Lifeboat Station is the oldest operational boathouse in the British
Isles and Ireland. The catalyst for the establishment of a lifeboat
station for Newbiggin began in March 1851 as a result of a fishing
disaster when ten fishermen lost their lives. However the fishermen,
John Dent, Henry Brown, Philip Jefferson, William and Robert Armstrong,
were subsequently each awarded the RNLI silver medal.
the Duke of Northumberland supported the lifeboat service on the
Northumberland coast and provided the first Newbiggin lifeboat and
boathouse, and so our lifesaving began. Philip Jefferson, the first
Newbiggin Lifeboat Coxswain was awarded a clasp to his silver medal
for an attempted service to the brig 'Embla' in 1854.
A larger replacement lifeboat arrived at the station in 1860 retaining
the name 'Latimer' and she in turn was succeeded by the self-righting
lifeboat 'William Hopkinson' of Brighouse. Over the years the lifeboat
launched many times to local fishing boats in difficulty, as well
as ships aground or wrecked. One such rescue in 1881 to the 'SS
Northumberland' in north east hurricane conditions led to Coxswain
John Brown receiving a silver medal. He received a clasp in 1885
after completing his 35 years of service with many gallant rescues.
fourth Newbiggin lifeboat the 37ft 'Robert and Susan' arrived in
1885 and was to carry out life saving until 1906 being replaced
by another 37ft lifeboat 'Ada Lewis'. During one remarkable service
the 'Ada Lewis' was hauled 2 miles over land on February 22nd 1914.
A three masted sailing ship 'Arctic Stream' went aground in Lyne
Bay, the lifeboat rescued the 19 crew and passengers transferring
6 to the Cresswell lifeboat which had also launched.
These efforts were recognised with the issue of 'Thanks on Vellum'
both to the Newbiggin Coxswain Watson T Brown aged 72 and to his
brother, the Cresswell Coxswain William Brown.
The period of the First World War provided some different types
of casualties for the lifeboat including stranded naval patrol boats,
a submarine, as well as a grounded sea plane.
Another medal service came in 1926 when Coxswain William Robinson
carried out a difficult service in rescuing 9 men from the trawler
'George R Purdy'. The lifeboat 'Arthur R Dawes' arrived at the station
in 1931. One interesting service occurred on Christmas Eve 1933.
The 'SS Glenrose' ran aground on Outer Carrs carrying a cargo of
dynamite. The lifeboat went alongside and the Captain advised "if
she bumps we shall all go West!" Fortunately the ship refloated
and continued on her journey. The 'Augustus & Laura' lifeboat arrived
in 1938, the first motor lifeboat at Newbiggin.
account of Newbiggin's lifeboat service could be complete without
special reference to our women. Before the advent of the lifeboat
tractor, launching and recovery would be assisted by the women shorehelpers.
Their exemplary record was officially recognised on the Institution's
'Thanks on Vellum' in 1927 and again in 1940.
1927 the Lifeboat required the help of 25 women in a service to the fishing fleet. Most of the regular crew were out in the fishing boats, so
a scratch crew was put together consisting of miners who had
just come off their shift.
But for the help of the women it would not have been impossible
to get the lifeboat afloat in the heavy seas. In order to
keep the boat straight many waded waist deep into the surf.
A short Story Booklet about the Women Lifeboat Launchers of Newbiggin by the Sea is avaiable from the Ladies Guild, Newbiggin.
The 1940 service to the crew of the stranded ship 'Eminent' also
saw second Coxswain George R Taylor awarded a silver medal. The
lifeboat was launched in darkness on a stormy morning after receiving
a distress call from the 'Eminent'. However the lifeboat was unable
to make headway through the very heavy sea and returned to shore.
