Southend Lifeboats
The Boys of England and Edwin J. Brett Lifeboat, and crew beached at Southend with the wooden Pier in the background. Image from the Terry Herbert Collection
Southend-on-Sea
1879 - 1891 Boys of England and Edwin J. Brett. Gift of the Boys of England Lifeboat Fund. The first lifeboat sent to Southend cost £350, the majority of the cost was raised through a fund in a magazine called the Boys of England. Edwin Brett, the publications owner visited Southend in November 1879 to christen the boat bearing his name. The vessel was primarily designed for rowing, 24 feet in length and self-righting. The vessel was stationed at the Pier Head, from which it was launched on davits. Reverend Frederick Thackeray (who was a member of the local Board and cousin of the author William Makepeace Thakeray) vicar of Shopland who lived at 9 Royal Terrace, lost his eldest son also called Frederick by drowning at sea in 1867. In 1876 the RNLI had stationed a lifeboat at Harwich called the Springwell. After representations from Rev Thackeray a lifeboat was sent to Southend 1879, he would become the chairman of the lifeboat committee. 1885 - 1899 Theadore and Herbert. Legacy of Mrs F. S. Smith, of Lisheen, Cork. (From 1885 - 1891 there were two boats at the station). On 8th October 1885 a new lifeboat came to Southend from the RNLI. The town was decorated and a procession included the Southend Drum and Fife band; the band of the Royal Artillery School of gunnery; members of the local board and various organisations. The lifeboat was trolley drawn by six horses and taken to Vandervord’s Hard where a service was conducted by Rev T. W. Herbert. Mrs Thackeray, wife of Rev Thackeray, chairman of the lifeboat committee, named the lifeboat with a bottle of wine. 1889 - 1923 James Stevens, No 9. Legacy of Mr James Stevens of Birmingham. 1923 - 1924 Reserve Lifeboat. 1924 - 1928 Charlie Medland. Legacy of Mrs C. B. Medland, of Clapham. 1928 - 1955 Greater London (Motor Lifeboat). Gift of the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund. This motor lifeboat, was of the Ramsgate type, a type specially designed in 1926 for stations where the lifeboat has to travel considerable distances and to work in shallow water among sandbanks. The vessel was 48ft. 6in. by 13ft., and was driven by two 40hp engines. Speed of 8 ¼ knots and could travel 140 miles at full speed without refuelling. A crew of nine could be carried, and was equipped with a search light and line throwing gun, she cost £8,417. The “Greater London” was one of the 19 lifeboats which went to Dunkirk in 1940. 1934 Reserve Lifeboat. 1935, February. The new lifeboat house and slipway were completed. The new lifeboat house was located on a raised platform on a spur to the east of the pier, the lifeboat was launched into the sea via a slipway. The boathouse measured 68ft. 6in. by 25ft. 6in. was of concrete and timber construction, the whole structure was carried on braced columns of cast iron, mounted on 52 concrete piles which were screwed into the sea-bed. The slipway was 176 feet long from the front of the boathouse, and had a gradient of 1 in 6. Inside the house was a tipping cradle, so that the lifeboat lies on a level keel when she was in the house, and this cradle was tilted to the gradient of the slipway when the boat was launched. She was hauled up the slipway by an electric winch. The slipway was floodlit for night launches. 1935, 23rd July. The Pier’s centenary. Unveiling of a tablet on the boat house and official opening of the slipway by the Chairman of the Port of London Authority Lord Ritchie of Dundee. The lifeboat house would serve until 1986 when it was damaged beyond repair by the Kings Abbey accident. 1937 Reserve Lifeboat. 1955 The “Greater London II”, a Watson class boat replaces the original Greater London. 1957 The “Greater London” out of service and sold to South America, to operate as a lifeboat. 1976, 25th March. RNLI Lifeboat "Greater London II" retired and all sea going lifeboat operations were ceased due to the silting up of the River Thames around the lifeboat slip-way, operations were replaced by an Atlantic 21 semi-rigid inflatable, named the “Percy Garon.” 1986 The “Percy Garon II” arrives, a new Atlantic 21, which was named by HRH Princess Anne on 2nd May. Shortly afterwards disaster struck the lifeboat station when the “Kings Abbey” sliced through the Pier between the old and new Pier Heads on 30th June 1986. Not great timing with the height of the season just around the corner. But as tends to be with the pier calamities they in themselves become an attraction that brings the public out to support the old structure. This time the tanker severed the lifeboat slipway, caused irreparable damage to the boathouse and left a 70ft gap in the Pier. A temporary station was quickly re-established at the pier head. Repairs followed in 1989, with a new café and toilets opening on the stem extension. 1991, 24th January. A rebuilt lifeboat house is officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal. 2002. New lifeboat station opens as part of the regeneration of the Pier Head. 2013, 16th July. An inshore boathouse was officially opened.
2016 Pier Head Lifeboat Station
1948 Pier Head Lifeboat Station

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