The Sailor's Home in Canning Place, Liverpool was designed by John Cunningham. Influenced by Elizabethan great houses such as Wollaton and Hardwick Hall, the foundation stone of this palatial lodging house for Liverpool seamen was laid by Prince Albert in July 1846. A medal struck to commorate the occasion is shown below.
It was a philanthropic venture erected from the subscriptions of shipowners and merchants to provide good, clean and inexpensive accomodation and give sailors a refuge from the grog shops- "drunk for 1d and blind for 2d"- and the attentions of Judies such as Harriet Lane, Jumping Jenny and 'The Battleship'...
In the streets and alleys around the docks there was no shortage of places where 'Seamen's Lodging House' was painted boldly onto a cracked, dirt-specked fanlight and where, at an exhorbitant charge, the sailor would be fed and bedded- after a fashion. Many of these lodging houses were notorious establishments from some of which the shellback would be lucky to escape with his life, let alone his money belt.
If the home appeared somewhat like a prison, this was not Cunningham's concept. He modelled the interior upon ship's quarters with cabins ranged around five stories of galleries in the internal rhomboidal court. The columns and balustrades of these galleries were powerfully moulded in cast iron utilising nautical themes such as twisted ropes, dolphins and mermaids. The cast gates were the architect's chef d'oeuvre in iron, a splendid arrangement of maritime buntings, trumpets and ship's wheels, surmounted by the crowned insignia of the legendary Liver Bird- all handled with tremendous virtuosity.
To the great and lasting disgust of many Scousers, this wonderful building was demolished during the 1970s. Even worse, its site was not even required for new buildings, or even a road scheme, and, until the coming of the Paradise Project- three decades later- remained an unsightly, rubbish-strewn hole in the ground within which had been erected scaffolding to support a bunch of advertising hoardings.
The author was examining the remaining brickwork in June 2004 when he made a remarkable discovery- several huge pieces of finely sculpted stonework- including a capstain and this detail of a ship's rigging- remained on the site, largely hidden from casual view by rubbish and vegetation. Does anyone know what became of them?
Here a medal that was struck to commemorate the founding of the Liverpool Sailor's home. It states at the bottom, "His R H Prince Albert laid the foundation stone July 31st 1846". The rear of the medal bears his portrait.