Aggie Weston’s was founded in 1876 by Agnes Weston – since which time it has been affectionately known, throughout the naval service, as “Aggie's”. She saw the plight of the sailor and his family in her day – how he was a lonely individual who yearned to have news from home. She allowed nothing to deter her from meeting the needs of sailors and their families. She wrote to many and then commenced her lifelong work. This began by running a coffee bar which led to the setting up of a “Rest” – a “home from home”, where the sailor could find relaxation and someone he could talk to if he felt the need.
The first Rest/Centre was opened in Fore Street, Plymouth on 8 May 1876. During that time there have been many ‘Rests’ based with the Royal Navy throughout the world. The principle of a “home from home” has continued to the present day, although now that the Royal Navy provides accommodation for sailors when they are not on board ship, the majority of the work is carried out within Naval and Royal Marine units.
Practical examples of Dame Agnes’ visionary work still exist in today’s navy. She was instrumental in bringing about change and improvements in the lot of the sailor, such as the plan for the “allotment” system for the wives. This scheme allowed them some money whilst their husbands were at sea. Before this the wives and family just had to manage as best they could.
The outstanding work of Agnes Weston was recognised by Queen Victoria, who made Agnes a Dame of the British Empire (GBE) and bestowed the charity with its Royal status.