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Cornwall's true hero's
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution operates fourteen lifeboat stations in Cornwall, all of which have a long and distinguished history. Whenever lifeboats are mentioned, Cornwall is the county which immediately springs to mind, with its picturesque fishing villages and the lifeboat stations at their heart. Whilst the technology has certainly changed, as have those picturesque villages, the volunteer spirit of the lifeboat service has not. A tour of the lifeboat stations would take in some of the prettiest, roughest and most dangerous coastline in the country.
Bude lifeboat station was established in 1837 and closed in 1923. The RNLI re-opened the station in 1966 as an inshore lifeboat station and a D class inflatable, which can deal with the surf and work close inshore to the beaches and the cliffs, is on station. In 2004 a new boathouse for the lifeboat, carriage and launching tractor was completed, also providing new crew facilities and a souvenir shop, then a new D class lifeboat, D-617 'Henry Philip', was named and placed on service.
Bude lifeboat station, Summerleaze Beach Car Park, Bude, EX23 8HN, Tel: (01288) 352971, Web: www.budelifeboat.co.uk.
Cadgwith, was established in 1867. Boats stationed there included 'Western Commercial Traveller', 'Joseph Armstrong', 'Minnie Moon', 'Herbert Sturmey' and 'Guide of Dunkirk'. The 'Guide of Dunkirk' was one of the Dunkirk Little Ships. She was brand new and not named until after her return from France. Funded by the Girl Guides Association. After retirement from the RNLI she was renamed Girl Guide and is now on display at Mevagissey. Cadgwith closed and was replaced by The Lizard lifeboat station in 1963.
Coverack, opened in 1901 after two major incidents, the “Mohegan” in October 1898 when 123 lives were lost and 44 saved, and eight months later the 'Paris' grounded off Dolor point when 750 lives were saved. The 'Constance Melanie' was a twelve oared 'Liverpool' Class lifeboat and was built at a cost of £906, she was brought to Coverack in January 1901. Her first call out was twelve months later when she saved all sixteen members of the crew of the barque 'Glenbervie'. Later vessels included 'The Three Sisters' and the 'William Taylor of Oldham'. As newer and faster boats stationed at Falmouth and the Lizard could cover the same area the station was closed on March 27th 1980. The building is now used as a restaurant.
TR12 6SX, Web: www.coverackrnli.org
Falmouth, established in 1867, has two lifeboats. The all-weather lifeboat is an Arun class Elizabeth Ann. The Atlantic 21 rigid inflatable Falmouth Round Table was provided as a result of local fund-raising within the organisation. In 1995 a new pontoon berth and refuelling facility was built for the all weather lifeboat next to the Tinners Walk lifeboat slipway. In 2001 the new station Severn class lifeboat Richard Cox Scott was placed on service on the 18th December.
Falmouth lifeboat station, Tinners Walk, Port Pendennis, Falmouth, TR11 3XZ, Tel: (01326) 318375, Web: www.falmouthlifeboat.co.uk.
Fowey has the first 25 knot 46 foot Trent class all-weather lifeboat to go on station in Cornwall. This new class of lifeboat, together with the larger Severn class lifeboat, will eventually replace all the lifeboats which lie afloat. In 1922 the first lifeboat station was established, and the lifeboat was kept afloat. In 1995 the all weather lifeboat was placed on new moorings upstream from the quay. In 1996 an inshore lifeboat (ILB) station was established with a D class lifeboat and a new launching davit for the ILB was installed. The Waveney class lifeboat was withdrawn and replaced by a Trent class lifeboat. In 1997 the station's new D class lifeboat, D-526 Olive Herbert, was placed on service. In 1998 new crew facilities were built along with new housing for the D class lifeboat.
Fowey lifeboat station, RNLI boathouse, Passage Street, Fowey, PL23 1DE, Tel: (01726) 832156, Web: www.foweylifeboat.co.uk.
Looe is the second newest lifeboat station in Cornwall, having been re-established in 1992. The D class inflatable inshore lifeboat is capable of 29 knots, has a crew of two or three, can be quickly launched and is capable of working close inshore amongst rocks and surf. In 1866 several lives were lost when local boatmen went to the assistance of a fishing craft. After this the RNLI established a lifeboat station at Looe and the 32 foot ten oared lifeboat Oxfordshire was sent to the station. In 1930 The lifeboat station closed again. In 2003 a new boathouse and slipway were completed. The building also provides a training room, office and an observation area. In 2002 a new D class lifeboat, D-574 Regina Mary, was placed on service, joined by a B class lifeboat, the Atlantic 75 B-793 Alan & Margaret. Since the lifeboat station was re-established the lifeboat has launched, on average, once a month.
