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One of the oldest hotels in Portsmouth, the Club was first established here at Queen Street in 1851. Back then it was known as the Sailors' Home and was set up to look after sailors. Back then seamen of the Royal Navy were treated terribly when they returned, and after two or three years at sea, this was an unkindness our founders could not bear. Thus the Sailor's Home was opened to provide respectable home comforts for our seamen, as well as being a safe place to leave their money.
The Club gained the prefix 'Royal' in 1855, after Prince Albert visited the hotel and Queen Victoria then became our patron. There have been royal visits throughout the 20th century too, including Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 (patron till 2007) and Prince Charles (patron since 2007) a year later.
Like so many others, our Club did not make it through World War II unscathed. On 10th January 1941, half the building was bombed, only for the remainder to be destroyed two months later on 10th March. However, the hotel was not abandoned. The Royal Navy built it again from the ground up, reopening on 4th March 1952. It has been a home from home for many ever since.
The club gained charitable status in 1883. Membership is open to all serving and retired members of the Armed Forces and their families as well as those of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Merchant Navy, for whom it was founded.
The Club – known familiarly for over 160 years as the “Home” Club – is an active charitable Trust that owns its land and buildings. It also owns a trading company which runs the building to generate surpluses for charitable activities, rather like a giant Oxfam shop or the Union Jack Club in London.
The Club has over 8,000 members of whom 7,500 are serving or retired Sailors (from both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Fleet), Royal Marines, Soldiers or Airmen. Police Officers, Fire and Ambulance Service members, volunteers from the RNLI and members of our local community make up the rest. Our Patron is HRH the Prince of Wales. You can access our annual accounts on the Charity Commissioners website.
Our charitable objectives, in a nutshell, are “the provision of accommodation, recreation and leisure time occupation” for our beneficiaries and “the relief of hardship and distress” amongst seafarers and their families. This enables the Club to offer free or reduced cost respite holidays and to make its facilities available to other naval and military charities.
The Club is home to Veterans Outreach Support, a charity which provided ex-servicemen and women with regular access to specialist help and counselling. We also provide offices for SSAFA (the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmens’ Families Association). The Club hosts special events throughout the year for children, families and military reunions.
During 2014 the Club was given a generous grant by Help for Heroes (H4H) which has enabled us to build and equip a new Disabled suite, install a disabled lift to serve the Trafalgar Ballroom and its balcony, re-build our main disabled Loo and refurbish existing disabled bedrooms. H4H Bands of Brothers and Sisters are now reciprocal members of the Club.
We have recently received a grant from Seafarers UK which will pay for complete refurbishment of one of the main ground floor “Heads”. We also receive smaller donations throughout the year from generous members.
Because all our hotel and catering profits are donated to our Trust to fund our charitable activities, donations and grants are always needed to improve our facilities. We believe that keeping all our facilities smart and shipshape is an important tribute to our partner charities and all our members and beneficiaries. We hope to show off our newly funded projects at next year’s RMC Trust Open Day.