Historical information

This pair of altar lights is from the St. Nicholas Seamen’s Church, 139 Nelson Place, Williamstown, Victoria, and was used during religious services there. The Church was operated by the Mission to Seamen organisation.

The par of candlestick holders was originally donated by Mrs. M. Jackson, as part of the furnishings for the new St Nicholas Seamen's Church in Williamstown, opened in 1944.

The candlestick holders were made by 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's 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, see our Reg. No. 611, Set of Pews)

The Missions to Seamen, an Anglican charity, has served seafarers of the world since 1856 in Great Britain. It symbol is a Flying Angel, inspired by a Bible verse. Today there are centr4es in over 200 ports world-wide where seamen of all backgrounds are offered a warm welcome and provided with a wide range of facilities.

In Victoria the orgainsation began in Williamstown in 1857. It was as a Sailors’ Church, also known as ‘Bethel’ or the ‘Floating Church’. Its location was 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.


These candlestick holders are significant historically for their 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 the candlestick holders 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

Candlestick holder, polished brass, pair of two. The wax cup has a scalloped lip, the centre of the stem has a bulbous section, the base has a floral design depicting leaves and grapes. Inscribed. Made by T. Gaunt & Co.
This pair of Altar Lights is in our St Nicholas Seamen's Church Collection.

Inscriptions & markings

Inscribed "T. GAUNT & CO.."