In 1836 the Revd John Ashley established the Bristol Channel Mission as a result of being struck by the loneliness and spiritual needs of the merchant seafarers at anchor.

Using his example, a number of Anglican ministries followed suit and in 1856 it was decided to establish a single organisation. The Mission to Seamen – as it was known – was made a missionary society of the Anglican Communion and its work grew in line with the rapidly expanding British maritime empire.

In 2000, the name was changed to The Mission to Seafarers to reflect its role as a society which cares for all seafarers, regardless of gender. In 2007, it became a company limited by guarantee and by 2010 all the assets and liabilities of the unincorporated charity were transferred into the newly named The Mission to Seafarers.