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Sailors’ Homes

Liverpool Sailors’ Home

The Liverpool Sailors' Home operated in Canning Place from December 1850. This establishment provided board and food, and carried out additional responsibilities such as medical assistance, religious instruction, and moral, intellectual and professional improvement opportunities.

Source: 68th Annual Report of the Liverpool Sailor’s Home 1911.

In October 1844, some ship owners, merchants, brokers, and residents of Liverpool met at the Liverpool Town Hall to discuss the establishment of a Sailors’ Home, Registry and Savings Bank for Seamen. They deplored the poor condition and character of the British seamen despite the latter’s national importance for trade and commerce. In order to provide seamen with a safe living environment away from the port city’s corrupting influences and temptations, they considered building a comfortable and well-regulated establishment (Evans 1997).

Image: Cover of Establishment of a Sailors' Home. Source: Liverpool Record Office. Reproduced with permission.

The Sailors’ Home at Canning Place opened in December 1850. Similar to other Sailor’s Homes, this establishment mainly provided board and food. Its additional responsibilities included medical assistance, religious instruction, and moral, intellectual and professional development opportunities. It contained a reading room, library, and savings bank. The interior was modelled on a typical ship’s quarters with ‘cabins ranged around five storeys of galleries in the internal rhomboidal court. The columns and balustrades of the galleries are powerfully moulded in cast iron using nautical themes like turned rope, twisted dolphins, and mermaids’ ('Sailors’ Home', University of Liverpool, 1962). The interior was destroyed in 1860 in a fire started by a sailor. The building reopened in 1862 after some structural changes and thorough refurbishment (McKay 1995).

Image: ‘Burning of the Sailors’ Home in Liverpool’, The Illustrated London News, 12 May 1860. Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain, CC-PD-Mark.

In 1875, The Porcupine published a series of articles entitled ‘Around the Sailors’ Home’, which vividly described the ‘black harlotry, outlawed thieving, and brazen blasphemy’ in the area despite strong police presence (Evans 1997, 60). The newspaper was very critical of the Sailors’ Home’s inability to protect seamen from these influences. The issues were discussed at the Mersey Mission to Seamen’s annual meeting in 1875. The Bishop of Chester accepted the criticisms as valid and stressed the need for the Mission to be more proactive since the local magistrates were not very effective.

Image: ‘Victorian Illustration of the Sailors’ Home in Canning Place, Liverpool’, c 1860. Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain, CC-PD-Mark.

In 1878, a second ‘North End Home’ was opened to relieve the pressure off the Canning Place establishment and also to shift seamen away from the taverns surrounding the old Sailors’ Home. The Mersey Mission to Seamen noted that ‘The Sailors’ Home and the Mersey Mission Institute are in the heart of an enormous migratory sea-going population and we can do little but wonder at the change which has come over this locality within the last few years’ (Mersey Mission to Seamen 1889: 5). Missionary records suggest significant effort put into preaching the gospel and instilling the values of temperance among seamen.


Anonymous. 1844. Establishment of a Sailors’ Home (Liverpool: T. Carter). Liverpool Record Office.

Anonymous. 1879. ‘The New “North End” Sailors’ Home, Liverpool’, The Shipwrecked Mariner 26.101: 72-75.

Anonymous. 1962. ‘Sailors’ Home, Canning Place’, University of Liverpool Special Collection & Archives (D71/11/7).

Anonymous. 1844. Establishment of a Sailors’ Home (Liverpool: T. Carter). Liverpool Record Office.

Evans, Bob. 1997. Mersey Mariners (Wirral: Countyvise).

McKay, Stephen. 1995. ‘Liverpool Sailors’ Home’, The Penny Farthing. Liverpool Record Office (725.59 MACK).

Mersey Mission to Seamen. 1889. Report of the Mersey Mission to Seamen Society for the Year 1888 (Liverpool: Scholl & McGee). Liverpool Record Office.


Mersey Mission to Seamen archives. Liverpool Record Office.

Citation for this article

Manikarnika Dutta, 'Liverpool Sailors’ Home' Mariners: Race, Religion and Empire in British Ports 1801-1914,
Retrieved 14 July 2024