The Wesleyan, and later independent, minister James Crabb was born in Wiltshire in 1774 and spent his early years as an itinerant preacher in the Hampshire countryside, eventually settling in first Romsey and then Southampton (in c.1822). After an application to start a mission in the town was refused by the Wesleyan Methodists he went ahead independently. He established a seamen's mission and in 1823 built Zion Chapel on Castle Hill. He did much work amongst the poor and disadvantaged, and it was largely through his efforts that the first sheltered accommodation for prostitutes was established in the town. He was very active in the poor district of Kingsland where he was influential in the establishment of the Female Penitentiary in 1827 and where he opened a Sunday school. He became known as the ‘Sailors’ Chaplain’ because of his work amongst the mariners in the town, and was given permission to conduct services aboard P & O ships in the port. He is possibly best remembered for his work with gypsies. Once a year he held a gypsy camp at his house, Springhill Court, in Hill Lane. He died in 17 Septembr, 1851.

James Crabb

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Drawing from Memoir of the Reverend James Crabb, by John Rudall.

Newspaper clippings:

Saving the ladies of the night - (Keith Hamilton, nd)

Further reading:
Memoir of the Reverend James Crabb, by John Rudall. (HS/j)
'The Reverend James Crabb, William Shayer and the Gypsies', by Rosaleen Wilkinson in Shirley From Domesday to D-Day, p47-48. (HS/h.SHI)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 13.
'The Reverend James Crabb and the Welfare of Gypsies in Hampshire and Dorset' in Hatcher Review, no.43, Spring 1997.


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