The Story of Newbiggin-By-The-Sea 
Lifeboat Station - 
Established 1851.


Station Officer Eric Campbell

The brief history of Newbiggin and it's very first Lifeboat Station (below), is taken from Mr. John Robinson's booklet "The Story of Newbiggin-By-The-Sea Lifeboat Station - Established 1851."  My sincere thanks to John for his permission to use the extract.  

Front cover of John Robinson's booklet. - 
(On sale at Newbiggin Lifeboat Station - see below for details.)
The Need For A Lifeboat Station.
Like all east coast townships, Newbiggin-by-the-sea has witnessed much carnage of human life by shipwreck and fishing disaster.  The inhabitants have worked the North Sea both as an inshore fishery and trading outlet exporting fish products, grain and grindstones.  Until the sinking of a coal mine in 1908, the population consisted mainly of fisherfolk and mariners supported by a small number of businesses necessary to meet the needs of a seaside working community having facilities for holiday and day-trip visitors.

Notable churchmen in the 1770's appreciated the need for a life saving service on the Northumberland coast.  Their opinion that a fishing coble, altered to achieve unimmergible qualities, was welcomed by local inshore fishermen.  At Newbiggin-by-the-sea, the preferred coble, expertly handled by men with skills passed from father to son, was used for life-saving until 1851.

The year 1851 proved to be very important to the 'Royal Institution For the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck', so called since 1824 and changed to       'The Royal National Lifeboat Institution' in 1854.

The Provision Of The Lifeboat Station.
In 1851, the Duke of Northumberland, offered a prize of 100 guineas for the best design of a lifeboat, which was won by James Beeching.  The design, altered in 1852 by James Peake, was finally accepted after trials proved satisfactory.  The Duke of Northumberland in acknowledgement of his statement in 1851 to 'complete the coast of Northumberland with lifeboats and rocket apparatus at his own expense', ordered three of Peake's lifeboats and placed them at Cullercoats (Percy), Hauxley (Warkworth) and Newbiggin-by-the-sea.

Early Newbiggin Lifeboat and crew.The Duke's gift was greatly appreciated at Newbiggin, for on the 18th March 1851, the village experienced a second major fishing disaster with the loss of ten fishermen.  Five colleagues valiantly attempted to save four crews of capsized cobles.  They manned a coble used for that purpose and managed to save two men.  It was realised that more oarsmen than a five-man coble could accommodate, would have enabled recovery of other survivors just out of reach of the rescue vessel.  One of those 'new lifeboats' with ten oars was needed; hence, in 1851 local action was successful in efforts to establish a lifeboat station and the five rescuing fishermen, John Dent, Henry Brown, Philip Jefferson, William and Robert Armstrong were awarded The Institutions Silver Medal.

Station Lifeboats.
In 1852 the Duke of Northumberland gifted to the station, a 30'0" long by 7'9" breath PEAKE self-righting lifeboat, powered by 10 oars and named 'LATIMER'. The boat. seated on a detachable carriage, used to facilitate launching from an open beach, was housed in a building which remains today as Newbiggin's Lifeboat House. The 'LATIMER' served between 1852 and 1860 saving 17 lives.  Philip Jefferson was the first coxswain and served with great distinction until old age forced retirement.  'Big Philip' was awarded a clasp to his silver medal in 1854 when with a reduced crew, he attempted an unsuccessful rescue of the Brig 'Embla' wrecked on Newbiggin point with all hands lost.  In 1880, Philip was presented with binoculars by the RNLI with the inscription "In acknowledgement of long and valuable service as coxswain of Newbiggin lifeboat".

An improved PEAKE design became our second lifeboat in 1860. The Duke of Northumberland donated this boat retaining the name 'LATIMER'. This 13' 6" long by 8' 0" wide lifeboat, was powered by 6 oars single banked, or 12 Oars double banked and served between 1860 and 1866 saving 73 lives.


John's booklet goes into some detail of some of the rescues and lists all the ten other lifeboats Newbiggin Station has had to date (2002), together rescues and lives saved  It makes excellent reading - copies of the booklet can be obtained from the Newbiggin Lifeboat Station (email )  priced 1.50 including post & package.This 112 Page book is on sale from the Newbiggin Lifeboat Station, priced 6.00p

There is another book, (again recommended reading), which records all the rescues conducted by Newbiggin Lifeboat Station from 1851 to present day (2001).  The author, Richard Martin, has researched thoroughly all the rescues in his 112 page book, entitled "Newbiggin-By-The-Sea Lifeboat Station - Established 1951 The First 150 Years" are documented with dates and source of information (where possible) along with pictures of the Newbiggin lifeboats and some of the rescues.

Again, contact Richard for a copy, priced at 6.00 + 1.50 post & package - well worth it, packed with 112 pages of information!

Back To Newbiggin Lifeboat station's 150th Anniversary.


Home Page


Go Back One Screen

Top Of Page

Coastguard Home Page
Sign the Guest Book Click here to E-Mail me

Home Objectives Coastguard Home Bibliography Royal Navy Home Webmaster   What's New Site Map My Thanks
50th Anniversary Memorial of George Robb Disaster.
Then and Now Winners 150th Anniversary Station History
COCK'PATH Cock'path
Then and Now