Tynemouth's Station history


Twenty-two Medals have been awarded, two Gold, 15 Silver and five Bronze.  The last voted in 1986.

The Tyne Lifeboat Society established a station in 1790 with the lifeboat Original, the first in the world to be built, although in 1786 a coble converted into a boat for life-saving by Lionel Lukin, the London coachbuilder, was stationed at Bamburgh.  It should also be noted that the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade is very active in this area, specialising in rescues from the shore.  Until 1905 when the RNLI number two lifeboat station closed several men were members of both organisations.

The Tyne Lifeboat Society remained independent of the Institution, but in 1862 the Institution established its own station at Tynemouth.  The station was destroyed by enemy action in April 1941 but was re-opened six months later.

Tynemouth was the station at which the Institution placed its first experimental motor lifeboat in 1905 under the supervision of Lieut H E Burton RE, afterwards Major Burton, holder of the Institution’s Gold (Rohilla service) and Silver Medals and the George Cross.  He died in December 1944 and the Committee granted his widow a pension of £60 to be reviewed yearly.


Silver Medal awarded to Henry Strachan, a Pilot, for rescuing a crew of five on 1 December 1828.  A tide surveyor and four men who had been upset in the River Tyne at Newcastle in a Custom House boat would certainly have perished had not Mr Strachan and his son gone to their assistance in a boat not exceeding 14ft long.


Silver Medal awarded to William Tully, a Pilot, for rescuing the Master and two seamen from the sloop Friendship wrecked off Spanish Battery, near Shields Harbour on 16 September 1830.  Mr Tully with three other men tried to reach the casualty in a coble but it was impossible in the high seas, he landed from his boat and swam from rock to rock until he could throw a rope to the vessel which made it possible to save the Master and two seamen.


Silver Medal awarded to T Thorp, storekeeper of the rockets, for rescuing by Dennett’s Rockets the Master and 10 seamen of the ship Progress that was stranded on 12 March 1839.


Silver Medal awarded to John Cunningham for rescuing by rocket line an apprentice from the Constantia that was wrecked at Tynemouth on 23 January 1843.


The Tyne Lifeboat Society lifeboat Providence capsized on 4 December whilst on service to the brig Betsy with the loss of 20 of her crew.  They were Cox Launcelot Burn, John Bone, John Burn (Snr), John Burn (Jnr), John Donkin, Robert Donkin, John Marshall, Thomas Marshall, James Matson, John Phillips, Ralph Phillips, William Purvis, Ralph Shotton, William Smith, George Tindall, George Tinmouth, James Wright, John Wright, Henry Young and James Young.


Silver Medal awarded to William Wheeler, a Pilot. Whilst piloting the Danish brig Margaretta up the Thames Mr Wheeler saw two of her crew thrown into the river from the ship’s boat. He immediately leaped over the vessel’s bows and managed to save one of them.  The Committee also took into consideration Wheeler’s action in saving four of the crew of the brig Percy of Sunderland wrecked on the rocks close under Tynemouth Castle about three year before.


Lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £380.


Silver Medal awarded to Lawrence Byrne, a Coastguard, in recognition of his gallantry and perseverance when on 24 November 1864 the Schooner Friendship and the steamer Stanley found themselves in difficulties in gale force winds off Tynemouth Point.  Both vessels were driven onto the rocks with waves breaking over them.  Mr Byrne set up rocket apparatus on the shore and managed to establish contact with the steamer and saved 38 people.  In a simultaneous attempt by the lifeboat Constance, four of her crew were washed out and two, James Grant and Edmund Robson, were drowned.  Committee of Management voted £100 to Local Fund.


Slipway of No 2 station carried away by a stranded vessel in a gale.


On 17 December 1872 members of the TVLB and coastguards were attempting to rescue the crew of the barque Consul which was attempting to enter the Tyne in severe weather.  The barque struck a pier and within 15 minutes was reduced to matchwood. The rescuers on the pier managed to save some of her crew, but during the attempt it was believed that one rescuer had been washed away by the sea.  A subsequent search found the body of Robert Thirlway Arkley.  Mr Arkley, a customs officer, was not only a member of the TVLB but also an RNLI crew member.


On 18 December 1872, the independent lifeboat society’s lifeboat Northumberland, was struck by a large wave whilst attempting to reach the brig Gleaner which was in distress on the bar in severe weather.  James Watson and John Wheatley were two of the seven lifeboat crew who ended up in the water, but were unfortunately washed away and drowned.  Their five companions were safely recovered.


No 1 slipway extended and rocks levelled at No 2 station at a cost of £425.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain James Gilbert in recognition of his long and valuable service.


Gas and water laid on to No 1 lifeboat house.


Slipway widened and lengthened at a cost of £116.


Silver Second-Service Clasp awarded to James Gilbert on his retirement as coxswain.


No 2 station closed.  Experimental motor lifeboat sent for trials.


Silver Medals awarded to Captain H E Burton, Coxswain Robert Smith (and Coxswain Anthony Nixon, Cambois lifeboat) for the part they played in rescuing the crew of the Dunelm, wrecked off Blyth on 11 January 1913.  The Blyth lifeboat was unable to get out of the harbour.  The Tynemouth lifeboat arrived just as the last man was being rescued by the rocket apparatus.  Gold Medals and watches  presented to each member of the crew on behalf of the public in the locality.


