Yesterday I came across (via Twitter) a post about New York’s floating chapels and this started me thinking about Liverpool’s own floating churches. It seems there were two, one of which was a nonconformist chapel based on board a former whaling ship the William, which in its heyday as a whaler would have looked something like the one in the picture, the James. The William had been built in Liverpool for the Greenland fishery in 1785 and became a chapel in 1822. The William remained in the King’s Dock until 1850, when she was broken up. The journal of Robert Day, (1848-1850), Agent to the Liverpool Seamen’s Friend Society, held in the Liverpool Records office, records that “she sold for £105. The amount of dock dues incurred for 28 years and 7 months amounted to £1277 13s 7d”.
The other floating church in Liverpool belonged to the Church of England. Based in the donated former frigate HMS Tees, the Mariner’s Floating Church opened its companionways to worshippers in 1827 and remained in place in George’s Dock until 1872, when it sank at its moorings. The first chaplain of the Floating Church was William Scoresby Jr., the former whaler and arctic scientist turned minister. Scoresby had always had a strong religious sense and was well known as a whaling captain for refusing to catch whales on a Sunday. This was partly because he believed in observing the sabbath, but also because he believed that a day of rest would be beneficial to the crew. He was deeply concerned for the moral and spiritual health of sailors and was also a Temperance campaigner, arguing that drunkenness at sea was at least partly responsible for the large numbers of ships lost. Scoresby first moved to Liverpool from Whitby in 1819 and built his ship the Baffin there. He returned to the city as chaplain in 1827 and stayed for five years before moving on.