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Shaftesbury log for Arethusa and Chichester training ships

​1905 log of the National Refuges and training ships Arethusa and Chichester

Refuge for destitute children

The collection comprises the records of Shaftesbury Young People and its predecessors the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children and the Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa. Sally Bevan takes a look at the history of this still thriving charity, and the archives she has recently catalogued.

The history of Shaftesbury Young People goes back to 1843 when William Williams, a solicitor’s clerk involved in the Ragged Schools movement, helped to fund a school in The Rookery area of St Giles in Holborn for 150 boys and girls. 

 In spite of the difficulties and hostilities, the school was a success and by 1852 Williams had raised enough money to open the charity's first 'Refuge' for homeless and destitute children on the corner of Broad Street and George Street also in St Giles. The refuges housed both boys and girls:  they taught boys the trades of carpentry, cobbling and tailoring in addition to seamanship skills; and girls the skills needed for domestic service.

Williams’ work attracted the patronage and active support of Lord Shaftesbury (the 7th Earl) who in 1866 used his influence to secure the use of a redundant naval warship the TS Chichester, followed in 1874 by the TS Arethusa. These training ships housed up to 400 boys on the Thames and were the start of over a hundred years of training boys for future life in the Royal or Merchant Navy. In 1867 a farm school at Bisley opened, followed by the Shaftesbury Boys' School in 1873. By 1900 more than 1000 children were in the residential care of the charity which changed its name in 1904 from The National Refuge for Homeless and Destitute Children to Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa.

Over the next 40 years the refuges in London amalgamated and relocated out of London forming large institutional schools (Bisley Farm School, Fortescue House, Esher Place (for girls) in Surrey, and Royston in Hertfordshire). After the Second World War, the expansion of the fostering system gradually reduced the demand for places. The large institutions were sold, and the childcare provision was scaled down to a more domestic size. By the 1970s the school leaving age had been raised which reduced the gap between leaving school and the entry age for armed service so the TS Arethusa could no longer fulfil its original role. The training ship was sold to the South Street Seaport Museum in New York and is still there today, under its former name of Peking. The charity now runs a land-based Arethusa Training Centre on the Medway in Kent.

Shaftesbury Young People

The charity owned and ran several children's homes and hostels for young people during the 1970s and 80s directed towards disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children. In 1993 the first service level agreement for a partnership between a local authority and a charity was signed with Wandsworth borough in south London and in 2004, Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa formed a partnership with Southwark Council, managing three children's homes in the borough. Supported housing and care leaver services were set up in Suffolk and London from 1990, and a Young Persons Support Service was developed in Islington in 2003. In 2006, the charity changed its working name to Shaftesbury Young People.

Information taken in part from Shaftesbury Young People website.


The collection comprises the records of Shaftesbury Young People and its predecessors the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children and the Shaftesbury Homes and Arethusa.

Records of the governance of the charity include the minutes and papers of committees, annual reports, and the Memorandum and Articles of Association. Records of its administration include twentieth century files covering policy, staffing, publicity, finance and property. The records of the homes and school run by the charity since its inception comprise material from most of the homes run by the Shaftesbury Society, although the records of individual admissions to the homes are very sparse. There is also a wonderful series of records relating to the training ships including a complete run of admission registers for both the TS Chichester and TS Arethusa which have been indexed by boy’s name and can be searched on LMA’s online catalogue. The collection also contains publicity material including biographical details of William Williams, newsletters, publications, photographs and audio-visual material.

More information on the archives of Shaftesbury Young People can be found by visiting LMA’s online catalogue under the reference LMA/4647.

14 January 2015
Last Modified:
27 September 2018