OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 03, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 04, 2016

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WHO WAS WHO IN OLD DEVONPORT

AGNES ELIZABETH WESTON (1840-1918)

Miss Agnes Elizabeth Weston 1840-1918

Agnes Elizabeth Weston was born in London on March 26th 1840, the daughter of Mr Charles Henry Weston and his wife, Sarah Agnes, the daughter of Mr Robert Bayly.

Charles Weston was a barrister in London and when he retired in 1845 he moved his family to Bath.  Young Agnes received a private education and she was greatly influenced by the evangelical Christian teachings of the Reverend James Flemming, who was the Curate of Saint Stephen's Church at Lansdown, Bath.

For twelve years after finishing her education she studied the organ and engaged herself in various Christian activities near her home.  She was very active in the temperance movement and she started a coffee bar in Bath for the men of the 2nd Somerset Militia.  When the Militia were away from Bath, she kept in touch with many of the men and it was this correspondence that brought about her later work.

One of her soldier friends was on his way to India when he showed Miss Weston's parting letter to his steward on the troopship, HMS "Crocodile".  He was much impressed and said that he wished he had someone to write to him in such a manner.   This wish was reported back to Agnes, who quickly wrote to him and many others whose names had been passed on to her.  Her first letter to a sailor was written in 1868.

Early in 1873 many of her naval correspondents were paid off at Devonport and Agnes journeyed down to Devonport to see them.  She stayed with the family of a Miss Sophia Gertrude Wintz and they became lifelong friends and business partners.   Later that year Miss Weston started to do work in Devonport for the Royal Naval Temperance Society.  She visited the ships and spoke directly to the sailors.  She was so successful that in the following year, 1874, a deputation from HMS "Dryad" asked her to open a temperance house close to the Royal Dockyard gate.

She was hesitant but with Miss Wintz's help organised meetings throughout the County to raise funds and in May 1876 they opened the first Sailors' Rest in Fore Street, Devonport.  It was both a restaurant and a hostel, where the rooms were called "cabins".

It was a roaring success and soon Miss Weston and Miss Wintz had opened similar establishments at Portsmouth, Portland and Sheerness.  The two last-named were comparatively short-lived due to the pressure of the work on their founders.  The cost of providing the buildings was met from public subscriptions but the Rests themselves were otherwise self-financing.

Public recognition for her work came in 1892 when Queen Victoria endowed a cabin at Devonport and gave permission for the change of title to the Royal Sailors' Rests

In 1901 Miss Weston received an honorary LL.D from Glasgow University and in October 1909 Messrs James Nisbet and Company Ltd, of London, published her autobiography, "My Life Among the Bluejackets".  Miss Weston was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1918.  She was described as being of strong physique, good humour and robust courage and she was as widely known among the families of seamen, many of whom she helped with funds in times of dire need.

Dame "Aggie" Weston died at Devonport on October 23rd 1918.  Three days later she was buried at Weston Mill Cemetery with full Naval honours.