A lot of people will remember with fondness the Royal Sailor’s Home Club in Queen Street Portsmouth. In the days before 24 hour licensing, it provided a cheap pint for naval ratings and dockyard workers during hours that pubs were shut. It also provided a comfy bed for the night with plentiful, affordable food and drink. A few years ago, it was realised that the needs of its members had changed significantly and that, with the decline of the Royal Navy and the importance of bringing tourism to the historic dockyard, a remodelling of the club was overdue. The problem was the club needed a new image but still had to fulfil its charitable duties. The Royal Maritime Club was launched with these aims in mind.
Several years down the line, the club has become a popular venue for events including reunion lunches and banquets, wedding receptions and Christmas dinner dances to name a few. Revenue from these events and the provision of accommodation, fund the charity with many deserving causes associated with the Armed Forces benefiting.
General Manager at the helm is John Alderson, an experienced hotelier who declared his ambition to bring the club’s facilities up to 3 star standards and encourage more people to use the club as a base for exploring the myriad attractions of historic Portsmouth. There were many pitfalls along the way, the aged 1950s structure, plumbing and wiring needed renewing along with many fixtures and fittings. With his experienced crew of departmental heads and their teams, John set about achieving his dream. Appreciation must also go to The Board of Trustees who have shown enormous support to the club over many years and between them bring a wealth of experience into their governing role.
A massive refurbishment programme was undertaken with support from our bankers. Accessible facilities have been introduced with funding from H4H and accredited with Mobility 1, Mobility 2 and Mobility 3, assisted by Visit Britain. The club acknowledges with gratitude H4H and also Seafarers UK & RNRM charity for funding further projects. Now the club is proud to have been granted a Three Star Hotel accreditation from “Visit England”. This means that leisure and business guests alike can enjoy comfortable and modern accommodation with the level of service they have come to expect from hotels of this type. John’s ambition has been achieved but the work continues.
The club was first established in 1851 on the present site and was known as the Sailors’ Home. It was instigated by well-meaning local citizens who were appalled at the way the seamen of the Royal Navy were treated on their return from two or three years at sea and was opened to provide respectable home comforts as well as a safe place to leave their money. As far as is known, the prefix ‘Royal’ was added in 1855 following a visit by the Prince Consort, following which Queen Victoria became a patron of the club. Charitable status was granted in 1883. It is thought that the addition of the word ‘Club’ may have occurred just after the First World War.
On January 10th 1941 half the building was bombed by enemy action and two months later on March 10th the remainder was completely destroyed. The Royal Navy decided to rebuild the club and through appeals to the Fleet and various Naval Funds, the present building was completed and officially opened on March 4th 1952, with additional floors opened on December 17th,1956 and the Families Annexe (now renamed the West Wing) in 1962. In 1988, with funds donated from the China Fleet Club in Hong Kong, the leisure centre was created.
Over the years there have been a number of royal visits:
1924 HRH The Duke of York, later King George V
1932 HRH The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII
1986 HM Queen Elizabeth II
1987 HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
1994 HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York
1998 HRHs Prince and Princess Michael of Kent
2014 HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
HM Queen Elizabeth II was patron of the club until 2007, when the patronage was accepted by HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Over the years, the club has evolved into its present form and has been able to open its doors to other categories of members, however, the men and women of the Royal Navy remain as the beneficiaries of the charity.