Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel Limehouse
  Church Row Limehouse London E14  
  Telephone: East 5986

  25th February 1920 to 1940
2015 update - If you're looking for the building the road name has changed from Church Row to Newell Street. Photographs on the link below.


General view of the Prince of Wales Hostel


 PWSTH Limehouse photographs
 1902 King Edward VII Nautical School and King Edward VII Hall operated by the BSS
 Barry Dock Branch British Sailors Society Sailor's Rest Barry Cardiff Wales
 Limehouse Old Boys memories
 2012 web article about Limehouse
 2015 photographs of the building

Motto: "British Boys for British Ships"

Records show that as early as 1831, and perhaps before, the British Sailors Society had a scheme for training boys for sea. The school was in Stepney, and has long since disappeared. A few years ago this branch of the society's work was revived by forming sea training units in some of the most important seaports in the British Isles. Some old and historical premises at Limehouse were purchased from the Trustees of the Nelson Estate, and were adapted at considerable expense to make them suitable for a Boy's Sea Training Hostel, with accommodation for sleeping and training about 40 boys.

The Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel for Boys for the Merchant Navy (so named by kind permission of His Royal Highness) cost nearly 10,000 and was considered to be one of the best and most up-to-date training establishments of its kind in the Kingdom. The Prince of Wales took a keen personal interest in the Hostel and inspected the boys on visits to the Hostel in 1921 and 17th February 1926.

The training lasted about six months, after which the boys where put to sea under personal supervision of the Officers, and contact was kept with them throughout their sea career by the Society's Missionaries and Agents in all the large Ports of the World. On completion of their first four years at sea, such of them as shown promise of the qualities required in an officer could join the Society's own King Edward VII Nautical School, where the studied for their Board of Trade Certificate.

The Limehouse hostel was well equipped, containing all the requisite apparatus for nautical instruction, with capable and fully qualified instructors. There was also a gymnasium, swimming bath, boats, games and recreation rooms. Situated in close proximity to the docks, the boys had in the course of their instruction a good chance of seeing the actual ship on which they would have to live and the work they would be required to do.

Candidates for admission to the hostel must:-

(1) Have excellent references as to character.

(2) Be between the ages of 14.5 and 16, and be able to swim 100 yards.

(3) Obtain the Board of Trade Sight Certificate for both form and colour vision. This certificate can be obtained at the Board of Trade Mercantile Marine Offices in London and chief seaports.

(4) have passed a Medical Examination certifying that they are sound and strong and in all respects physically qualified for employment in the Merchant Navy.

(5) Be at least 5 feet 1 inch in height

In the selection of boys for admission to the Hostel, the orphan sons of sailors have prior claim


Orphan sons of sailors will be trained free of charge.

Boys from Society's Sea Cadets Units and sons of sailors at a minimum of 5s. per week, but they should pay more if possible. (Units at Acton, Belfast, Dover, Northampton, Ramsgate, Southampton and Great Yarmouth)

Boys not from Units and who have no claim on the Society, not less than 10s. per week.

Daily Routine (1926)

6:30 am Turn Out: wash down decks etc.
8:00 am Breakfast: make up bunks.
9:00 am Parade for inspection: daily prayers.
9:15 to 10:45 am Instruction in signalling: physical jerks and organised games.
10:30 to 10:45 am Stand easy: boys have bread and cheese, etc.
10:45 to 12:30 pm Instruction in seamanship: boat pulling, washing clothes, etc.
12:45 pm Dinner: boys have meat with two vegetables and pudding every day. One day each week fish instead of meat.
2:00 pm Parade for kit inspection.
2:10 to 3:30 pm Instruction in seamanship: making and mending kit, kitbag making and other useful subjects.
3:30 to 3:45 pm Stand easy.
3:45 to 4:30 pm Instruction as above.
4:45 pm Tea.
6:30 to 7:30 pm Instruction in swimming, lectures, gymnastics, etc.
9:00 pm Turn in - 9:30 pm Light out.

In 1927 the building was extended by the purchase of adjacent land and erection of additional buildings from contributions made to the 'Thomas Mason Memorial Fund', (the late chairman of the board) collected by the Ladies Guild. The opening ceremony was held at 3pm on Wednesday 20th July 1927 and the extension, named 'Thomas Mason Annexe' was opened by Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey, the President of the Hostel.

