‘Saving Jack’, the story of the first 175 years of the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR)

The Thames is no longer rammed full of working ships and most of our London docks have been filled in but the legacy of Tower Hamlets maritime history endures.

Many a sailor home from the sea has been grateful for a humble bed at the QVSR.
Many a sailor home from the sea has been grateful for a humble bed at the QVSR.

Key to this legacy is the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest in East India Dock Road, Poplar, which has been caring for those who work on the seas and others in need of care for 175 years.

‘Saving Jack’ is the story of the first 175 years of the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR) written by David Hurrell & the current QVSR Chief Executive Alexander Campbell and is very good indeed!

Completely unbiased. Honest guv!

(LW has been asked to make it clear that this review of ‘Saving Jack’ is in no way influenced by the fact that (a) QVSR is the current residence of the Wapping Mole and (b) the QVSR was the only organisation in Tower Hamlets who could provide Moley with a roof over his head after a year camping out in a tent in Wapping Gardens.)

‘Saving Jack’ is a bit of a gem to be honest, 132 pages of the history of the QVSR of course but also 132 pages of the history of Tower Hamlet’s docks and those who lived, worked – and in many cases died – on the seas to keep our country provided with food and goods from all over the world.

Front cover of ‘Saving Jack’

‘God had left Wapping’

In 1843, the same year that Charles Dickens latest novel, ’A Christmas Carol’, was published, the Seamen’s Mission of the Methodist Church was founded in the St. George’s Wesleyan Chapel, Cable Street, Wapping in the parish of St. George in the East by a group of Christian men involved in the shipping business.

The poverty of the areas surrounding London’s docks was crushing and a popular saying was that ‘God had left Wapping’ because of its reputation for lawlessness and misery in its slums.

One of the many high-quality line drawings in 'Saving Jack'
One of the many high-quality line drawings in ‘Saving Jack’

While dock owners, ship owners and traders made a fortune the vast majority of the population lived in squalor and penury.

Dickens works brought this reality to a wider public and the Seamen’s Mission of the Methodist Church took the first of many steps to create an institution that would become an embodiment of East End spirit.

History in context

Current accommodation is of the highest quality with the benefit of panoramic views of East India Dock Road.
Current accommodation is of the highest quality with the benefit of panoramic views of East India Dock Road.

‘Saving Jack’ achieves a good balance between explaining the detail of the blood, sweat and tears that would eventually lead to the QVSR that stands in East India Dock Road today and the history of the part of London which it has served for 175 years, at all times explaining the QVSR story in context.

This book is as much for the many people who find the history of our docks so fascinating as it is for those with a specific interest in the QVSR or the Wesleyan tradition.

The accessible text is accompanied by numerous photographs, maps and illustrations which are a treasure trove of East End history in their own right.

While primarily aimed at the casual reader who will dip into its pages from time to time, those with an interest in the history of our borough are quite likely to hoover up the huge amount of information in ‘Saving Jack’ at one sitting then add it to their own history library, grand or humble.

Ideal Christmas gift for Tower Hamlets historians

As it is that time of year when you can either give your money to a huge faceless multi-national corporate who cares not one jot about you, your community or anything but profit or you can give your money to a local institution who looks after members of our community in Tower Hamlets we suggest you make the simple choice. The right choice.

Buy a copy of ‘Saving Jack’.

‘Saving Jack’ is published as a limited edition of 1,750.

To purchase a copy for only £9.99 please email Salem Abdelkader salem.abdelkader@qvsr.org.uk

Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest
121-131 East India Dock Road
Poplar
London E14 6DF
www.qvsr.org.uk

QVSR postcards were a cheap and practical way to write home after docking in the Port of London
QVSR postcards were a cheap and practical way to write home after docking in the Port of London

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