AGNES WESTON 1840 – 1918
Agnes Weston was committed to helping those less fortunate from a young age, and worked as a Sunday School teacher for some time. She didn’t come from a naval background (her father was a barrister), but started writing to sailors before they set out on long expeditions. Agnes began working with the National Temperance League, and encouraged sailors to sign the pledge of temperance.
Agnes became aware of the temperance work of Lady Henry Somerset, and soon after she set up a branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association in Devonport, speaking at many of the national conferences. She later assisted Lady Somerset with her fundraising work for Duxhurst Farm Colony.
AGNES WESTON AND SAILORS AT PORTSMOUTH
In 1874, HMS Dryad approached Agnes to set up a teetotal rest house for sailors, offering food and overnight accommodation. The only rule being “no disorderly conduct”. She used her own money to establish the ‘Devonport Rest’ in 1876.
A second rest house, ‘The Homeward Bound’, was later opened at Keyham, and in 1881 a third sailors’ rest was opened at Portsmouth. In total, 170 people worked at the three sites. The popularity of the rest houses was evident during the period 1905-1906. Over 332,000 sailors let rooms at the three sites, and over 634,000 meals were taken.
ONE OF THE SAILORS RESTS
Several members of the Royal family visited the rest houses informally while serving as naval cadets. Queen Victoria was so impressed by the sailors’ rests, that she granted them with her Royal Warrant in 1892 and they later became the ‘Royal Sailors’ Rests’.
SAILORS QUEUING OUTSIDE A SAILORS REST
Unfortunately, the rest houses were blitzed during World War II. They were rebuilt in the 1960’s but later closed. Agnes Weston received full naval honours at her funeral, which was attended by almost 2,000 naval officers.
AGNES WESTON’S FUNERAL WITH FULL NAVAL HONOURS