The Bridgewater Trustees encouraged missionary activity in the docks and in1840 provided a barge to be used as a floating chapel. In 1866 the timbers had rotted so the Trustees provided a building to serve as St. Peter's Mission church. This however closed in 1872 as the new owners, the Bridgewater Navigation Company, were not interested and refused to provide a permanent site for the church and consequently St. Peter's parish never came into being. This proposal by Canon Barclay, the Vicar of Runcorn, was for the population nucleus for the town's maritime community at the Bridgewater Docks.
The Mersey Mission to Seamen founded a Seamen's Mission in Runcorn in 1875 and appointed William Shaw as the first Lay Missioner; he continued in this post until his retirement in 1921. Largely by his efforts sufficient money was raised by 1890 to build a Seamen's Institute in Station Road. The building cost £1,460 plus £100 for furnishings and comprised a church with leisure facilities for the boatmen, seamen and families. It could accommodate 250 people and was opened in 1891. The Institute was well attended and in the Missioners first report it was stated that there were 898 narrow boats registered at Runcorn and that 1,857 sea going and river craft had visited the Port.
In 1890 Shaw and his volunteer helpers made 3,016 visits to ships, river flats, and canal boats and 1,849 visits to the homes of the boatmen and seamen. The Mission had done much to relieve distress during periods of hardship and unemployment.
A bowling green and skittle alley were provided at a cost of £75, and £40 was spent on a recreation field for the children. The Sunday School in 1906 was attended on average by some 250 children. Unique, certainly in the area and probably nationally, was the provision of a "sailors grave" for interment of sailors drowned in the district.
A memorial stained glass window was provided in memory of William Shaw's wife, Mary, but it is not known what happened to it following the demolition of the Institute.