Who We Are
The Royal Alfred Seafarers' Society is a registered charity, established in 1865. It is incorporated under a Royal Charter, with HRH the Princess Royal as its patron.
Today, our goal is the same as it was 149 years ago: to help seafarers and to provide them with a safe haven in old age, illness, or adversity.
We provide housing, residential and nursing care to all former seafarers, particularly those who are elderly, infirm or disabled, their widows, and dependants from across the UK, as well as non-seafarers. Our flagship residential and nursing care home, Belvedere House, together with sheltered flats, is situated within the idyllic grounds of the Weston Acres Estate, near the rural village of Banstead, Surrey. The surroundings also make the site ideal for respite care.
We are able to offer help to a broad cross-section of seafarers including those with backgrounds in the Royal and Merchant Navies, Royal Fleet Auxiliary or fishing fleets. We also currently welcome non-seafarers.
The high-quality care we provide would not be possible without our team of 70 loyal, dedicated and hardworking staff, who create a caring, comfortable and enjoyable environment for all our residents, including those staying with us for shorter respite care periods.
Please read our Statement of Purpose and Philosophy of Care document (click to download) , which explains more about our values and how we operate.
The Chief Executive
The Chief Executive of the Society is Commander Brian Boxall-Hunt OBE MNI Royal Navy (right), who took up the role in 2006. Before that, he served for 35 years in the Royal Navy. He is also a Freeman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, a member of the Nautical Institute and a keen yachtsman, being RYA Yachtmaster qualified, and a member of the Britannia Yacht Club, Royal Naval Sailing Association and Starcross Sailing Club.
Many of the charity’s board of trustees also have seafaring backgrounds.
HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of the Royal Alfred Seafarers' Society
A Brief History of the Royal Alfred Seafarers' Society
The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society – A potted history.
1857 Business and shipping interests in London, together with The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, started raising funds aimed at establishing a home for former ‘worn out’ mariners of the British Merchant Navy due to the dire state of many seamen because of terrible conditions at sea.
This was despite the 1696 Act which required sixpence per month from every mariner to support Greenwich Hospital for all seamen. However, it was deemed by the Admiralty in 1701 – that the provision of Greenwich Hospital was not sufficient even for the Royal Navy – therefore Merchant Seamen were entirely excluded from any benefit that their sixpence a month might have bought.
1830 The Act was abolished by a new Act, and the sixpence a month requirement ceased after 138 years of payment by the Merchant Navy with no benefit received. The Royal Navy stood at 50,000 at this time, whereas the Merchant Navy stood at more than 250,000 and no provision existed for their care.
1857 A meeting was heldunder the auspices of the Committee of The Shipwrecked Mariners Society, attended by 600 persons, where it was Resolved to provide a Hospital for “Worn out and Disabled Merchant Seamen and their Widows”, the Society being formed in 1865.
1864 A mansion – Belvedere House, Erith, Kent – was purchased (for £12,000) under the guidance and financial assistance of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society and generous donations from the City, ship-owners, benefactors and the general public.
1867 After renovations were completed the first residents from the Merchant Navy moved into the “Belvedere Institution” on New Years Day.
1868 HRH Prince Alfred accepted the office of Patron and the name became “The Royal Alfred Aged Merchant Seaman’s Institution” and remained under this name for the next 82 years.
1950 The first ‘original’ Royal Charter was at last granted, after several attempts, and the charity became “The Royal Alfred Merchant Seaman’s Society”.
1959 A new home was built and opened, close to the original Home. Belvedere House was demolished and the second Belvedere House was established for mariners at Erith in Kent.
1965 The Society purchased adjoining hotels in Eastbourne, and Royal Alfred House – for Ladies - was opened. This was a residential Home for mariners and their dependents and eventually closed in 2007.
1967 Weston Acres House and grounds were purchased for residential use by seafarers and their dependents.
1977 A new Charter was granted – the Second Charter – and changed the name to “The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society” and extended its benevolence to all mariners including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, port workers and their dependents in need. Further amendment to the Charter was made in 1982.
1978 The Society left Belvedere House at Erith, as it was no longer fit for purpose, and moved to the Zachary Merton Home at Banstead, Surrey.
1999 Consent was granted to build a New Nursing Home at the Royal Alfred Weston Acres Estate, in Banstead.
2001 Belvedere House Nursing Home was opened by HRH Princess Anne, as Patron, adjacent to the ‘Weston Acres House’ residential home for mariners and their dependents.
2011 The Princess Royal Annexe was opened by HRH The Princess Royal adjoining Belvedere House Nursing Home and designed and equipped to provide high dependency and dementia care for mariners and their dependents in need.