Looe lifeboat station, West End, East Looe, PL13 1AT, Tel: (01503) 265072, Web: www.looelifeboats.co.uk.
The Lizard lifeboat station is situated on a tongue of rock at the foot of a 140 feet high cliff. There are over two hundred steps between the car park and the boathouse floor! The Lizard currently operates a Tyne class lifeboat David Robinson capable of 18 knots. The first Lizard lifeboat station was established by the RNLI at Polpeor following a rescue and a boathouse was built at the top of the roadway leading down to Polpeor Cove in 1859. On 2nd January 1866 the lifeboat was washed among rocks and smashed while on exercise in a hurricane. Three of the ten crew drowned – Coxswain Peter Mitchell, Richard Harris and Nicholas Stevens. Institution gave £130 to local fund. In 1885 a larger boat was provided for Polpeor, and the old (smaller) boat moved to a new station at Church Cove, where a new boathouse was built for £300. In 1961 the original station at The Lizard (Polpeor) closed and the boathouse and roller slipway at Kilcobben Cove were completed. The new station was opened on 7th July 1961 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. He also named the new lifeboat The Duke of Cornwall. In 2010 the original station at Kilcobben was demolished to make way for the current Lizard Lifeboat Station, again another magnificent feat of engineering was completed slightly ahead of schedule in November 2011.
The Lizard lifeboat station, Lizard Village, TR12 7NU, Tel: (01326) 290451, Web: www.thelizardlifeboat.org.uk.
Newquay lifeboat station was established in 1860 and operates two inshore lifeboats. In 1895 a slipway was built at Towan Head so the lifeboat could launch directly into the sea. The slipway was one of the steepest in the country; it was impossible to recover the lifeboat up it so the lifeboat was taken back to the boathouse by carriage from the beach. In 1899 a new boathouse was built at Towan Head. In 1965 an inshore lifeboat (ILB) station was established with a D class lifeboat. In 1994 the old Seamen's Mission was demolished and a joint RNLI boathouse/Seamen's Mission was constructed. In 2005 a new D class lifeboat 'Valerie Wilson' was placed on service. The new boathouse provides housing for both the 'D' and Atlantic 21 class lifeboats, as well as crew facilities and souvenir sales outlet.
Newquay lifeboat station, Newquay Harbour, Newquay, TR7 1HR, Tel: (01637) 873846.
Padstow lifeboat station is another old station with a distinguished history. The first lifeboat was built by the Padstow Harbour Association and kept at Hawker's Cove in 1827. In 1931 a new boathouse and roller slipway were built at Hawker's Cove for a second motor lifeboat, which closed because of silting in 1962. In 1967 a new boathouse and 240 foot slipway were built at Trevose Head. A boathouse to accommodate the new Tamar class lifeboat was completed in July 2006. The lifeboat, 'Spirit of Padstow', was placed on service on 17th July. The Tyne class lifeboat launches down a slipway in Mother Ivey's Bay, Trevose Head, some two miles from Padstow, so the volunteer crew, when summoned by their pagers, meet in the centre of the village and are ferried to the lifeboat station in a unique RNLI mini-bus, complete with a blue flashing light. The lifeboat station is spectacularly situated and can be reached by stairs or an 'outside' lift which is not an experience for the faint hearted!
Padstow lifeboat station, Trevose Head, Mother Iveys Bay, PL28 8SL, Tel: (01841) 520667, Web: www.padstow-lifeboat.org.uk.
Penlee lifeboat station (near Mousehole), has a heroic and tragic history, for it was here in 1981 that all eight crew of the lifeboat 'Solomon Browne' lost their lives when she was wrecked while assisting the coaster 'Union Star.' In 1803 the forerunner of Penlee lifeboat station was a lifeboat stationed at Penzance, but in 1812 the first lifeboat was sold, having never been used. In 1908 a lifeboat station opened at Newlyn, and in 1913 the lifeboat was transferred to Penlee. The RNLI established a station at Penlee and a new boathouse and roller slipway were built at Penlee Point. In 1983 a new Arun class lifeboat, the RNLB 'Mabel Alice', was placed on service. In 2003 a new Severn class lifeboat, 'Ivan Ellen', was placed on service. An Inshore B-Class Atlantic 85, 'The Mollie and Ivor Dent', was stationed in 2016.
Penlee lifeboat station, C/O Newlyn Harbour Office, Newlyn, TR18 5HA, Tel: (01736) 369246, Web: www.rnli-penleelifeboat.org.uk.
