How our work began
Founded in 1856, the Mission had its first beginnings some 20 years earlier when the Revd John Ashley began visiting ships at anchor in the Bristol Channel. Struck by their isolation and need, he turned down a parish appointment to set up a ministry to seafarers, which became the Bristol Channel Mission. He later purchased a ship, Eirene, fitted with a chapel below decks, which enabled him to expand his ministry. In 15 years, he visited 14,000 ships and sold more than 5,000 Bibles and prayer books to seafarers.
Establishment of The Mission to Seamen, Singapore
The Singapore Branch of The Mission to Seafarers begins in 1924 when the clergy and Cathedral members offered a ministry to seafarers calling at Singapore. Our history as a station begins in 1927 when it operated from an office in Connell House, formerly known as “The Seamen’s Institute”, which was situated at 1 Anson Road. This magnificent building was funded by a bequest from a seafarer, Mr Matthew Connell. To this was added the proceeds from the sale of “The Sailors Home” in Stamford Road.
Our Modern History
We take up the history of The Mission to Seafarers in Singapore in the early 1970’s when the Society was still registered as The Missions to Seamen. In those days Connell House was a superbly equipped and well used centre. With the sale of Connell House a period of insecurity followed for The Mission to Seafarers, as it is now known.
Following the sale of Connell House, a building for a seafarers’ centre and a chaplain’s residence were rented from the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA). In 1982 however, the lease was terminated by the PSA and the Mission was relocated to a room in a children’s clinic.
1980, a decision was made to purchase a suitable centre. After a number of abortive attempts, in 1982 the Society finally purchased a Chinese style
terrace house at 291 River Valley Road.
An architect, Mr. Charles Ho, was commissioned to restore the rather run-down house and to redesign it for use as a seafarers’ centre. He succeeded in creating a most imaginative centre which was officially opened, in October 1983, by HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, who is currently President of The Mission to Seafarers. Some years after that an office was leased in Jurong Port as an extension of the centre.
In the course of time however, 291 River Valley Road, situated as it is some distance from the port, became the victim of changes in shipping patterns. With ships discharging and loading cargo far more quickly and consequently, spending only a few hours in port, it became impossible for seafarers to visit the centre in the short time available to them ashore and in March 2002 the property was sold.
Interestingly, 291 River Valley Road has been officially designated by the Government of Singapore as a protected Heritage Site. Even though “The Missions to Seamen” title is no longer in use, visitors will still be able to see our former name “preserved” and literally cast in stone above the main entrance to the house.
Once again, the Society faced the challenge of finding suitable office space which would provide an effective and efficient base for caring for seafarers who visit Singapore. After a few months in temporary office accommodation in the Singapore Mariners’ Club, it was decided, in August 2002, to lease a small administrative office at Telok Blangah House which is conveniently situated near the Brani Port Gate, the bus route and the new NEL underground rail line. This office also provides telephone and internet facilities for the use of seafarers.
At the same time, a decision was made to relocate the small office in Jurong Port to a larger warehouse complex in the adjacent wharf J9 in Jurong Port. S$35,000 was raised to finance the establishment of a “drop-in centre” named “The Mission to Seafarers’ Care Centre”. Facilities available in this centre are a chaplain’s office, library / reading room, telephone and internet facilities, television and a kitchenette for light refreshments.
For the history of MtS, please download here.