Historian investigates stories of city’s ‘Sailortown’

The streets behind Liverpool’s Albert Dock was home to dancehalls, bars and boarding houses for sailors

A University of Liverpool historian will join museum curators and film-makers in collecting stories of Liverpool’s ‘Sailortown’ at a public event this month.

Until the 1970s, the streets behind Liverpool’s Albert Dock – where Liverpool One is now – were at the heart of a busy seaport city. This area had everything from the Sailor’s Home and Seamen’s Missions to dancehalls, bars, boarding houses, shops and industries, mostly connected in some way to the work of the port.

The research team are asking people who lived and worked near Liverpool’s waterfront in the 1950s, 60s and 70s to share their memories of the area at an event at the Maritime Museum on Saturday, 29 May.

Although many Liverpool people still remember the district, it has changed dramatically in recent years. The only places that survive today are the Baltic Fleet pub, Scandinavian Church and warehouses behind Queen’s Dock.

The Sailor’s Home – where John Lewis is now – was a major landmark, along with the Gordon Smith Institute for Seamen and Church House on the corner of Paradise St and Hanover St.  Paradise St itself had world-famous sailortown bars, dance halls and fortune tellers. In the nineteenth century, it even had a Museum of Anatomy.

South Castle Street had ships’ stores dealers and a jumble of small firms serving the port. From the Sailor’s Home southward toward Parliament St was a mix of warehouses, workshops and busy residential streets like Park Lane and Pitt St.

‘Sailortown’ is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, and involves the University of Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum and film-makers Sam Meech and Tim Brunsden.

Graeme Milne, from the University’s Department of History,said: “This is a great opportunity to capture memories of a key moment in Liverpool’s history – the last generation of the old-style seaport. We need to record these memories while we still can and keep them safe for the future. We know the people of Liverpool have great stories to tell.”

Rachel Mulhearn, Director Merseyside Maritime Museum, added: “This sailortown district was on the doorstep of what are now Liverpool’s waterfront museums. We want to better understand the history and geography of this site as it was through talking to people who lived through it. We are sure that there will be many Liverpool people who have memories of this vibrant place.”

The event will take place at the Maritime Museum, Saturday, 29 May.  Members of the public are invited to speak to the team during a drop-in session between 1.00pm and 4.00pm.

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.

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