Historical information

This pair of brass altar vases is from the St. Nicholas Seamen’s Church, 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, Victoria, during religious services there. The Church was operated by the Mission to Seamen organisation. Each vase was inscribed with the donors' names and the year of presentation - Margaret R. Pearson 1944, Mrs B Raybould 1944, - and the maker's name T. Gaunt & Co. The two donors presented the vases to the St Nicholas Seamen's Church in Williamstown as part of the furniture and furnishings for the new church that officially opened in 1944. T. Gaunt & Co. engraved on both vases. T. Gaunt & Co. of Melbourne, a manufacturer, importer and retailer of a wide variety of goods including jewellery, clocks and watches, navigational and measuring instruments, dinnerware, glassware and ornaments. Thomas Gaunt photograph was included in an album of security identity portraits of members of the Victorian Court, Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888. THE MISSIONS TO SEAMEN (brief history. For more detailed history please see our Registration Number 611, Set of Pews) The Missions to Seamen is an Anglican (Church of England) charity that has served seafarers of the world since 1856 in Great Britain. It adopted a Flying Angel as its symbol, inspired by a verse from the Bible in Revelation 14. Today over 200 ports in the world have Missions to Seamen centres and chaplains. A Missions to Seamen’s club offers a warm welcome to sailors of all colours, creeds and races and provides a wide range of facilities. The organisation, now named Mission to Seafarers, still operates its Flying Angel Club locally in Victoria’s cities of Melbourne, Portland, Geelong and Hastings (current at year 2000). In Williamstown, in 1857, Bishop Perry opened the first Sailors’ Church there, known as ‘Bethel’ or the ‘Floating Church’, on an old hulk floating in Hobson’s Bay, Port of Melbourne. Not long afterwards it became part of the Missions to Seamen, Victoria. In 1906, the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild was formed in Australia to support and raise funds for the Missions to Seamen organisation 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 important work until the 1960s. In 1943 the former ES&A Bank building at 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, was purchased to become the new Missions to Seaman Club. The chapel was named St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church, after St Nicholas, fourth century bishop and patron saint of sailors. Services were held on Wednesdays and Sundays. The church was supported by the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild, the Williamstown Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary and the League of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Friends. The Williamstown Mission to Seamen’s Church operated until 1966. Around that time, in the formative years of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, the Advisory Board decided to include a Missions to Seamen Chapel and Recreation Room in its village, as the Missions organisation was a significant feature of ports during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the period that the Village represents. The Melbourne Board of Management of Missions to Seamen Victoria gave its permission for the entire furnishings of the then closed Williamstown chapel to be transferred to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village. The donation was approved on 21st May 1979 and the St Nicholas Seamen’s Church has been set up to closely resemble the Williamstown chapel.


This par of vases 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 connection of pair of vases to the original donation to the Mission to Seamen 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

Vase: pair of two, polished brass altar vases, round, pear shaped, blubous body on round pedestal, two neck rings and flared lips. Inscriptions on both vases in script around the base. Made by T. Gaunt & Co. This vase is in our St Nicholas Seamen's Church

Inscriptions & markings

Engraved on the 625.1 "Presented By Margaret R. Pearson 1944." Engraved on 625.2 "Presented By Mrs B. Raybould. 1944." Both engraved "T GAUNT & Co"