Our History

How the Mission to Seafarers colloquially known as the Flying Angels came about.

The Mission to Seafarers has its roots in the work of Anglican priest, John Ashley who in 1835 was on the shore at Clevedon with his son who asked him how the people on ships in the Bristol Channel could go to church. Recognising the needs of the seafarers on the four hundred sailing vessels in the Bristol Channel, he created the Bristol Channel Mission. He raised funds, and in 1839 a specially designed mission cutter named Eirene was built with a main cabin which could be converted into a chapel for 100 people.

His work inspired similar ministries in the UK, and it was decided in 1856 that these groups should be formally organised under the name The Mission to Seamen Afloat, at Home and Abroad. In 1858, this name was changed to The Mission to Seamen, and the organisation adopted its Flying Angel logo, still in use to this day and finally about 8 years ago changed its name again to the Mission to Seafarers.

As shipping transitioned from sail to steam methods, there became a need for places for seafarers to go while they were ashore, as ships could now dock at quaysides because they no longer had to anchor at sea waiting for a favourable wind. In response, the Mission gradually opened centres so that the men and women could be offered light refreshments, reading and games rooms, good cheap accommodation and a chapel.

The Mission now operates 121 centres around the world.

Today in Britain we import some 80% of everything that we have, virtually ail of it comes by the sea and it is expected that over the coming years this figure will only go up.