Please Help Bring a Mersey Memory back to Life

By Phil Griffiths

It is true that many of Liverpool’s architectural treasures have disappeared along the rocky road of our past. These 1840 Sailors’ Home Gates may provide one of the few remaining opportunities for the City to tempt home one of its lost diamonds.

How The Sailors’ Home Gates Were Nearly Lost Forever

The Sailors Home was a philanthropic venture, aimed at providing safe, clean, cheap lodgings and rest from the long journeys for the thousands of sailors deposited for a while in Liverpool. It’s architect was John Cunningham.

The foundation stone to this palatial refuge was laid in 1846 by HRH The Prince Albert, KG., Consort of HRH Queen Victoria who graciously accepted Patronage of the Sailors Home in the 10th year of her reign, during the mayoralty of David Hodges.

This was an attempt to provide a sanctuary from the grog shops and the willing arms of ‘judies’ such as Harriet Lane, Blooming Rose, Jumping Jenny and The Battleship.

The building was demolished and forgotten to most, but remembered by many in 1973/4. The RLSOI and The Sailors Home Trust charities provide a testament to its memory. However it is ‘claimed’ that the Gates were removed in 1934, if true, why were they? who gave permission? was their removal legal?

Many years later in 1999, John Smith, an ex-pat scouser was working at Avery Berkel in Smethwick, West Midlands when he happened to pass by a fantastic set of iron gates, 4 meters wide by 5 meters high.

They were iron cast of maritime buntings, trumpets and ships’ wheels, surmounted by the crowned insignia of the legendary Liver Bird, 70 years older than those two copper titans gracing our magnificent Liver Buildings.

What John had discovered was John Cunningham’s, international masterpiece, as described in the eminent Quentin Hughes’ book on Liverpool architecture called ‘Seaport.’ They were indeed those which once graced the entrance to The Sailors’ Home. The very gates, which welcomed so many colourful sailing souls, who played a starring role in constructing the rainbow character of Liverpool.

It is written that these gates were handled with tremendous virtuosity, by all passing beneath. How many sailors could that be? Sailing out to adventure to change the world forever.

They say that history has a habit of repeating itself, and hopefully that will be the case, when these are Gates once more be erected in Liverpool welcoming visitors.

My colleagues (Don Evans and Frank Carlyle) and I have received written confirmation from Avery, the Gate’s owners, which indicates their willingness to return the Gates. However, they were grade 2 listed by Sandwell MBC in 1987, and if they are to be moved they will insist that a proper site is proposed beforehand. This is where you can help, unless sufficient funding and planning is acquired we will be banging on a door which may not be opened.

Where that site should be I know not, but in this City these Gates belong. Just look at the nautical theme of the Gates, capstan wheels, mermaids, dolphins, rigging etc. What are they doing sitting, hidden from the general public located in a car park in what is, probably, the most landlocked location in the UK?

This crowned Liver Bird should overlook the River, maybe as part of the new terminal. Standing above its people once more, whilst gazing up to its young cousins. One can only wonder of the tales they may tell one another.

To put these Gates into historical context, below are some events which occurred AFTER they were manufactured

The Charge of the Light Brigade and Florence Nightingale.

The Origin of the Species first published

The invention of the typewriter and telephone

The Eiffel Tower built

Rorkes Drift

Marconi invented wireless

Labour Party formed

Mass circulation was achieved via railways

Crystal Palace built

London Underground opened

Alice Wonderland published

FA formed

Suez Canal opened

Abraham Lincoln assassinated

Custer’s Last Stand

American civil war
How many of the Alabama’s crew passed through these gates ?

Invention of printing, then it was linotype.

Women matchmakers strike

First Ford car

Manchester ship canal opens

Start of Boer war

Wrights first flight

First senior citizens pensions

74 years before WW1

72 years before the Titanic sunk

83 years before the first Wembley cup final

70 years before the completion of the Liver Buildings

Everton FC formed

Liverpool FC formed

Tranmere Rovers FC formed

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