This is a note I sent to Kay Jones of the Liverpool Museums, They are going to do a feature of the Home in the new £72,000,000 Museum of Liverpool near the Pier Head in 2011.
If anyone has any experiences of the Home, Kay Jones would like to hear about them. on firstname.lastname@example.org
I first stayed at the Sailors Home in 1952 as a green Deck Boy. Wow what a culture shock,
It was rumoured at the time as once being a prison with the galleried balconies going around the inside with wire netting across each floor, in case anyone fell over the balconies. This was wrong as it had been purpose built as a Sailors Home.
I had left the Vindicatrix Sea Training School in Sharpness Glos. and had to await nearly six weeks to find a job on a ship.
The price was four shillings a night for bed and breakfast for men, Boys were about three shillings. It was just a bare cabin. wooden panels, painted green on the walls, iron framed bed and a chest of drawers. a communal bathroom and toilets, There was a room for the breakfasts, Sausage [these were usually thrown out of the window, they were awful. always a big pile of them outside the Home.]
egg and a piece of bacon, slice of bread and a mug of tea.
Alongside of the home was a bomb site from WW2 and at night the plonkies and winos would doss down for the night amongst the rubble, with a bottle of Meths or cheap plonk.
One night, I was 16 years old, I was walking back in the pouring rain, to go into the Home. a plonky shouted to me, "Hey lah, av yer gotta room there." I said "Yes". "Its cold and wet out `ere, let us sleep on the floor in yer cabin." Being a bit soft I said `OK`.
Then six of them got up from the rubble and followed me in, when I opened the cabin door, two crashed onto the bunk, two slid under the bunk and the other two curled up on the deck. I was stood in the doorway, couldnt believe in what I saw. There was no room for me.
I went back down stairs and back into the rain, the only place I could go to was The Gordon Smith Institute for Seamen across the road and round the corner. That building is still there. I got a bed there for three shillings and six pence in the Dormitary, a large room with about twenty beds in, all occupied, with the sound of snoring and other types noises coming from them. they Night Man told me to lay my suit and any money under the mattress and shoes under the pillow or they wouldnt be there next morning.
Next morning I had a breakfast there and then went back to the Sailors Home and had the other breakfast I had already paid for. Then I went up to my room, all the plonkies had gone, amazingly all my gear was still there.
I stayed there many times over the years, it was very handy for somewhere to stay when in Liverpool, I lived in Bolton. When I joined a ship in Liverpool and after the end of a voyage of four or five months and we paid off in London we would all get the train back to Liverpool and have a few bevies up on Lime Street, the Sailors Home was ideal for some where to stay before going home the following day.
The ground floor of The Sailors Home was the Shipping Federation or more better known as "The Pool". A place where seafaring men went to to find their next ship.
The door on the left hand side of the Pool opened into a large room with a long counter, This was covered with wire netting to prevent some of the Characters attacking the Staff
if they got a bum deal from their last ship or if they were turned away with no job, if the man was approved they would open the turnstile to the next room.
Sometimes if the Man wasnt looking we could drop onto the floor and slide underneath the turnstile and into the inner room. There was a counter for each department, Firemen, Catering and Deck, again wire netting covered the three desks. Behind the desks stood the Man who gave out the jobs or number of men required by the Ship owner for each ship.
These Men were legends at the time. Mr Repp, Mr Griffiths, Mr Slater, Mr Deakin and so on.
While stood there you had to learn to read the book upside down to see what name of ship he had on the page, you got to know what ships were good and which were the ones to stay clear of in case you got Shaghaied for a two year trip. If Mr Repp or Mr Griffiths called you by your first name you knew he had a bad ship for you. Sometimes Mr Repp had his hand over the bottom of the page where he had some good jobs for his favourites. the trick to find out what ship he was hiding. If you were given a ship he gave you forms to take for a Doctors inspection then you went into the next room. The Doctors assistant would call you in then you dropped your trousers and he held your right groin saying `Cough`, then the left side, cough again . open your mouth to see you had some teeth, `OK you`ll do`, he would say and sign the form then you signed on the ship and went to sea.
Some of the old guys had no teeth, and a fellow would say . "eh lah give us a go at yer teeth" and the other fellow would take out his teeth and he would put them in, didnt matter if they didnt fit, he had teeth, so he passed the Medical, on the way out he would give the teeth back and someone else would borrow them.
After the Sailors Home closed the new Shipping Federation or Pool was at Mann Island. now gone.These Characters and events are now gone , just a fading memory of the few of us still hanging on. The Home should have been saved, it was a fantastic design, that Classic structure would have lasted for centuries, and a great memorial to all the Sailors who passed through its doors, now just a memory of a by gone age that can never happen again.
The people who demolished it should have been gaoled.
Cheers , in the first photo the building on the left is the Customs House, bombed and destroyed by German Bombs in the Blitz. They never did pay us for it.
The Sailor's Home in Canning Place, foundation stone of this home for Liverpool seamen was laid by Prince Albert in July 1846. Demolished in 1970s.
Photographs of Liverpool
by Steve Howe thanks Steve for the use of your pictures in a good cause.