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Merseyside Maritime Museum's Sailortown Project: Casting Light on Vanished World
Much of Liverpool’s seafaring areas were clustered around the city centre, inland from the Albert, Canning and Salthouse Docks.

LIVERPOOL.- People have been recalling their memories of Liverpool’s once-vibrant seafaring district in a study linked to Merseyside Maritime Museum displays.

Historians, museum curators and film-makers are collaborating on the Mapping Memory of the Waterfront project.

Many years ago all ports had a Sailortown where mariners relaxed, shopped and did business. Liverpool’s extended behind the docks and was finally swept away in the 1970s with the arrival of containerisation.

For centuries ships spent several days in port while cargoes were loaded and unloaded. This gave crews the chance to visit their haunts ashore. Since the introduction of roll-on / roll-off, vessels spend less time in port and the ship’s company are unlikely to go ashore.

Much of Liverpool’s seafaring areas were clustered around the city centre, inland from the Albert, Canning and Salthouse Docks.

The project team has been helped by many local residents and others keen to share their memories.

Rachel Mulhearn, Merseyside Maritime Museum’s director, says:“We still need first-hand information particularly anyone who remembers the area around Canning Place, the Sailor’s Home and south towards Parliament Street.”

Graeme Milne, lecturer in history at the University of Liverpool, says: “We would very much like to talk with those who worked in shops, pubs or any of the many small businesses based in this part of Liverpool from the 1950s to 1970s.”

Those who have helped since the project was launched in May 2010 include Liverpool Women’s History Group, retired seafarers, craftsmen, office workers, café customers and others who lived, shopped and worked in the district.

Information will be used to create an interactive map on the National Museums Liverpool web site. A film for display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum is also planned.

Until the 1970s, the streets behind Liverpool’s Albert Dock (where Liverpool One is now) were at the heart of a busy seaport city where seafarers were highly visible. Many were colourful personalities who added to the rich character of Liverpool.

This area had everything from the Sailors’ Home and Seamen’s Missions to dance halls, bars, boarding houses, shops and industries, mostly connected in some way to the work of the port. 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.

Mapping Memory of the Waterfront 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.

The Sailors’ 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 and Hanover Streets. Paradise Street had world-famous bars, dance halls and fortune tellers. In the nineteenth century, it even had a Museum of Anatomy. South Castle Street had ships’ stores known as slop shops and a jumble of small firms serving the port. From the Sailor’s Home southward toward Parliament Street was a mix of warehouses, workshops and busy residential streets like Park Lane and Pitt Street.

Merseyside Maritime Museum | Rachel Mulhearn | Liverpool |

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