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Seafarers Hospital Society celebrates 200th Birthday

The Seafarers Hospital Society is 200 years old today and celebrated with a virtual tea party including cake and candles. Undeterred by the Covid-19 pandemic, CEO Sandra Welch brought staff and trustees together on zoom for a cup of tea and a slice of birthday cake.

SHS Staff & Trustees celebrate on zoom!

“We wanted to mark the occasion and what could be better than sharing a birthday cake? So we had a cake made locally and sent individual cupcakes to all our guests. It was a great way to celebrate,” said Sandra.

“Today isn’t just about having fun,” added Peter McEwen, SHS Chair. “There’s a more serious message. The Society was established in 1821, when merchant seafarers returning from the Napoleonic Wars were dying in the streets of London with no access to medical care. That’s where the Society came in. We literally picked them up and took care of them, setting up floating hospital ships on the Thames at Greenwich. And although the way we work has changed, the health and wellbeing of seafarers remains at the heart of what we do.”

Today the Society continues to support seafarers through hard times, providing grants for essential items and access to free health and wellbeing services. The Society works in close partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies to ensure that help is delivered as quickly as possible.

In 2020 the Society awarded over a quarter of million pounds in grants to 455 seafarers and their families – an unprecedented sum for the charity. This included 200 Covid-19 related grants worth just under £100k.  SHS grants covered disability aids and equipment such as electrically powered vehicles, adapted shower facilities and riser/recliner chairs, as well as essential household goods, clothing, payment of priority debts, urgent living expenses, respite breaks, funeral costs and other pressing welfare requirements.

“To find out more about our work, past and present visit our brand new website at and read all about our history and the people who made us what we are today. It’s a great read,” added Sandra.

Leftover cake will be distributed to retired and working seafarers at Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR) in London’s East India Dock Road.