Unique RNLI images on display at the home of lifesaving

Lifeboats News Release

Unique glass plate images of lifeboats and lifeboat crews from around Britain and Ireland are now on display in the RNLI College in Poole.

RNLI/Jack Lowe

Poole Lifeboat volunteers

The College, in West Quay Road, is where the RNLI trains its volunteer crews. It is also home to an award-winning hotel and conference centre open to the public.

The life-saving charity is now sharing a selection of images that formed part of the ground-breaking ‘Calm Before the Storm’ exhibition that took place at Poole Museum in 2019.

Although the striking images being shown on the walls of the College span over nearly 100 years, they have all been taken on glass plates

There are ten historic images of early lifeboats taken from the historic Beken archive – a family of photographers that captured maritime life in the early 20th Century – and a selection of contemporary work by Jack Lowe, a man on a mission to capture all 238 stations using a Victorian photographic technique.

The fascinating Beken images of early lifeboats were acquired by the charity thanks to Heritage Lottery funding and a private donor, while Jack’s images include the faces of current volunteers from around the coast, along with some from Poole’s own RNLI station.

Heritage Archive and Research Manager Hayley Whiting said; 'It is fantastic to have these photographs on display where they can be seen by the many volunteers, supporters and visitors to the College. The historic Beken prints are an important part of the RNLI’s heritage and sharing them alongside Jack’s work provides a window into the RNLI past and present.'

Visitors to the College can also see an artwork called ‘Lifeboat Slipways 2015-2018’. For this Jack has created a ‘gridded tableau’ of nine all-weather lifeboat slipways from around the coast – a nod to the work of pioneering German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, known for their grouped images of industrial structures.

Jack, who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, travels in Neena — a decommissioned NHS ambulance purchased on eBay and converted into a mobile darkroom. He makes portraits using a camera made in 1905, and then develops the images in his ambulance.

The Calm Before the Storm exhibition was made possible with the support of both the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Christopher Andreae and The Scorpion Trust. This backing enabled the RNLI to preserve and digitise the historic Beken glass plate negatives.

Volunteers were brought into the charity’s headquarters to clean, scan and repackage the fragile glass plates. They also carried out valuable research on the images, in particular exploring the histories of individual lifeboats.

The RNLI College re-opens after the festive period on January 2.

Photos on display at the RNLI College

Jack Lowe

Lucy Lavers at Wells-next-the-Sea

Norfolk, England

Built in 1939, the beautiful Lucy Lavers is a Liverpool class lifeboat. Her first ‘shout’ was to go to Dunkirk in 1940 to rescue stranded British troops. She later served as a lifeboat in Norfolk before being faithfully restored by the charity Rescue Wooden Boats.

Photographed 8 June 2017

Coxswain Allen Fraryand Second Coxswain Nicky King

Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England

Photographed 19 January 2015

Women of Clovelly Lifeboat Station

North Devon, England

These women perform a variety of roles at Clovelly. Martel Fursdon, centre, is the Lifeboat Operations Manager, meaning she is in charge of the station. In this image, she is pregnant with her second child. She sits alongside three crew members and the station’s treasurer.

Photographed 27 June 2015

Elis, Rees-Tom and Manon Jones

New Quay lifeboat volunteers

Ceridigion, Wales

Rees-Tom Jones has served on the New Quay lifeboat for over forty years. His son and daughter are also crew, with daughter Manon volunteering at RNLI stations in London.

Photographed 22 September 2016

Coxswain Jonathan Clark

Poole, Dorset, England

Photographed 19 September 2015

Natalie Warren, Anne Millman and Suzie Jupp

Poole lifeboat volunteers

Dorset, England

Photographed 19 September 2015

The view from Poole Lifeboat Station

Dorset, England

Situated on the historic Poole Quay, Poole Lifeboat Station operates two inshore lifeboats. In their 150 years of service, Poole crews have won one gold and seven silver gallantry medals. They were recently featured on the BBC series about the RNLI, Saving Lives at Sea.

Photographed 19 September 2015

Poole lifeboat volunteers

Dorset, England

Crew at Poole Lifeboat Station. These volunteers come from all walks of life – in this picture there is a plumber, a graphic designer, a systems engineer, a physiotherapist, a training manager, a naval architect and a copywriter, among others.

Photographed 19 September 2015

Leafy Dumas

West Mersea lifeboat volunteer

Essex, England

Leafy was the first woman to be photographed by Jack during The Lifeboat Station Project. At that time, she was on the crew. She now acts as the station press officer. She is also an artist and illustrator.

Photographed 3 March 2015

Coxswain Steve ‘Tag’ Saint

Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England

Photographed 7 March 2015

Lifeboat Slipways


Beken of Cowes photographs on display

For generations, the Beken family in Cowes has photographed maritime activity in the area, creating a significant visual record of Isle of Wight industry and RNLI lifeboats which were built on the island during the 20th Century.

On display are 10 images from the recently conserved and digitised collection.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Dave Riley, RNLI National Media Officer on 01202 336789 or David_riley@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 – pressoffice@rnli.org.uk.

RNLI/Jack Lowe

Poole voluneer Jonathan Clark

RNLI/Jack Lowe

Aldeburgh Coxswain Steve Saint

RNLI/Jack Lowe

Wells historic lifeboat Lucy Lavers


Aberdeen Lifeboat Hilton Briggs


Buckie Lifeboat K.B.M

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.