Wednesday 21 April 2010

New naval barracks

Devonport Barracks

Portsmouth Barracks

Portsmouth Barracks

Until 1859, there was no such thing as continuous service or a career in the Royal Navy for ratings.  If sailors didn't volunteer for service, they were press-ganged for a voyage.  The voyage of course could last for years and there was no guarantee that the ship would return to the same port.  The sailors would be left free to go home, often a considerable distance away.

Eventually somebody, somewhere, realised that it was a waste of skills, and that if the men could be offered continuous service, better use could be made of their experience.  Obviously that meant that accommodation was needed to house the men, and so hulks of old ships no longer in service were used.

The conditions on the hulks were pretty spartan to say the least, and one source says that they were "unpleasant and uncomfortable", and that "it is remarkable that so many hundreds should have been compelled to live in such undesirable quarters for so long".  Eventually to provide better conditions, the powers that be decided that these new barracks shown on the postcards should be built.

The first port to do this was Devonport, where the barracks were first occupied in 1899, soon followed by Portsmouth in 1903.  They were described as "palaces", with electric light, and taps in every room.

The postcards showing these new barracks must have been produced fairly soon after the Portsmouth barracks opened because the instructions on the left hand side of the back state that the space could be used for "INLAND communication" and needed a half-penny stamp.  That would indicate that not everywhere allowed communication on the back of the card, a situation that lasted more or less until 1907.

It's interesting to see the people leaning over the wall in Portsmouth.  Was it a curiosity or was something special happening?

N is for New Naval barracks.  A post for ABC Wednesday.

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  1. Those look like pretty substantial barracks. Did they offer a ration of rum there or was that only at sea?

  2. These barracks do really look like palaces! It must have been a great improvement compared to the old ship hulks.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. It looks like they are young men. Could be curious of some sort what is happening inside the barracks or having some thought of joining the military, who knows. But I agree if we need good experienced fellows in the military they have to be treated fairly well. Happy Wednesday!

    ABC Wednesday~Nikon

  4. You put so much time and effort into your posts! What a great slice of history to read. Where do you get these postcards?

  5. @RNSANE, the Portsmouth one held 4000 men, so it would need to be big. I don't know if the tot of rum was only at sea or not. I do know it was watered down.

    @Reader Wil, they'd certainly be palaces in comparison to the old hulks, but they didn't look very luxurious to me when I saw some old pictures.

    @Kim, yes I think you're right, they seem curious.

    @Lisa, thanks. :) Most of the old cards were my father's but this particular set came from someone in the Navy.

  6. Very interesting post. It took a lot longer before accommodation was provided for Naval families!

  7. Very interesting... a good read, lots of new information. Thanks.

  8. I can't imagine having to spend most of my time in the hull of an old ship. It must have been heaven to be moving in a building with taps in every room!

  9. No wonder they had to press-gang people, if they made them live like that! The new barracks was clearly a step in the right direction - they look quite luxurious!

    On behalf of the team, thanks for taking part in ABC Wednesday this week! :)

  10. Sheila, I just wanted to pop in and say hello. I hope you and the family are doing well. We are doing okay. I have missed you so I just wanted to say hello and hope all is well.

    God bless,

  11. Interesting information about the building of barracks. I bet they were much better than an old ship.Just stopping by to say hello.Judy

  12. That is a fascinating history - I never knew about them being accomodated in hulks before.


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