Undeterred, the lifeboat was put back on the carriage by the shorehelpers,among
whom were thirty women,and hauled one and a half miles over moorland
and launched from a safer shore where the eleven crew from 'Eminent'
The "Eminent" ashore at Beacon Point, Newbiggin by the Sea,
The age of mechanical haulage for the lifeboat came to Newbiggin
in August 1949 in the form of a lifeboat tractor - RNLI Tractor
No. T50 (she returned to Newbiggin in 1996). She was sent to Newbiggin
for the launching of the larger motor lifeboat 'Richard Ashley" which arrived in 1950. Newbiggin's last offshore lifeboat 'Mary
Joicey' arrived at the station in 1966 and remained here until 1981.
'Mary Joicey' lifeboat succeeded the 'Richard Ashley' lifeboat in
1966. Coxswain George Dawson and his crew were awarded 'Thanks on
Vellum' in 1975 for a service to a capsized rowing boat. Another
such award was received in 1976 for a service to a cabin cruiser
stranded in the surf on the notorious 'Wansbeck' tidal bar in difficult
sea conditions. The lifeboat rescued the four occupants of the cabin
The 1975 service saw the lifeboat, along with a local coble 'Margaret
Lisle', launched to the aid of two men in the water, after their
rowing boat capsized. Both men were transferred to hospital after
being plucked from the water, however only one survived. Coxswain
George Dawson was awarded a 'Thanks on Vellum' with the crew receiving
Vellum Service Certificates. The coble skipper Jack Lisle Robinson
also received a 'Thanks on Vellum'.
Following a review of lifeboat cover, the 'Mary Joicey' lifeboat
was withdrawn in 1981 being replaced by a faster relief Atlantic
21 class lifeboat, then our station Atlantic 21 'Kirklees' arrived shortly
afterwards. This lifeboat carried a helmsman and a crew of 2 or
3. Over the years many service launches have been carried out by
'Kirklees'which has been involved in many different types of rescue.
The Atlantic 21 class lifeboat was replaced by the current, larger Atlantic 75 called
'CSMA 75th Anniversary' during 1998 which continued the important
role of voluntary life saving at Newbiggin.
To accommodate the new class lifeboat the station house was refurbished
and extended. At the same time new crew room facilities were added.
A time capsule was placed inside the new construction to be hopefully
found by future generations. Inside the capsule, made from heavy-duty gas pipe sealed at both ends, were
placed several items including lifeboat journals, local newsheets, photographs,
and a three page message written by Richard Martin. The capsule is buried under a
new concrete floor.
Newbiggin by the Sea Station has seen many different lifeboats come
and go over its long history. Tthey were all modern lifeboats when they arrived, though
it's sometimes hard for us to look at old pictures and think of
them as modern boats!
Newbiggin by the Sea's service with the Lifeboat Institution 10
medals have been awarded, 9 Silver, and 1 Bronze.
There have also been a number of rescues recognised with Thanks on Vellum and recently noteable rescues were recognised by a Letter of Thanks from RNLI Headquarters.
Modern technology is very much a part of today's lifeboats and at
Newbiggin we have VHF radio, satellite navigation, night vision
equipment etc, all available on the lifeboat.
The Ladies' Guild of Newbiggin continue their important role as
fundraisers for the station carrying out fundraising events throughout
the year. Ladies' Guilds at Ashington and Morpeth also
fundraise to support the RNLI.
One unique fundraising attraction at Newbiggin is the display of
our first lifeboat tractor, a Case L.A. Crawler Unit, No.
T50, which was eventually recovered and brought back from Ireland
in 1996 by the Station Mechanic Richard Martin and his father, Tim
Martin, a former Deputy Launching Authority. It was originally used by Newbiggin
Lifeboat from 1949 until replaced. Tim and Richard have restored
the tractor back to first class order and is often to be seen at
station events and vintage rallies.
official naming ceremony for the new lifeboat (operational number
B745) was held on 22nd. August 1998, when she was named "CSMA 75th Anniversary".
It was an important and exciting day for the town and especially
for all the crew, officials and helpers at the Newbiggin station.
Rescues since 1851 - click here to download PDF
Visit the Galleries to view some historic pictures of our Lifeboats over the years