Dreadnought was not the first vessel devoted to the purposes of a hospital.
    "A public meeting was held on the 8th of March, 1821, at the City of London Tavern, at which it was determined that a permanent Floating Hospital should be established on the River Thames, for the use of sick and diseased seamen only; to be supported by voluntary subscriptions, under the management of a committee; and the present hospital was accordingly established on board the Grampus (a 50-gun ship), moored off Greenwich. But the committee finding, in 1830, that the Grampus was not large enough to accommodate the numerous applicants for admission, represented the same to his Majesty's Government, who, in consequence, exchanged her for the Dreadnought (104-gun ship), which the committee fitted up or that purpose in 1831."
    The Grampus was broken up in 1832.
    The first three patients received on board the Grampus were, I was told, an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotchman.
    But it was not until 1833 - eleven years after the first establishment of the floating hospital - that an act of incorporation was obtained. In 1832 died Mr. John Lydekker, a shipowner. He had risen from a very humble condition as a worker in whalebone to great opulence. He had not unfrequently visited the hospital ship when some of his own seamen, ill after a South Sea voyage, were patients aboard. He was struck with the excellence of the institution, and was cognizant of its wants. A few hours before his death, when he felt himself struck by mortal illness, he bequeathed to the hospital the residue of his estate, which realised, from 1833 to 1841, the sums of 48,434 16s. 11d. in the Three per Cents, and 10,295 11s. 4d. in money. After this munificent bequest, the committee of management, in 1833, applied to Parliament for an act of incorporation, which they obtained, and by which they are empowered either to build an hospital on shore or to continue their establishment afloat. That it is politic, not to say indispensable, to continue the establishment afloat, is maintained in the latest report; It says:
    "If informed of, or directed to, hospitals, asylums, or other places of relief, on shore, which do not bear the title of 'Seamen's,' they (sailors) are unwilling to approach them, and submit to be driven to such receptacles only by extreme anguish and misery. A sailor, rather than repair to an hospital on shore, will strip almost the last rag from his back, for the means of obtaining a cure; and it is well known to every person acquainted with the habits of these extraordinary beings, that they will at any time prefer remaining on board their ship, even on approaching death, to being taken to an hospital on shore, although with a prospect of returning health. This prejudice may appear unaccountable, but is nevertheless general and powerful."
    Concerning the character of the Seamen's Hospital the Report of 1850 says:
    "The establishment on board the Dreadnought is placed precisely on the footing of other hospitals; with a superintendent, surgeons, assistant-surgeon, apothecary, visiting physicians, chaplain, &c. The ship is moored off Greenwich, being the most central and eligible situation that could be found contiguous to the bulk of the shipping in the docks and in the stream, where accidents of every description are continually happening; it is the only place provided for the reception of sick seamen arriving from abroad, or to whom accidents may happen on the water, between the mouth of the river and London-bridge. The Royal Humane Society have presented a complete apparatus for the recovery of suspended animation, which is kept in constant readiness. Sick women, of every nation, on presenting themselves alongside, are immediately received, without the necessity of any recommendatory letters; their own apparent condition being sufficient to obtain their admission. This peculiar facility of reception is in itself productive of greater benefit than may be imagined by the public in general, as the cases are immediately attended to; the consequence of which is, that the patients are effectually relieved in a much shorter period than would otherwise have been necessary. It frequently happens, that vessels coming into the Thames from long voyages have most distressing cases of sickness, disease, or accident on board; the subjects of which, being now sent to the Dreadnought, are restored with astonishing rapidity, and who, but for this institution, must have waited some days before admission could have been procured for them into hospitals on shore, with the hazard of becoming incurable, from the effect of delay in applying a remedy. The rules and regulations by which other hospitals are governed limit the period which the patients are permitted to remain in them to that of their requiring medical treatment; and which is generally sufficient, as the objects to whom their beneficience is extended have homes to receive them after cure, and friends to support and comfort them; whilst, on the contrary, a sailor, who, having been relieved from his complaint, is discharged in a weak condition, is without a home to go to, or a place to yield him a night's repose, and is compelled to wander about the streets or fields. In this respect the regulations of the Seamen's Hospital are essentially different; every person being allowed to remain on board in a state of convalescence, until he has completely regained his health and strength; and in the interim, an opportunity is afforded him of obtaining employment, in which pursuit is afforded him of obtaining employment, in which pursuit he is aided by the personal influence of the committee with their friends connected with the shipping interests; by which means many men are speedily embarked for climates most congenial to their consitutions."
    The following is the account of the receipts and expenses of the establishment for the last year:


Dr. To Balance of last year's account 152 7 4
Amount of donations 1,613 8 2
" of annual subscriptions 1,284 10 6
" of interest upon stock 2,654 17 6
" of percentage upon merchant seamen's money from ships belonging to the port of London 487 18 3
" of penalties and forfeitures under 7th and 8th Vict., cap 112    939 13 11
" of bequest of R.N.Hunt,Esq 500 0 0
" of unclaimed property 3 0 3
Balance 628 8 7
[Total] 8,264  4  6


