Training Ship Arethusa
1874 - 1933
Arethusa was built as a 50-gun frigate in Pembroke in June of 1849. She saw action in the Crimean War and was the last British warship to do so with only the power of sail. She sustained much damage at the battles of Sebastopol and Odessa, and was towed to Malta for repairs. She returned to Chatham in 1860 to be lengthened and have engines fitted. However her fame came only after she had left the service and transformed into the Training Ship Arethusa.
Arethusa was opened as a training ship on 3rd August 1874 by the Earl of Shaftesbury and Baroness Burdett-Coutts, who had donated £5000 to help acquire and refit the ship. She took up position behind the first ship that Lord Shaftesbury had acquired for training the destitute of london, TSChichester. The two ships continued together until 1889 when the Chichester was returned to the admiralty for breaking up. Arethusa carried on and continued the regime that had been instituted on board Chichester including the use of numbers rather than names for the boys on board, a practice which continued until 1927. Also in 1927 (on 31 December) Arethusa was issued with an Admiralty warrant to fly a Blue Ensign with TS ARETHUSA in white. She and her sister ship Chichester had flown the Blue ensign since 1874 because the Captain of the time had claimed tha he was allowed since he was a retired Royal Navy officer and his staff met the requirement for the number of ex-royal navy crew. This was not technically correct as they also needed a warrant even for a plain Blue Ensign which was issued in 1877.
When Chichester was broken up her name was taken by an 83-foot gaff-rigged schooner which was used as a SailingTender for training boys in seamanship and handling sails.
Any protestant boy between 13 and 16 years of age could be admitted so long as they were of good character and met the physical requirements. For boys 13 to 15 years that meant 4-foot 8 inches without boots, with 4-feet. 10.5 inches required for those over 15, again without boots which the boys were not allowed to wear on board. By 1910 a one off payment on entry had also been imposed for the training given. This was £15 for each boy between the ages of 13 and 15 years, and £10 10s. for each boy from 15 to 16.
When the MarineSociety's training ship TSWarspite burned down in 1918 they offered to merge with the Shaftesbury Homes. This offer was rejected so the Marine Society acquired another ship of their own to replace the Warspite and the two rival charities continued their work on the Thames. During this period the demand for the training that the ships provided was reducing so that by the end of the 1920s there were only two left on that stretch of the Thames, and Arethusa was coming up to 70 years old and so becoming harder and harder to maintain in a fit state. Because of this state of decay, the original Arethusa was replaced in 1932 by the steel hulled Peking.
The Peking was built in 1911 for the German company Laeisz. At the time her 373-foot length and 46.5-foot beam made her one of the largest sailing ships afloat, and so much roomier than the ship she replaced. She only cost £6250 to buy, but a further £15000 had to be spent on her convertion from a merchantman into a training ship. On 25 July 1933 the Peking was opened by Prince George, the Duke of Kent, and renamed to Arethusa. This new Arethusa was too big for her old mooring at Greenhithe on the Thames so she was relocated to the River Medway close to Chatham Dockyard and Rochester Castle at Lower Upnor. The original Arethusa's figurehead was saved and mounted ashore close to the ship.
During the Second World War she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy as additional accomodation for the sailors stationed at Chatham, with the boys moving to Salcombe in Devon for the duration of the war. Once hositilities had finished Arethusa was returned to the ShaftesburyHomes, although the navy had made some alterations to her rig while the ship was in their posession. It had also built a number of buildings ashore and a peir which Arethusa also took control of.
The next change came in 1969 when a the new Captain joined who was also a qualified teacher and brough practices with him more like those of a normal school. This was not to last that long as the ship was only to remain a training ship until 1973 when the way that society was changing around her caused Shaftesbury Homes to move everybody ashore and sell the ship to the J. Aron Charitable Foundation for £70K at auction for the South Street Seaport Museum which on the East River side of downtown Manhattan. She is still there and has been converted back to how she would have been as a merchant ship.
The Arethusa's shore facilities remained with Shaftesbury Homes and were renamed to The Arethusa Venture Centre. This became a residential education and activity centre for inner city children from 1976. They continued sea training with a ketch based there which carried the Arethusa name. This was replaced by a purpose built boat in 1982.