About this time Miss Weston developed the other side - the spiritual side - of her work by assisting Lieutenant Pater, R.n., in the creation of the Royal Naval Christian Union, and initiated the first organised temperance work in the Navy by founding the Royal Naval Temperance Society. This union now numbers 1,969 members, and the Temperance Society counts 20,000 officers and men in its ranks.
When the position of the Rest was safely assured, Miss Weston visited all the large towns of England, stirring up interest in the British sailor and what she had been trying to do for him. While at York in 1878 she heard of the wreck of the training-ship H.m.s. Eurydice, a ship stationed off Portsmouth, on which were many boys she had known well. This showed the necessity of a Rest at the great seaport. Relief and assistance were badly needed there, and she resolved to build a Rest.
An old music-hall in the most crowded part of the town seemed a likely place, and she rented it for a short time. Its tarnished glitter and decorations were restored, for she was competing with the public-houses and the real " halls." Here she held meetings and merry Saturday evening entertainments, which proved tremendously popular with the bluejackets. After a time the hall became too small for her needs, and more money was wanted. Bravely she set to work to collect it.
Several large gifts made it possible to begin the building. By 1881 it was opened, though not completed. Meantime, a branch Rest had been opened at Keyham (a suburb of Devonport) outside the gates of the steamyard.
At Devonport Miss Weston was much distressed by three public-houses standing between the Rest and the dockyard gates. But this brave and devoted woman allowed nothing to be impossible, even when she found she could only close them by buying them lock, stock, and barrel. She talked constantly of this, and shortly afterwards received two gifts of £1,000 each. This led to many more subscriptions, and the daring ambition was realised. The public-houses were pulled down, and on their site was erected the present large block of handsome buildings. In time, too, the immense Rest at Portsmouth was finished.
From the first days of her work, Miss Weston has always had the sympathy and help of influential men of the Navy, and since the year 1887 very many members of the Royal Family have inspected her Rests.
While staying at Osborne in the Jubilee year, the Crown Princess of Germany, later the Empress, made her first visit to the Devonport Rest. She was so delighted with it that she gave a cabin for the sake of her son, Prince Henry of Prussia. In 1897, at the Sailors' Rest, Portsmouth, the Empress opened a new block of cabins named the "Diamond Jubilee Block," and in 1898 Prince Henry of Prussia visited the Rests. Our present Queen, when Duchess of York, spent an afternoon at the Portsmouth Rest, showing herself specially interested in the sailors' wives and their Needlework Guild.
At the birth of the present Prince of Wales the guild worked and presented him with a robe. Our King has always kept in touch with the progress of the Rests. Not only does he remember his "old shipmates," but he remembers their wives as well, sending an order to Portsmouth every year for a parcel of needlework. When Prince of Wales he became one of the patrons of the Royal Naval Temperance Society. King Edward, when Prince of Wales, visited the Devonport Rest, and later he and Queen Alexandra became patrons.
Queen Victoria, in 1892, conferred the title of "Royal," saying it was "indeed Royal work." King Edward confirmed this title on his accession, and King George has continued the distinction. In 1895 the Queen presented a cabin, and the next year Miss Weston was summoned to Windsor to meet her. She had quite a long audience with the Queen, who was very eager to know any fresh news of the work. On Miss Weston's departure, she expressed a wish to meet her at Osborne. Three years later, Miss Weston was invited to Osborne by Queen Alexandra, to see the small coffin in which lay the remains of a queen who had never forgotten the men who served her.
A branch of Miss Weston's work which must receive the highest commendation is that among foreign seamen. When the American ships were lying side by side with the British ones at Yokohama, the journal "Ashore and Afloat" of the Sailors' Rests was passed on to the men of the American ships, with the result that the paper has become very popular in that service.
Often have the Japanese sailors been welcomed at the Rests; the Russians also have paid several visits, and men from the ships of almost all the other European navies have come into contact with Miss Weston. She now gratefully says that her work is becoming international. Not only Japan, but other countries have imitated England, and have built sailors' Rests, coming to Portsmouth for their model.
If Miss Weston has worked nobly for the men of the British Navy, she has done incalculable good among the wives of these men. When the ships have gone down, with almost every man on board, she has been the first to offer relief and sympathy to the agonised widows. The Naval Disaster Fund is especially for this sad purpose. At all times the women are welcomed to the Rests, special meetings being held for them every Monday afternoon. A sum of money collected at bazaars, and in other ways, is devoted entirely to the Victoria Jubilee Nurses, a band of trained nurses who are at all times available.
The children, too, have been considered. The boys are asked to belong to the Naval Brigade, in which they are taught drill and sports, combined with Bible-classes and Band of Hope meetings. For the girls, there is a juvenile branch of the Royal Naval Temperance Society, with its gatherings, games, excursions, and other amusements.
The Portsmouth Rest as it now stands is an immense block of buildings. Its latest addition is the site of a public-house - the French Maid - another of Miss Weston's captures. On this it is proposed to build 200 cabins. The building has already been begun.
The restaurant is a large room, gay with mirrors and pictures, and fitted with a capacious counter and marble-topped tables. On Saturday evening the restaurant is open to the public, but on Sunday only bluejackets are allowed. The week-end bill of fare is interesting: 1,700 sausages, 2,000 eggs, 3,000 rolls-and-butter, 80 gallons of tea, besides coffee and cocoa, two hundredweight of bacon, five hundredweight of fish, and endless smaller goods, bread-and-butter, tarts, cakes, and so on.
Next to the restaurant is the petty officers' coffee - room, with its separate staff of waiters. This is for the use of the petty officers and their friends. On the ground floor is the parcels office, where the men can leave bicycles or parcels for a small sum.
Beyond are the reading and writing rooms, the last one being the largest, and possessing an electric piano. This room is generally used about twice a week for a snug "singsong," the large hall being used for the big entertainments. A smaller hall is known as the "prayer-room," as it is devoted to religious meetings. There are other rooms, too, which can be used for temperance and Christian Union gatherings.
Above the club rooms are the dormitories, tier above tier, each little cabin partitioned off, many given in memory of some relative who has lost his life at sea. Each little cabin has its own curtained window, and pictures hang on the wall. A cabin costs 6d. a night, a bath 3d. Last year 144,579 beds were hired at Portsmouth, and 44,937 baths.
The basement is taken up by kitchens, stores, and machinery rooms. A 125-horse-power engine works the dynamo which produces all the electricity used in the building. Each bath, in its own little cubicle, is of white glazed earthenware, fitted with hot and cold water, drying radiators, cork mats, and all other conveniences. They pay for their own support once they are installed.
All the food supply is made on the building, and is of good quality and cheap in price. Tea, coffee, cocoa, are Id. a cup; buttered roll, 1 1/2d.; a large plate of cold meat, 4d.; fish supper, 6d.; tarts, cakes, etc., Id. each. The restaurant receipts for last year at the three Rests amounted to 30,223 I4s. 2d. All the profits are used in various ways for the good of the men and their wives.
The publication, "Ashore and Afloat," edited by Miss Wintz, is very popular, 567,360 copies having been issued last year, and Miss Weston still writes thousands of her monthly letters.
Sketched barely in outline, this is the work nobly, generously done by Miss Weston and Miss Wintz. Occasionally, the huge task has become too great a strain, and a holiday has been imperative; but for the most part. year in and out, these two women have stayed at their post, caring for the souls and the bodies of the men of the First Defence.
Humble in its origin, the Royal Sailors' Rest at Devonport has grown into a palatial building