Polkerris The 'Catherine Rashleigh' was stationed in Polkerris in November 1859, and the boathouse was built for £138, on land donated by the Rashleigh's. The station transferred to Fowey in 1922 and the boathouse is currently a restaurant. When it closed as a lifeboat station the building became the Lifeboat Cafe. In 2009 it was turned into the restaurant, Sam's on the Beach. The owner is Sam Sixton, who is a volunteer on the Fowey lifeboat. Sam and his wife, Emma, have lovingly restored the boathouse and have honoured the exploits of the brave crews of the past by putting the original launch and rescue boards (dating back to 1859) on display. PL24 2TL.
Port Isaac lifeboat station was first established in 1869 but closed in 1933 and re-opened in 1967 as an inshore (D class) lifeboat station. In 1994 the boathouse was re-acquired and was refurbished, providing accommodation for the lifeboat and crew facilities. A new D class lifeboat, D-546 'Spirit of the PCS RE II', was placed on service on 3rd June 1999.
Port Isaac lifeboat station C/O Slipway Hotel Garage, Port Isaac, PL29 3RL, Tel: (01208) 880696.
Rock is the newest lifeboat station in Cornwall, having been established in 1994 in order to deal with the increasing numbers of people using the estuary for water activities, who required a fast response. The D class inflatable lifeboat has certainly proved vital during the hot summers of the past few years. In 1997 a new boathouse was completed, providing housing for the lifeboat and launching vehicle, and in 2005 a new IB1-type D class, D-634 'Rusper', arrived at the station.
Rock lifeboat station, The Dinghy Park, Ferry Point, PL27 6LD, Tel: (01208) 863033.
St. Agnes is one of seven lifeboat stations in the UK and Republic of Ireland to have a lifeboat provided by the viewers of BBC television's children's programme 'Blue Peter'. The first appeal for lifeboats was made in 1964 and there have been four since. In 1968 the RNLI established an inshore lifeboat (ILB) station. A D class lifeboat was placed on service for the summer months only. In 1970 a new boathouse was built. Due to the increase in incidents around the coast the lifeboat was placed on all-year service in 1996.
St. Agnes lifeboat station, Trevaunance Cove, Quay Road, St. Agnes, TR5 0RY, Tel: (01872) 552680.
St. Ives lifeboat station also has a distinguished and tragic history. In 1861 a boathouse was built on Island Road, which in 1867 was re-built on the quay. In 1938 the station's first motor lifeboat was placed on service. In January 1939 the lifeboat launched to the aid of an unknown vessel. The lifeboat capsized near Clodgy Point and when she righted four men were missing. In 1993/94 a new boathouse and slipway were constructed, in order to accommodate the Mersey class lifeboat The Princess Royal, which is launched from a carriage. The boathouse has won a number of architectural awards and is built of traditional Cornish materials. In 1964 an inshore lifeboat (ILB) station was permanently established alongside the all weather lifeboat. A D class was placed on service. In 1997 the new D class lifeboat, Spirit of the RTC, was placed on service. Then in 2007 a new D class lifeboat Colin Bramley Parker was placed on service.
St. Ives lifeboat station, Lifeboat House, St. Ives, TR26 1AH, Tel: (01736) 796422.
St. Mary's Established in 1837, the first two lifeboats were kept in a boathouse on the town beach at Hugh Town. In 1874 the lifeboat station was re-opened by the RNLI and a boathouse was built on the beach at Porth Cressa. In 1899 a new boathouse and slipway were built at Carn Thomas. In 1919 The station's first motor lifeboat arrived at the station, and in 1997 the new Severn class lifeboat arrived at the station.
St. Mary's lifeboat station, Harbour Bay, Hugh Town, TR21 0NE, Tel: (01720) 422637.
Sennen Cove lifeboat station currently operates a Mersey class lifeboat 'The Four Boys', which was partly funded by an appeal launched by the families of four boys who were swept out to sea off Land's End. In 1853 the lifeboat station was established and the boathouse was built at the head of the beach, then in 1864 the boathouse was re-built for the station's new lifeboat. In 1919 a new slipway was built for the station's first motor lifeboat, which was launched by trolley. The Tamar Class 'City of London III' is the current station lifeboat. Built in 2009 at a cost of £2.7M, she is a 52 foot self-righting lifeboat powered by two 1000hp Caterpillar C18 diesels giving her a top speed of 25 knots, with an endurance of ten hours + at full speed. A D class inflatable lifeboat also operates from the station.
Sennen Cove lifeboat station, Sennen Cove, TR19 7DF, Tel: (01736) 871222, Web: www.sennen-cove.com/lifeboat.htm.
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