Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sailors' Society, Limehouse

This sign caught my eye while I was exploring Limehouse Town Hall. The jaunty red and navy blue, highlighted by the late afternoon sun, draw the attention. They are a reminder that the building and its neighbour once belonged to the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, one of several properties in Limehouse.  

These premises on Newell Street were a sea training establishment for boys, and apparently have a Victorian swimming pool in the basement. The Prince of Wales' Sea Training Hostel opened in 1920, the buildings having been adapted at a cost of almost £10,000. There were stringent requirements for admission on the six-month training programme. Boys between 14 1/2 and 16 years old, able to swim 100 yards, needed to provide medical and sight certificates along with excellent character references. Perhaps the easiest element to satisfy was height, with a requirement that the boy be over 5 feet 1 inch tall. Sailors' orphans had priority, and their fees were waived. 

In 1940, the hostel moved to Norfolk and this building was requisitioned. However, its enamel sign remains, one more tangible link to Limehouse's maritime past.


Hels said...

Having a swimming pool in the basement, at a time when health and fitness were greatly valued, was an enormous treat. I don't suppose it was heated. But since the requirements for admission into the training programme were stringent, the successful lads would have been very proud of themselves.

Your post reminds me of the Boy Scouts. In 1908 scout packs were established across the UK, all following the principles laid out in Baden-Powell's book. The successful boys had to be fit, healthy and adventurous.

HughB said...

Golly, those were stringent regulations - they would probably have excluded Horatio Nelson, who was reportedly a weedy child.

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