Exploring Portsmouth’s Sailortown

Queen Street, Portsea. ‘Sailortown’ Territory

The ‘Sailortown’ app is an exciting project which spatially anchors sites frequented by sailors in Portsmouth during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Sailortowns were districts in which local communities catered for the sailor and were crowded with pubs, lodging houses, brothels and money lenders. These areas had reputations for exuberant and excessive leisure as it was here that sailors first stepped ashore after long and arduous maritime journeys. Sailors also resided within these communities, either as ‘visitors’ in lodging houses or in special institutions such as Agnes Weston’s ‘Sailor’s Rest’, which was designed to keep maritime servicemen out of trouble.

Our database contains information of over 3,500 sailors, and 1,500 public houses and lodging houses, which have been geo-located using Census data from 1851 to 1901. The research shows that, although sailors have been previously regarded as outsiders, and sailortowns characterised as a place of ‘Otherness’, sailors were prominent social actors and were more intertwined to the urban environment than they have been given credit for.

Explore Sailortown in two ways:

  • Sailortown Walk – Discover Portsmouth’s Sailortown as you walk around it!
    • Use your phone or tablet to choose between our Portsea and Old Portsmouth Sailortown walks and see history right in front of you
  • Sailortown Database and Interactive Map – Research the hidden history of Sailortown using our themes!
    • Sailors – Find out where over 3,500 sailors lived in Sailortown
    • Public Houses – Take a ‘virtual pub tour’ by clicking on this option
    • Lodging Houses – Shows the location of places sailors would have stayed when visiting Sailortown
    • Crime – Highlights 268 specific spots where crime involving sailors took place
    • Welfare – Find institutions in the town which looked after sailors
    • Leisure – This option highlights music halls and clubs
    • Folklore – Ghostly stories and sailortown superstitions are highlighted here

Sailortown Interactive Map and Database

For the Sailortown Database and Interactive Map either zoom in and out of locations to find the stories by street, free-search the database, or to search via a theme select “None”, then your theme, press “Search”, and scroll down and click on the results!

The Sailortown Walk app

This project was created using research from the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures project, and digitally mapped by Nautoguide Limited.