Gold Medals to Captain H E Burton and Coxswain Robert Smith, and Silver Medals to Second Coxswain James Brownlee and Lt Basil Hall, Lifeboat Inspector, for rescuing the last 50 survivors from the hospital ship Rohilla that at 4am in a terrific east-south-easterly gale ran on to a dangerous reef at Saltwick Nab on 31 October/1 November.  The lifeboat battled 45 miles down an unlit coast against the gale and took nine hours to reach the wreck near Whitby.


When the Institution's Medals, two Gold and two Silver for the Rohilla service were presented, the Tynemouth Trust gave special Gold Medals to all 12 in the lifeboat on this occasion.


Silver Second-Service clasps awarded to Coxswain Robert Smith and Second Coxswain James Brownlee for the rescue of 16 people, in a dangerous operation, from the s.s. Muristan on 21 November after she ran ashore on 19 November 1916.

Major Burton awarded the American Cross of Honour for services and good seamanship, and of taking charge of the lifeboat when the Rohilla was wrecked on 31 October 1914.


HM King of Norway awarded a Silver Cup to the coxswain and Silver Medals to the crew in recognition for rescuing the crew and passengers (118) from the Norwegian s.s. Bessheim on 19 November 1916.  Medals were also awarded to the crew of the private lifeboat Tom Perry.


Old lifeboat house at Priors Haven sold to Tynemouth Sailing Club for £130.


Estimated cost of constructing a trolley way and adapting lifeboat house - £5,100.


Bronze Medal awarded to Ordinary Seaman Michael Campbell RNVR, in recognition of his gallant conduct in plunging into the river and at great personal risk rescued a man who had been thrown into the water when his boat had capsized near the coble landing on 8 August 1926.


Bronze Medals awarded to Edward Selby Davidson, Honorary Secretary of the Tynemouth Branch, and to Coxswain George Lisle in recognition of their gallant conduct in the rescue in two trips of 22 of the crew of the Norwegian motor vessel Oslo Fjord which was ashore south of the Tyne in a strong north-north-easterly wind with a very heavy swell on 8 December 1940.

The lifeboat station was destroyed by enemy action in April but was re-opened six months later.


The Morley Medal of the Outward Bound Trust was awarded to crewman Kenneth Smith.

Robert Rutherford, a member of the lifeboat crew and also a Police Constable, awarded the Royal Humane Society's Testimonial on Parchment for the part he played in rescuing an elderly man from the icy waters of the Tyne at North Shields in January.


On 16 September the Duchess of Northumberland unveiled a stained glass window in the Seamen's Chapel of Christ Church, North Shields, to commemorate the Centenary of the Tynemouth lifeboat station.  The window, which was given by the coxswain and crew, incorporated a picture of the lifeboat named Original which was built on Tyneside and was the world's first boat to be designed from the outset as a lifeboat.

On 22 September the Duke of Northumberland, the Institution's Treasurer, presented to the station a certificate on Vellum to commemorate the centenary.


D class lifeboat sent to station in April.


Bronze Medals to crew members Trevor Fryer and Frederick Arkley in recognition of the courage and determination displayed by them when the inshore lifeboat rescued the crew of three and a boy from the tug Northsider which had been driven onto the Black Midden Rocks in a strong easterly wind and a rough sea on 10 March 1974.


The new Arun Class lifeboat ON1061 George and Olive Turner was placed on service and named in June by the Duchess of Northumberland.


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Helmsman Trevor Fryer in recognition of his determination and seamanship when nine people were rescued by the D class lifeboat from the vessel Blue Fin in a strong northerly wind and rough breaking seas on 11 April.


Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain John Hogg in recognition of the courage, determination and seamanship displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued the crew of three of the fishing vessel La Morlaye in an east-south-easterly gale and heavy, breaking seas on 15 April 1986.


Construction was completed in February of a new building to provide the station with improved crew facilities.  Also constructed was a small extension to the rear of the existing boathouse in order to provide housing for a D class lifeboat and launching tractor.


A Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman presented to Coxswain Martin Kenny together with a collective Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman presented to crew member Edwin Chapple, Assistant Mechanic Geoffrey Cowan, Mechanic Kevin Mole, crew member Michael Nugent for the service to the yacht Signature on 3 April.

The new station D class lifeboat D-535 The Cromer Smuggler has been placed on service October 1998.  Lifeboat D-385 has been withdrawn.

The Tynemouth D class lifeboat capsized in surf whilst on service on 7 October.  No injuries to crew or damage to the ILB.


An Arun class lifeboat replaced by Severn class.

The new station Severn class lifeboat ON1242 Spirit of Northumberland was placed on service October 1999. This lifeboat was funded by the Tynemouth Lifeboat Appeal. Lifeboat ON1061 George and Olive Turner has been withdrawn to the relief fleet.


A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution presented to Helmsman Kevin Mole for saving the lives of two youths who were cut off by the tide a Frenchman’s Bay.  The lifeboat had to be veered down amongst rocks with breaking waves over two metres high, on a lee shore against a sheer cliff face.


Improved boarding facilities completed September 2004 at a cost of £20,151.


The new station D-Class lifeboat D-693 Mark Noble has been placed on service 24 April 2008. This lifeboat was funded by Miss Bell. Lifeboat D-535 The Cromer Smuggler has been withdrawn.


The Trustees of the Institution voted the station a Vellum to commemorate 150 years service in 2012.


The new station D-Class lifeboat D-829 Little Susie was placed on service 21 November 2018. This lifeboat was funded by Pat and Susan Russell from Halifax.