RNLI celebrates 200 years of saving lives on coast
March 4, 2024

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has celebrated its 200th anniversary this month (March 4) continuing volunteer lifesaving at sea which had started in Yorkshire at a much earlier date.

Long before the days of the RNLI began in 1824, lifeboats were built by Yorkshireman Henry Greathead, who had moved to South Shields, County Durham.

Filey said goodbye to its all-weather lifeboat in 2021 but now has a new B-class inshore rescue boatWhitby's newest lifeboat arrived in 2023RNLI organises seasonal lifeguards at some coastal locationsThe Humber lifeboat at Spurn PointRedcar, at the northern point of Yorkshire's coastline, now has an RNLI station, but the town's original lifeboat "Zetland" dates back to 1802, some 22 years before the RNLI was formed.

The Redcar lifeboat was the 11th of more than 30 boats built by Henry Greathead — a large open wooden rowing vessel which saved 500 lives in its 78-year service. It is now the world's oldest surviving lifeboat and is still housed in an old lifeboat station in Redcar which now charts its history as a museum.

The Yorkshire coastline stretches for more than 100 miles and the RNLI has lifeboat stations at Redcar, Staithes, Whitby, Scarborough, Filey, Flamborough, Bridlington, Withernsea and the Humber Lifeboat at Spurn Head. The RNLI also organises seasonal lifeguards at some coastal locations. There are also indpendently-funded rescue boats, not part of the RNLI, at Runswick Bay, in the former RNLI station there, and at Hornsea.

Much has changed over the 200 years of the RNLI as new lifeboats have come and gone and heritage lifeboat stations have been replaced with more functional modern buildings, but the service has gone on to save 146,277 lives at sea around the UK and Ireland over the two centuries, many of those off the Yorkshire coast.

One of those great acts of lifeboat heroism is recorded with a plaque in Robin Hood's Bay. In January 1881 the sailing brig Visitor ran aground on the rocky coast of Robin Hood's Bay in a violent storm. The Whitby lifeboat was hauled by horses 6 miles over the hill to Robin Hood's Bay through snowdrifts up to 7 feet (over 2 metres) deep as 200 local people and lifeboatmen cleared the way to launch in the village and save the stricken crew.

Find out more about the RNLI 200 years anniversary at the  RNLI website.

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