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Improvements made for the second Staithes lifeboat

Lifeboats News Release

The Loftus Advertiser of 11 June 1887 reports the provision of a new lifeboat by the RNLI to Staithes; ‘to take the place of a smaller one stationed there many years since.’ The boat had the latest improvements implemented by the charity.

Image courtesy of Whitby RNLI Museum

The entrants in a late 1880's Whitby Regatta National Lifeboat Race, including Staithes lifeboat

The main improvement to this lifeboat was the inclusion of water ballast tanks which could be filled and emptied quickly and at the will of the crew to improve the stability of the boat, a feature which has progressed today in the design of the B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat, the current class of lifeboat used in the village.

The launching event for the lifeboat was also reported in a later edition of the Loftus Advertiser. The ceremony was officiated by George Brotchie, originally from Kirkwall on Orkney and land agent for the Grinkle Estate, with his family also in attendance. His wife Susannah and their children Bertie and Ethell, after the volunteer crew had launched the boat, were alongside the lifeboat in a coble (a vernacular open fishing boat) and to the cheers of the crowds Mrs Brotchie christened the boat by breaking a bottle of wine over her bow.

The lifeboat was named Winefride Mary Hopps, this like the first Staithes lifeboat, built at Woolfe and Son but this time a 34ft. x 7ft.6in. 10 oared self-righter. The lifeboat was provided as part of a legacy left by Mr W. Hopps. From 1887 – 1894 she launched eight times and saved three lives. Charles Horn and Robert Ward were elected Coxswain and Deputy Coxswain of the lifeboat on the 13 June 1887.

Continuing tradition, along with Runswick’s lifeboat the Margaret and Edward, Upgang lifeboat Joseph Sykes and Whitby’s Robert and Mary Ellis the 1888 Whitby Regatta National Lifeboat Race was entered by Charles Horn and crew in August of that year. Runswick’s lifeboat and Staithes coming third and fourth respectively. This would however be the last time the Staithes lifeboat would attend the lifeboat race, with the race falling by the wayside in the 1890’s, to be restarted in the early 1900’s.

The fateful launch of 27 November 1888, to assist local fishing cobles during a storm was the lifeboat’s first service launch – where sadly a crew member was lost, though there wasn’t much damage to the boat repairs were made consistent with the original design. Following this the next launch wouldn’t be for just over a year, when on 7 December 1889 the lifeboat was launched to assist some of the village's fishing cobles to return to the village during a storm and heavy sea. 20 boats were escorted safely ashore.

Then at 4am on New Years Eve 1889 a steamer the Ringwood of London was found to be ashore north of Staithes, laden with 1,000 tonnes of coal and on voyage from Amble in Northumberland to London. Three steam tugs William Grey and the Conqueror of West Hartlepool and the Dauntless of Middlesbrough were tasked to assist the vessel which had no means of propulsion as the steam ship refloated on the next tide, the Ringwood was also holed and taking on water albeit only a small amount.

The Whitby Gazette reports that, during the salvage hearing, which was attended by the brother of Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell, Warrington Baden-Powell, an admiralty lawyer and master mariner. The owners of the vessel report that she was not in fact in danger and all she required was towage rather than salvage (thus those assisting may not have been entitled to any greater fiduciary reimbursement). Reimbursement was granted and Sir James Hannen gave judgement that the lifeboat had proved valuable, indeed she had escorted the ensemble of vessels to Hartlepool and gave an award of £300 which he thought would encourage crew for the lifeboat.

The next service launch of the Winefride Mary Hopps was on 5 November 1890. Stories in the same newspaper differ as to the circumstances, The Daily Chronical of Newcastle reports that the Swedish brigantine (a two masted sailing vessel – with a square-rigged foremast and a square topsail and gaff sail on the mainsail) named the Carlskar had run aground near Staithes – later reports say this was to the north of Staithes near Loftus. At times looking as though it was in imminent danger of being broken up on the rocks.

The Whitby correspondent told the Chronical that six of the seven crew were rescued by the life-saving brigade, however it is said by the Loftus correspondent for the newspaper that Staithes lifeboat had launched and rescued six of the crew, with the seventh having made it to shore, walked to Skinningrove and had been transported back to Staithes by coastguard, where the local fishermen were kindly looking after the stranded crew.

Official RNLI records from the time however indicate that the lifeboat launched at 6.00am to the service to the ship which was one and a half miles north of Staithes, but no further description of this service exist.

Like her service in the village started, the Winefride Mary Hopps’ remaining services were safeguarding the local fishing fleet, with launches in February and May 1892, and the last service for the lifeboat on 11 March 1893, reports suggest she was broken up locally following the arrival of a new boat in 1894.

Whilst advancements in technology and lifeboat design have at first glance made lifesaving in the late Victorian times in Staithes RNLI completely different to that of today – oars on the sailing and pulling lifeboats vs. two 115hp outboard Yamaha petrol engines of the Atlantic 85 currently stationed at Staithes and Runswick RNLI lifeboat station and the wooden hull construction of lifeboats past to carbon fibre and inflatable sponsons made of Hypalon coated nylon however some things haven’t changed.

Then as now volunteers put to sea to aid those in trouble, also then as now in an open boat – though because of the continued support of generous donations from members of the public to the charity the lifeboat has improved exponentially.

Simon Ling, Head of Lifeboats at the RNLI, said: ‘From the earliest days of our charity we have continued to hone our lifeboat designs and the equipment that keeps our volunteers safe. This is all thanks to the generous donations from our supporters.

'Over the years, Staithes has gone from being served by a wooden boat with oars and sails up until the late 1930s to the current state-of-the-art Atlantic 85 lifeboat. Our development work continues and for the Atlantic 85 we are currently in the process of trialling new shock seating designs. Such future proofing of our lifeboats and equipment will ensure we can continue to keep our crew safe and save lives at sea.’

Notes to Editor
Staithes and Runswick RNLI lifeboat has been in operation since 1978 with Atlantic B-Class inshore lifeboats (ILB’s). The present ILB at the station B-897 Sheila and Dennis Tongue III has been on station since 2016.

In 2024, the RNLI is celebrating 200 years - and counting, commemorating this remarkable past, celebrating our lifesaving achievements today, and inspiring a future where we can save every one. More information on RNLI 200 can be found at

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For further information, please contact James Stoker, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at: [email protected] or Clare Hopps, RNLI Regional Communications Manager (North and East) on 07824 518641 or, [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

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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.

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