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Sailors Home - Pooley Gates

The Sailors Home Canning Place and the Historic Pooley Gates

LIVERPOOL’S  historic ‘Pooley Gates’ were returned 60 years after they were lost to the city. Welcomed by ex-seamen from down the generations  along with civic leaders and campaigners who have  fought to welcome  the ‘Henry Pooley Gates’  back to their rightful place. The Grade II-listed gates were  officially unveiled on 18th August 2011 outside John Lewis in Paradise Street, close  to where the original 'Sailors Home' stood.  The gates, which feature one of the earliest architectural depictions of the Liver Bird, were taken down for repair in 1951 but ended up languishing outside a foundry in the Black Country. After a hard-fought campaign by ex-seaman Gabriel Muies, Phil Griffiths and Steven McKay, the foundry in Smethwick agreed to let them go and Liverpool council paid £35,000 to bring them home.  The gates were made by Henry Pooley & Sons for the Liverpool Sailors Home, which opened in 1850, and are believed to feature the oldest example of the Liver Birds motif.  They were removed when the building suffered bomb damage. When W & T Avery, now Avery Weigh-Tronix, took over Henry Pooley & Sons, they were moved to Smethwick. People in Liverpool have been calling for the gates to be returned since 2008.  It had looked like Smethwick would retain the gates, especially when English Heritage pointed out Sandwell Council would get the final say over their fate. But after continued pressure, the authority has now yielded.  The gates will now form a tribute in Liverpool to sailors who lost their lives.

Sailors Home Canning Place with Steers House to the left

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. 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.

A Then and Now image showing the location of the Sailors Home

Paradise Street showing John Lewis The Pooley Gates
and Church House, 2018


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