Seafarers Hospital Society

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Coordinates: 51°28′54″N 0°0′31″W / 51.48167°N 0.00861°W / 51.48167; -0.00861

The Seafarers Hospital Society, formerly the Seamen's Hospital Society, is a charity for people currently or previously employed by the British Merchant Navy and fishing fleets, and their families. It was established in 1821.

Current activities[edit]

The Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital continues to the present day under the NHS as the 'Dreadnought Unit' at St Thomas's Hospital and the dedicated Hospital for Tropical Diseases, part of the University College Hospitals London NHS Trust.

The society currently part-funds the Seafarers' Advice and Information Line,[1] a national advice service operated by the Greenwich Citizens Advice Bureau. In addition it provides funds to nursing and residential care units for seafarers, and helps those in need by providing hardship grants.[2]


The first meeting of the society's committee of management was on 8 March 1821 and they initially provided the Seaman's Infirmary hospital ship using the ex-naval HMS Grampus at Deptford in October 1821.[3]

Founding members of the management committee included Thomas Sturge, Zachary Macaulay and Captain William Young. William Wilberforce was one of the many vice presidents, and the patron was the king himself.[4]

19th century[edit]

HMS Dreadnought, a lazaretto (quarantine ship) at Milford on Sea from 1827 and second of the society's ships from 1831

It relocated twice to other ex-naval ships; 1831 to 1857 HMS Dreadnought and then 1857 to 1870 HMS Caledonia (renamed Dreadnought). Following the closure of the Royal Naval Hospital at the site of the Royal Greenwich Hospital in 1869, the society was granted the lease in 1870 and on transferring became known as the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital, after its last floating home. Thus the Greenwich Hospital switched from the care of ex-members of the Royal Navy to those of the Merchant Navy. Meanwhile, the Dreadnought remained in use as isolation accommodation until 1872.[3]

The Albert Dock Seamen's Hospital was opened in 1890 as a branch of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich. The London School of Tropical Medicine was established here in October 1899, by Sir Patrick Manson, and remained there until moving to Euston in February 1920.[5]

20th century[edit]

In 1919 the dedicated Hospital for Tropical Diseases (HTD) was set up by the Seamen's Hospital Society in the Endsleigh Palace Hotel, 25 Gordon Street (near Euston Square in central London). This was evacuated at the start of the Second World War back to the Dreadnought Hospital in Greenwich. The HTD moved temporarily to 23 Devonshire Street in 1947, before being reestablished under the newly formed NHS in 1951 at the site of the St Pancras Hospital in Camden. The HTD moved again in 1998 to new purpose built premises within part of the University College Hospitals London NHS Trust.

Meanwhile, the in-patient Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital continued at Greenwich until its closure in 1986, with special services for seamen and their families then provided by the 'Dreadnought Unit' at St Thomas's Hospital in Lambeth. This originally consisted of two 28-bed 'Dreadnought wards', but nowadays Dreadnought patients are treated according to clinical need and so are placed in the ward most suitable for their medical condition. Since the formation of the NHS, the Dreadnought Hospital/Unit has been funded by central government with money separate from other NHS trust funds.

21st century[edit]

Former Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital building at Greenwich, built in 1763 as the Royal Hospital's Infirmary

The former hospital building is now being redeveloped to become a new Students' Union & study space as part of the University of Greenwich.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Funders". Seafarers' Advice and Information Line. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  2. ^ UK Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 73 - "The Charities (Seamen's Hospital Society) Order 1999". An order amending the Seaman's Hospital Society Act 1833, removing impractical or anachronistic measures and extending benefits to seawomen as well as seamen.
  3. ^ a b "Research guide A6: Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum". Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  4. ^ The annual subscription charities and public societies in London. 1823. p. 24. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  5. ^ Archives in London and the M25 area (AIM25) Albert Dock Seamen's Hospital

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]