Princess Alexandra opens new wing at East End’s old ‘Queen Vic’ Seamen’s Rest
- Credit: Archant
Princess Alexandra looked in at the famous ‘Queen Vic’ getting ready for its 175th birthday as part of a £1.2 million expansion with a new wing.
Crowds gathered in this-afternoon’s sunshine as her car pulled up outside Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest in London’s East End.
She opened the Simco Wing, the latest expansion in Queen Vic’s ‘makeover’ started six years ago, although the ‘makeovers’ go back to the 1880s.
The project to bring the hostel in Poplar’s East India Dock Road into the 21st century has completed 92 new en-suite rooms so far, the current phase due to be finished later this year.
“We’ll have 102 en-suite rooms when this phase is completed,” an official at the Seamen’s Rest said.“Our aim is to make sure our accommodation is all modernised by 2018 for our 175th anniversary.”
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Princess Alexandra opened the wing named in honour of former general secretary and current chairman Terry Simco, for his 50 years’ service. She was greeted by Mr Simco himself, as well as the newly-elected Methodist Conference president Steven Wild and local VIPs.
The hostel started as the Wesleyan Seamen’s Mission, its origins emerging from a bawdy East End tavern next to the docks.
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Opposite the local Board of Trade Office in Jeremiah Street was a small public house, The Magnet, which had its license withdrawn in 1887. It gave the Wesleyans the cue to rent the tavern and transform it into a Seamen’s Rest with a Bible reading room and prayer hall to bring the Good Book to mariners in Victorian London.
The Mission’s sphere gradually extended along the entire Port of London, from St Katharine’s and London Bridge down to Tilbury, so the old tavern premises proved inadequate.
The freehold of No 1 Jeremiah Street and adjoining properties was purchased in 1899, the site cleared and a new Seamen’s Home and Institute built. King Edward VII gave consent in 1901 for it to bear his late mother’s name, ‘Queen Victoria’, which opened in 1902, and has been extended down the years. A Nelson Memorial Fund was started for the centenary of Trafalgar in 1905 when the Connaught Floor was added.
The Mission began an appeal after the First World War for a Memorial Wing honouring the 20,000 Merchant Seamen who lost their lives, which finally opened in 1931.
Today, the Seamen’s Rest is Britain’s largest shelter for merchant seamen and ex-members of the Armed Forces, as well as for homeless men from many walks of life who need simple shelter and fellowship.