Wells RNLI 150th anniversary

Celebrating one-and-a-half centuries of saving lives at sea.
The community of Wells celebrating the lifeboat stations 150th anniversary

Photo: Chris Taylor Photo

Wells RNLI celebrate 150 years of saving lives at sea. 

Wells lifeboat station in Norfolk is celebrating its 150th anniversary this week. Volunteers at Wells RNLI have been hosting a week of events to celebrate the occasion, as well as an exhibition reflecting on the community’s continued commitment to saving lives at sea.

The celebrations

Hundreds of people attended the Celebration Open Day on Saturday at Wells lifeboat station. Chief Executive Mark Dowie presented the station with a certificate marking the 150th anniversary and thanked the crew and the whole community of Wells for their ongoing support of the lifeboat station.

The community then looked to the ocean as a flotilla of lifeboats, old and new, came together to mark the occasion, including Lucy Lavers - one of the ‘little ships’ from the Dunkirk evacuation in World War II.

The Lucy Lavers

Photo: Chris Taylor Photo

Lucy Lavers joined the flotilla.

The events didn’t stop there – throughout the week there was an exhibition showcasing a collection of paintings, photographs and memorabilia portraying 150 years of Wells lifeboat station. It also included a section on what it is like volunteering for the RNLI today.

The crew also hosted a viewing of the George Clooney film A Perfect Storm, a fundraising raffle and a Lifeboat Dinner to conclude the celebrations which finished yesterday evening.

The awards

Mark presented long service badges to three of the crew at the ceremony on Saturday. Phil Eaglen has been on the crew for over 50 years, joining in 1967 as shore crew. In 1984, Phil became assistant tractor driver, progressing to head tractor driver and tractor maintainer within four years. In 2001, Phil joined the crew as emergency mechanic.

RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie presents Wells RNLI volunteer Phil Eaglen with 50-years service award.

Photo: RNLI

RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie presents Wells RNLI volunteer Phil Eaglen with 50-years service award.

Lifeboat Operations Manager Chris Hardy says: ‘It’s right Phil should be honoured. He is the backbone of the crew and can always be called on when there’s an emergency. It’s amazing to think he’s been on the crew for a third of the time there’s been an RNLI Station in Wells.’

Being on the crew now runs in the family; both Phil’s son Darren and granddaughter Angel are on now the crew.

Phil Eaglen with his son Darren and granddaughter Angel who are all on the Wells RNLI crew.

Photo: RNLI

Phil Eaglen with his son Darren and granddaughter Angel who are all on the Wells RNLI crew. 

Also honoured at the 150th anniversary celebrations were Fred Whittaker and Martin Emerson.

Fred was presented with his 40-year service badge. He was a lifeguard in Wells from 1977 and would run to the boathouse whenever he heard that the lifeboat was launching to see if he could help. A few months later, Fred started going to practice launches on the ILB and he has never looked back. He progressed to ALB crew, emergency mechanic and is now senior ILB helm at Wells.

Martin was presented with a 20-year service badge. He joined the RNLI when he was 18 years old in 1999, following in the footsteps of his great grandfather and former crew member George Fuller. In 2007, Martin became an ILB helm and progressed to become an ALB Coxswain in 2013. Earlier this year, Martin passed as ALB mechanic and launch vehicle driver.

The history

Lifeboat crews at Wells have been saving lives at sea since 1830, but the first RNLI lifeboat station was built in 1869. The lifeboat house was constructed at a cost of £300 and the first Wells RNLI lifeboat – Eliza Adams – began service.

Eliza Adams was in service for 11 years. In October 1890, the lifeboat capsized when returning to shore after a service launch. Eleven of the crew were lost at sea, with only two crew members surviving the incident. Mark Dowie paid tribute to the crew and family affected by the tragedy in his speech on Saturday.

The first RNLI lifeboat in Wells - Eliza Adams

Photo: RNLI

The first RNLI lifeboat in Wells - Eliza Adams. 

Wells RNLI received their first motor powered lifeboat in 1936 – Royal Silver Jubilee. This lifeboat was destined to be the very first motorboat to be dropped into waters by an Air Sea Rescue aircraft in 1943, when the crew launched to aid an air crew in a dinghy.

Over the years many of the Wells RNLI volunteer crew members have received Letters of Thanks, silver and bronze medals for their determination and courage during many challenging rescues. Pictured below is 92-year-old retired Coxswain David Cox, who received a silver medal 40 years ago, in the service to the Savinesti, a romanian cargo ship cargo ship with 28 people on board.

Retired Coxswain David Cox

Photo: Chris Taylor Photo

Retired Coxswain David Cox

Find out more

Since 1869, the volunteers from Wells have remained dedicated and courageous in everything they do for the RNLI.

You can follow Wells RNLI on Facebook or find out more about the station and history here