Historical information

This Book of Common Prayer, with Psalms, was part of the original furnishings of St Nicholas Seamen's Church, Williamstown, Victoria. The church was operated by the Missions to Seamen organisation. It was dedicated to John Thomas and Rev A Gurney Goldsmith. It is one of 48 similar books.

THE MISSIONS TO SEAMEN (Brief History: for more, see our Reg. No. 611, Set of Pews)

The Missions to Seamen was an Anglican charity that served seafarers of the world since 1856 in Great Britain. It symbol is a Flying Angel, inspired by a Bible verse. Today there are centres in over 200 ports worldwide where seamen of all backgrounds are offered a warm welcome and provided with a wide range of facilities.

In Victoria, the organisation began in Williamstown in 1857 as a Sailors’ Church, also known as ‘Bethel’ or the ‘Floating Church’ in an old hulk floating in Hobson’s Bay, Port of Melbourne. It soon became part of the Missions to Seamen, Victoria. In the year 2000 the organisation, now named Mission to Seafarers, still operated locally in Melbourne, Portland, Geelong and Hastings.

The Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild was formed in 1906 to support the Missions to Seamen in Melbourne and other centres such as Williamstown. Two of the most significant ladies of the Guild were founder Ethel Augusta Godfrey and foundation member Alice Sibthorpe Tracy (who established a branch of the Guild in Warrnambool in 1920). The Guild continued its work until the 1960s.

In 1943 a former Williamstown bank was purchased for the Missions to Seaman Club. The chapel was named St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church and was supported by the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild, the Williamstown Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary and the League of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Friends. It ceased operation in 1966.

A Missions to Seamen Chapel and Recreation Room was a significant feature of ports during the late 1800s and into the 1900s. It seemed appropriate for Flagstaff Hill to include such a representation within the new Maritime Village, so the Melbourne Board of Management of Missions to Seamen Victoria gave its permission on 21st May 1979 for the entire furnishings of the Williamstown chapel to be transferred to Flagstaff Hill. The St Nicholas Seamen’s Church was officially opened on October 11, 1981, and closely resembles the Williamstown chapel.


This book is significant historically for its origin in the St Nicholas Mission to Seamen's Church in Williamstown, established in 1857 to cater for the physical, social, and spiritual needs of seafarers. It originated in Bristol, England when a Seamen's Mission was formed in 1837.

The book is historically significant for its connection to the Ladies Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary, an organisation of women, formed to support seafarers.

The connection of this book to the Mission to Seamen and to the Ladies Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary highlights the strong community awareness of the life of people at sea, their dangers and hardships, and their need for physical, financial, spiritual and moral support.

Physical description

Book, titled The Book of Common Prayer. It has a textured black leather cover with embossed lettering on the spine and an embossed gold cross on the front cover. The spine is decorated with horizontal ribs. The fly page has a printed red shield with animal figures in each quadrant and a cross in the shield's centre. The book was printed by Cambridge University Press. Inscriptions and the emblem of a large cross are inlaid in gold on the cover. The edges of the 591 pages are gold leaf. There is an inscription on the inside of the front cover. The book was dedicated to John Thomas and Rev A Gurney Goldsmith. The book is one of forty-eight similar books in the St Nicholas Seamen’s Church Collection.

Inscriptions & markings

On the front cover Symbol [CROSS]
Inside the front cover "John Thomas and Rev A Gurney Goldsmith"