In 1886 he formed the ‘George Smith of Coalville Society’ at Rugby, the members of which were to assist in furthering his philanthropic works. Smith died at Crick on 21 June 1895. He was twice married, first to Mary Mayfield, by whom he had three children, and, secondly, to Mary Ann Lehman.
Besides the works mentioned, Smith's most important publications were: 1. ‘Canal Adventures by Moonlight,’ London, 1881, 8vo. 2. ‘I've been a Gipsying, or Rambles among our Gipsies and their Children,’ London, 1883, 8vo. 3. ‘Gypsy Children; or a Stroll in Gypsydom,’ London, 1889, 8vo; new edit. 1891. 4. ‘An Open Letter to my Friends; or Sorrows and Joys at Bosvil, Leek,’ 1892, 8vo.
[Hodder's George Smith of Coalville, the Story of an Enthusiast, 1896, with portrait; George Smith of Coalville: a Chapter in Philanthropy, 1880, with portrait; Times, 24 June 1895; Graphic, 1879 p. 508 with portrait, 1895 p. 778 with portrait; Illustrated London News, 1895, p. 798, with portrait; Biograph, May 1879, pp. 316–38; Fortnightly Review, February, 1875, pp. 233–42.]
SMITH, GEORGE CHARLES (1782–1863), known as ‘Boatswain Smith,’ was born in Castle Street, Leicester Square, London (now Charing Cross Road), on 19 March 1782, and was apprenticed to a bookseller in Tooley Street from 1794 to 1796. In the latter year he was apprenticed to the master of an American brig, but when at Surinam, Guiana, was pressed into the English naval service. According to his own account, he was soon appointed a midshipman in the Scipio, and in 1797 a midshipman in the Agamemnon, serving in the North Sea fleet. He then became master's mate, was present in the battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and in 1803 left the navy. From 1803 to 1807 he was a student under the Rev. Isaiah Birt at Devonport, and a preacher to sailors and fishermen at Plymouth, Dartmouth, and Brixham. In 1807 he was chosen pastor of the Octagon baptist chapel at Penzance, where he served until 1825, and again from 1843 to 1863. In 1822 he converted the chapel into the Jordan baptist chapel. Between 1812 and 1816 he built six chapels in villages around Penzance, and educated men to supply them.
But his energies were chiefly devoted to providing soldiers, and especially sailors, with religious teaching, and to forming in their behalf philanthropic institutions. On missions connected with these objects he often left his charge at Penzance. From March to July 1814 he served as a voluntary chaplain with the English army in Spain. Afterwards he brought to England two French ministers, through whom he introduced the Lancasterian system of education into France.
He commenced open-air preaching in Devon and Somerset in 1816, encountering much opposition, but his efforts led to the formation of the Home Missionary Society in 1819. In 1817 he began prayer meetings and preaching on board ship among sailors on the Thames, when the Bethel flag was first used as a signal for divine service on board a vessel. He opened the first floating chapel for the sailors on the Thames in 1819, and soon after established similar ship-chapels in Liverpool, Bristol, and Hull. In 1822 he commenced open-air preaching in Tavistock Square, London, and, carrying out similar services all over the provinces, set an example which has since been widely followed. He formed the Thames Watermen's Friend Society for giving religious instruction to watermen, bargemen, and coal-whippers in 1822, and a society for river and canal men at Paddington, where he also opened a chapel. In 1823 he originated the Merchant Seamen's Orphan Asylum for Boys, which is now a flourishing institution at Snaresbrook. In 1824 he formed the Shipwrecked and Distressed Sailors' Family Fund, which is now continued as the Shipwrecked Mariners' and Fishermen's Society.
In 1824 Smith formed the London City Mission Society, and in the same year opened the Danish Church, Wellclose Square, London Docks (which had been closed for twenty years), as the Mariners' Church. In 1827 he established the London Domestic City Mission for holding Sunday services and visiting the poor in their houses. He claimed to have established in 1828 the first temperance society in England, and in 1829 he commenced the Maritime Penitent Female Refuge, now carried on at Bethnal Green.
On the site of the Brunswick theatre, Wellclose Square, of the falling down of which on 28 Feb. 1828 he printed an account, Smith erected the Sailors' Home, the first establishment of the kind, it is believed, in the world. In 1830 he established the Sailors' Orphan Homes for Boys and Girls. To pay the expenses of these establishments he made open-air preaching tours through Great Britain, having with him twelve orphan boys, six dressed as sailors and six as soldiers, who were trained to sing hymns and patriotic songs. At this time he fantastically entitled himself ‘George Charles Smith, B.B.U.’ (i.e. Burning Bush Unconsumed). In 1861, at the age of eighty, he visited America on the invitation of the Mariners' Church and the superintendent of