The below photographs have been sent by  Mr Peter Neivens OBE, QPM. Peter remembers the instructors as Mr Painter and Mr Frost. The Commanding Officer at the time was Commander Bull. When Peter started at Limehouse, as a new boy, each lad commenced sewing his own sea bag. On leaving it was this bag that held all your worldly possessions and change of clothing!!

The first photograph shows the mast in which every boy, every morning, had to climb up and over the top of. Each boy had to make his own kit bag during his stay and he recalls that after the abdication of the Prince of Wales the hostel nearly changed its name. However, after much debating it was decided that the hostel would remain the Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel.

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17th February 1926 HRH the Prince of Wales visited the hostel.
10th November 1926 HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught KG visited the hostel.
1928 HRH Prince of Wale granted the PWSTH permission to bear the royal crest.
15th March 1929 visit from HRH Prince George. Received by Admiral Bruen.
April 17th 1934 royal visit from H.R.H Duchess of York. Her Royal Highness was received on the Signals Deck by Admiral E.F Bruen, Chairman of the Hostel.
April 20th 1934 The Hostel held its first old boys reunion.
April 27th 1934 Admiral Bruen's visit
April 10th 1935 Hostels' second reunion


A song the boys at Limehouse used to sing

"There is a training school down Limehouse way,
Where we get bread-and-scrape three times a day.
Ham and eggs we never see;
We get brick-dust in our tea,
And we are gradually fading away!"

Ditty remembered by Harold Lamb's brother

"Cor dear me, if we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs .... if we'd got some eggs!"


1936 (publication reproduction)

His Majesty the King, in addition to graciously bestowing his Patronage on the Society, has conferred an honour upon the Hostel of which we are justly proud. His Majesty, who, in the past years, as Prince of Wales, gave three certificates annually to Prince of Wales boys for 'Exceptional Ability, Good Conduct and Marked Progress', is continuing the award, making it infinitely more valuable by signing each certificate personally. The three boys to gain this very high honour for the year 1935-36 are:-

R.J Taylor  - Bentley, Hants
N. Freeborn - Portrush
V.W.J Gordon - Aberdeen

and the certificates were formally handed to their parents by the Lord Mayor at the Society's Annual Meeting held at the Mansion House in London on May 5th. The boys were all at sea at the time, but other ceremonies have since been arranged so that two of them can receive their certificates in person.

It is customary for a presentation watch to be given to the fourth boy on the list of recommendations for these certificates, and this has been very kindly provided by a member of the Sea Training Committee and awarded to W.E Grenfell of Montrose. He too, is at sea, but the presentation will be made at a convenient date in the near future.

We are honoured to have had amongst our recent visitors The Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, D.D, and Sir Edgar Britten, Commander of the 'Queen Mary'. Commander Britten inspected the ship's company, asking questions of many of them, and also congratulating three old-boy officers on their past successes. He gave some very good advice to all hands before leaving, and was given a rousing send-off by the boys, who were naturally ... (sorry the rest is missing. Courtesy of Ruth Wilson daughter of the late Jack Whyte)

Bancroft Library

The following material is available to view at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

A small collection of photographs (approximately twelve mostly of the trainees), a few cuttings (shelved at 365.1 under the Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel and the British Sailors' Society), and the following pamphlets:

a. "The Helm official magazine of the Prince of Wales Training Hostel" (August 1938)
b. "Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel prospectus" (1926)
c. "Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel prospectus" (1932)
d. "Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel prospectus" (1935)
e. "Prospectus" (1932)
f.  "Prospectus" (1935)
g.  Leaflet "Opening of the Thomas Mason Memorial" (July 20th 1927)

opening hours are given below and no appointment is necessary

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
Bancroft Library
277 Bancroft Road
London E1 4DQ
Tel: 020 7364 1290

Opening hours: Monday Closed ; Tuesday 9-8; Wednesday Closed; Thursday 9-8; Fri 9-6 ; Sat 9-5; Sunday Closed

Limehouse was requisitioned at the outbreak of the war and the hostel moved to Ingham in Norfolk.