By advertising annual proceedings, &c 78 8 9
Stationery, printing 750 books of the annual reports and list of subscribers, periodical returns, &c 75 9 5
Salaries to secretary and his clerk 160 0 0
Commission on collections and gratuity to late secretary 137 8 7
Gratuity to family of late secretary, and funeral bill 173 0 0
Rent of office, coals, &c 105 0 0
Postage and porterage 25 11 3
Law expenses 130 17 9
[Total] 885  15  9


By victualling patients, officers, and crew, and necessaries for the sick 1,987 17 1
Salaries to superintendent, surgeons, assistant- surgeon and apothecary, chaplain, steward, petty officers, and nurses 1,595 10 5
Coals, oil, paint, rope, and other stores, for ship's use and hospital wards 184 11 11
Medicines, medical stores, and surgical instruments 450 4 1
Washing hospital bedding and clothing 265 6 8
Burials 167 2  0
Plumber's work 57 14  2
Engineer's work 38 12  0
Labour on removal of stores, furniture, and patients, on repair of the ship, carpenters' work, and sundry fittings 259 3 8
Sundries, viz., physician's coach-hire, insurance from fire, boat and coach hire, and other incidental expenses 182 19 8
Gratuity to servants 26 0 0
[Total] 5215  1  3
Donation to Small-pox Hospital  30 10 0
Cash paid Sarah Gray, one year's annuity  12 0 0
" for 400 Stock, Three per Cent Consols 361 10 0
" for 400 Stock, Three per Cent Reduced  359 10 0
" for 500 Stock, Three-and-a-Quarter per Cents  470 0 0
" for 1 ,000 Stock, ditto 926 17 6
[Total] 8,264  4  6

    The subjoined table gives the receipts (including the balance of the preceding year) - the expenditure (including the investments) being equivalent - with larger or smaller balances, up to the balance in hand at the close of the last year:

1839 7,213 4 3
1840 7,320 9 11
1841 7,201 12 9
1842 7,487 9 1
1843 7,317 10 0
1844 9,741 8 0
1845  9,045 1 10
1846 8,893 14 8
1847 9,025 13 9
1848 6,957 12 8
1849 8,264 4 6

    The difference in the receipts is mainly owing to the greater or smaller amounts of the bequests. Among the bequests some are noticeable; the following for instance:
    One-third of an in tended bequest of the late Joseph Somes, Esq. (per his widow), 333 6s. 8d.; Christian Thornstedt, a patient, 6. Dreadnought, subscription box on board the, 19 12s. 10d.; Enterprise, proceeds of sale of blubber, given by officers of her Majesty's ship, 4 18s. 4d.; Gizzard, Francis, a patient, bequest of, 10s.; Wellesley, sacrament collection on board the, 1 4s. 6d.; ditto, proceeds of a play performed on board the, 4; ditto, proceeds of a lottery on board the, 10 White, Charles, a patient, bequest of, 1.
    I ought to mention that the institution fulfils the office of a dispensary as well as a hospital, administering to the necessities of those seamen in the vessels in the River, whose cases are not so urgent as to require removal into an hospital. In 1849 the number of patients in the ship was 2,239; and the number of out-patients 2,099.
    According to the last report, I find that no less than 61,250 seamen have been admitted as patients into the floating hospital, since its formation in March, 1821. The annexed table shows the nations to which the seamen belonged. It will be seen that but little more than one-half of the number are Englishmen - the Swedes and Norwegians admitted into the ship being nearly 2,000, and the Prussians, East Indians and West Indians, and Americans more than 1,000 respectively.



Englishmen 36,014
Scotchmen 7,459
Irishmen 5,537
Frenchmen 226
Germans 820
Russians 762
Prussians 1,191
Dutchmen 195
Danes 834
Swedes and Norwegians 1,934
Italians 554
Portuguese 469
Spaniards 268
East Indians 1,024
West Indians 1,055
British Americans 804
United States 1,123
South Americans 126
Africans 368
Turks 16
Greeks 49
New Zealanders 29
New South Wales 29
South Sea Islanders 179
Chinese 37
Born at sea 128
[Total no.] 61,250



Her Majesty's navy 3,038
Hon. East India Company's Service 1,797
Merchant vessels of different nations. .. 56,415
Total 61,250

Of the 61,250 patients admitted into the Dreadnought, only 3,489, or scarcely 6 per cent. died; 32,394 were discharged cured; 14,222, were sent away convalescent; 1,311 were relieved, and 993 dismissed not cured; 1,228 had ships found them by the Society; 240 were conveyed to their homes; 32,060 were admitted as out-patients; 2,446 were completely clothed after being cured, and 3,086 supplied with shoes and stockings.