OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: January 16, 2020
Webpage updated: January 16, 2020

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THE WELCOME SAILORS', SOLDIERS' AND AIRMEN'S HOME

The Welcome Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Home was located on the south side of Fore Street, next door to the Devonport Methodist Central Hall

The Wesleyan Army and Navy Board erected the Devonport Branch of the "Welcome" Sailors' and Soldiers' Home in Fore Street in 1908.  The cost was said at the time to be 8,000 and the architects were Messrs Gordon and Gunton, of London.

Welcome Sailors' and Soldiers' Home was built by the Methodists in 1908 at a cost of about 12,000.  It was destroyed in the April 1941 and the facilities were moved into old garages in Plymouth, where they remained for nine years. 

The original building was officially opened by Lady Fawkes, the wife of Sir Wilmot H Fawkes, the Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, on Wednesday October 15th 1908.  She was presented with a silver key by Mr W Gunton.  Also present at the ceremony were Major-General and Mrs F A Bowles CB, Commander of the South Coast Defences; Rear-Admiral C H Cross and Mrs Cross, Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard; Colonel H C Money and Mrs Money, Commder of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and the Mayor and Mayoress of Devonport, Mr and Mrs R Smerdon.  During a luncheon in the Devonport Public Hall prior to the opening ceremony music was supplied by the Band of the 2nd Devonshire Regiment, under the direction of Mr J Amers.  Speeches were afterwards delivered in the large hall, during which the Chairman, Sir Hudson Kearley, Member of Parliament, stated that in the Navy Estimates for 1890 provision was made for 70,000 Royal Navy personnel, whereas in the Estimates for 1908 it was 128,000 men.  After the main event, Mrs Bowles declared open the Billiard Room; Mrs Cross the Reading Room and Mrs Money the Refreshment Bar.  Alderman John Yeo presided at an evening meeting.

Temporary premises at Devonport were secured when the Admiralty rented the Methodist Church three huts on the north side of Fore Street, within 100 yards of the original building.  After renovation work costing more than 800, they provided accommodation for a canteen and recreational centre.  They were officially opened by Mrs P S Smith, wife of the Commodore of the Royal Naval Barracks, who was also present.  Captain and Mrs V N Surtees, the Chief of Staff, represented the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir Rhoderick R McGrigor, who was aboard the aircraft carrier HMS "Illustrious".  Also in attendance were Major-General J E Leech-Porter, Commanding the Plymouth Group, Royal Marines; Air Vice Marshal G R C Spencer, Air Officer Commanding Number 19 Group (Coastal Command) Royal Air Force; Colonel P G Day, representing Brigadier W E G Hemming, Commanding Officer of Troops; Captain H P Curry, and Mrs Curry, Captain of the Royal Dockyard; and Captain (Engineering) J G C Given and Mrs Given, Commanding Royal Naval Engineering College.

It is not clear when Airmen were first welcomed to the Sailors' and Soldiers' Home, the official title as late as 1946 and yet the temporary premises opened in 1950 were at first known as the Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Home but by 1953 had become the Welcome Club and Canteen, with the Reverend John E Trevithick as the Superintendent.