4.11.11

Liverpool Sailors' Home

Friday, 22 September 1871 - Liverpool, England

Liverpool Sailor's Home
Liverpool’s fortune is built on the back of sailors. It’s a dangerous life. Storms can sweep you overboard, accidents are common, disease and malnutrition a constant threat. However the perils of the sea are nothing compared to the hazards in port.

Everyone knows sailors get paid when they come into port, and everyone is ready to cheat them out of their money--or kill them for it. Alcohol is watered down with water if they are lucky, toxins if they are not. “Drunk for a penny, blind for two” as the old saying goes. “Judies” are there to take a lonely sailor home...or to an alley to get him rolled by her friends. Inns are dirty, expensive and often unsafe.

sailors near the docks
Authorities shrug their shoulders--they are sailors after all and we all know their reputation. Sailors often come from the desperate lower classes and therefore have no political clout and get no respect. Sailors are usually from somewhere else and don’t know anyone in town.

Inside of the Sailor's Home
Liverpool however knows what she owes these drudges of the sea. And so in 1844 the Mayor of Liverpool called a public meeting to help these exploited fellows. It was decided that a hostel should be built to help sailors. In 1846 Prince Albert himself laid the foundation stone and in 1852 the Liverpool Sailors Home was opened for business.

Railing inside
Now sailors have a clean, safe, and inexpensive place to stay and eat. Liverpool is not the only port to build a Sailors Home, but this city may have the grandest one. The outside is very palatial, but it is even fancier on the inside. The five stories of rooms are arranged around a courtyard under a skylight and ringed by cast iron columns and rails done in nautical themes of dolphins, mermaids and anchors.

There is also a very ornate iron gate out front. It closes promptly at ten every night and is meant to reinforce the curfew. No unruly behavior allowed. Gentlemen only--and that status is determined by conduct rather than social class. Despite the restrictions the sailors are only too happy to comply. There are often 200 guests here every night from all over the world.

Sailor's Home Gate out front
Another accidental service the Home provides is connections. Sober seamen can meet reputable ship captains and secure better and safer employment on seaworthy ships. The Home also offers sick sailors medical attention. And it has a bank for seaman to keep their money safe while in port.

Most importantly though the Sailors Home is just that--a home away from home--a safe port while in port.

A Picture Gallery of the Liverpool Sailors' Home

1 comment:

Ian Patterson (@Psytac) said...

As noted earlier on, I stayed there several times in my 'teens in the early-1960s with my father, an officer then at the Training Ship "Indefatigable". The Sailor's Home was used, in those days, as a casual administrative centre in Liverpool, for the TS "Indefatigable", which was itself by then located at Plas Llanfair, Llanfair PG in Anglesey, North wales (it used to be a floating sea training ship anchored in the Mersey - launched 1883 as HMS Phaeton, and broken up 1947). The interior of the Sailor's Home was just as seen in the blog photograph, with tiered galleries of 'cabins' for those staying there. Sadly, it's all gone now; with its history located in the memories of 'older people', and some documents and photographs like these. Well done and thank you, Dr Wendell, for refreshing recollections of days gone by!