Timeline

On 17 July 1857 a “large and influential meeting” was held at Mansion House, London, at which a resolution for the establishment of a hospital for “worn-out and disabled merchant seamen” was carried unanimously.

The eventual outcome was the formation of this Society and the establishment of its original home in 1865, at Belvedere House in Erith on the south side of the Thames.

Much like the work of the seafarer, the Society’s work has never been easy. It has had to continually adapt and faced many challenges over the years as the maritime, social scenes and indeed the very nature of seafaring changed.

This timeline records the progress and remarkable success of the Society over the past 150 years since the foundation of its mission.

If you would like to learn more about our history , you can read our 150th anniversary publication ‘Home from Sea’ .

1864

Belvedere House in Erith, Kent, is purchased

1865

The independent committee set up to administer the Institution meets for the first time on 5th May, making this the Royal Alfred’s official ‘birthday’

1868

HRH Prince Alfred becomes the first Patron and the name of the Society changes to ‘The Royal Alfred Aged Merchant Seamen’s Institution’, a name to be retained for 82 years

1908

The Government Old Age Pension Act comes into effect

1914

World War I begins

1917

King George’s Fund for Sailors (now Seafarers UK) is formed. It remains a generous benefactor to the Society

1926

First inmates are admitted to the Royal Alfred's newly established Infirm Home

1939

World War II begins

1945

World War II ends and the United Nations is established

1954

Town planning approval is given to the Society’s designs for a new home

1955

HM Queen Elizabeth II becomes Royal Patron of the Society

1958

The first Cod War between Britain and Iceland begins (Sept-Nov)

1959

Residents are transferred to the new home on 2 February. It is officially opened by HRH Princess Alexandra on the 30 June

1960

The old Belvedere House is demolished

1965

The Royal Alfred celebrates its centenary year

1966

The centenary history of the Society entitled, ‘The Royal Alfred Story’, is published

1968

Weston Acres House is converted into self-contained flats owned and managed by the Royal Alfred Housing Association

1971

A supplemental Royal Charter is drafted, with categories of beneficiaries to be widened

1975

The Weston Acres roof is replaced, funded by King George's Fund for Sailors

1976

The European Economic Community extends member states' fishing zone from 12 to 200 miles

1977

The decision is taken to close the new Belvedere Home at Erith and purchase the Zachary Merton Convalescent Home in Holly Lane, Banstead

1977

The scope of beneficiaries is widened in the Society’s Royal Charter to include seafarers of any nationality employed on UK ships, retired officers and ratings of Royal Navy and Royal Marines

1978

The scope of Royal Alfred Home, Eastbourne, is widened to include women

1980

Mrs Pat Collins is appointed as Matron to the Royal Alfred Home, Eastbourne, which is now open to both men and women

1982

Conflict breaks out in the Falklands

1985

The wreck of RMS Titanic is discovered on 1 September

1986

Miss Jeannine Hamilton is made Officer in Charge at the Holly Lane Home

1988

David Gundry is appointed to the Board

1991

George Miskin is appointed Chairman of the Board on the retirement of David Rooper

1992

The Home is recognised by the Local Authority as an Approved Provider of Care under Community Care Act 1993

1995

The Weston Acres Housing Association is wound up

1996

The National Required Standard for registering Residential and Nursing Care Homes is introduced

1998

Pat Collins retires, succeeded by Edith Henry at Eastbourne

2001

Mrs Spencer is appointed as new manager of the Royal Alfred Home, Eastbourne

2002

HM the Queen withdraws her Patronage of the Royal Alfred; HRH the Princess Royal replaces her

2006

The decision is taken to close the Royal Alfred Home at Eastbourne

2006

Commander Brian Boxall-Hunt is appointed Chief Executive

2008

The Care Quality Commission is established under the new Health and Social Care Act

2010

Battle of Britain 70th anniversary

2012

HM the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee

2014

The 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings, the turning point of the Second World War

2015

The Society celebrates its 150th anniversary

2015

The 150th anniversary history of the Society entitled, ‘Home from Sea’, is published

1857

Business and shipping interests start raising funds and resolve that “a Hospital be established for Worn-out and Disabled Merchant Seamen”

1867

Following renovations, the first residents move in to the ‘Belvedere Institution’ on New Year’s Day

1869

The Suez Canal opens

1887

Great Britain celebrates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

1912

The Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg

1915

Soldiers billeted in the Belvedere District are given permission to perform military drills in the grounds of the Institution

1919

The Society establishes a Samaritan Fund to assist serving sailors unable to work due to long-term illness

1938

The Society’s management meet in October to discuss a range of precautions in the event of a Second World War

1945

The V2 rocket attacks cause extensive damage to both homes. Thankfully no injuries are reported and neither home is structurally affected. Discussions begin about post-war modernisation and adaptation of the Belvedere Home

1950

The first 'original' Royal Charter is granted. The charity becomes 'The Royal Alfred Merchant Seamen's Society'

1955

The Royal Alfred takes the decision to move to a new purpose-built home

1956

Building of the Society’s new home gets underway

1958

The new Belvedere House, Erith, is completed. It was built by AE Symes for £228,000

1959

The Society’s Head Office is moved from Ibex House Minories to Balham High Street

1964

David Rooper becomes Chairman of the Society’s Management Board

1966

The Royal Alfred Home in Eastbourne opens

1967

The Society purchases the house and grounds at Western Acres, Banstead, Surrey

1969

The adjoining Hotel to the Society’s Eastbourne Home is purchased

1973

Royal Navy ratings are admitted to Belvedere Home by arrangement with The Royal Naval Benevolent Trust

1975

Captain Tony Braithwaite joins the Board of Management

1977

HM the Queen celebrates her Silver Jubilee

1977

The Society’s name is officially changed to ‘The Royal Alfred Seafarers' Society’

1978

Belvedere Home, Holly Lane, Banstead (ex Zachary Merton Convalescent Home) is purchased. Nearly 70 residents are moved overnight to the new Home. No buyer can be found for Belvedere Home, Erith, which was closed

1980

Belvedere House, Erith, is finally sold

1981

An application is made to the Privy Council and Charity Commission to amend the Charter to enable the Society to offer places to others than those associated with the sea or who had served afloat

1983

The European Economic Community Common Fisheries Policy is created

1986

Lieutenant Francis, Royal Navy, retires as House Governor of Belvedere Home, Holly Lane

1988

The house at Holly Lane is sold

1989

The sun lounge extension at the Royal Alfred Home, Eastbourne, is completed

1991

Mr Moore retires as General Secretary and is replaced by Alan Quinton

1993

Sir Ian Denholm retires and the Earl of Inchcape become President

1996

Royal Alfred’s grant-making function ceases and is taken over by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society

1996

Plan to build a new six bed home at Weston Acres site are set in motion

2001

The Society takes possession of a new home at Weston Acres

2002

HM the Queen celebrates her Golden Jubilee

2005

Anne Kasey succeeds Andy Sowamber as Manager of Belvedere Home

2006

Alan Quinton retires as General Secretary

2007

The Maritime Charities Funding Group publishes 'Supporting seafarers and their families' report The Society’s Head Office moves to Weston Acres

2009

Captain Duncan Glass is appointed Chairman, following the retirement of George Miskin

2011

HRH the Princess Royal opens the new Dementia Annexe at Belvedere House

2014

Trinity House celebrates the 500th anniversary of its first Royal Charter, having been an important benefactor to Royal Alfred since 1865

2014

The 100th anniversary of the onset of the First World War

2015

Following sterling work by Captain Tony Davis, the Society’s Royal Charter is updated