The Tyne Lifeboat Society first established a station in 1790 with the lifeboat ‘Original’, the first in the world to be built (although in 1786 a coble based at Bamburgh had been converted into a life-saving vessel).
A Lifeboat service had now been firmly established at Tynemouth, however this was not without a cost to human life. The first recorded tragedy was on 4th December 1846 when the Tyne Lifeboat ‘Providence’ capsized whilst on service to the brig ‘Betsy’ with the loss of 20 of her crew.
Eventually, the first Tynemouth lifeboat house was constructed and established in 1862 at a cost of £380. In 1884, improvements were made to the slipway which was extended to include levelling of the rocks, before further work was carried out in 1897 to include widening and further lengthening. By 1905, the station had closed and an experimental motor lifeboat was brought in for trials under the supervision of a Lt. H.E. Burton RE.
It should be noted that the nearby Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade is also 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 however remained independent of the TVLB,
In 1919 the old lifeboat house, which stood at Priors Haven, was sold to Tynemouth Sailing Club for £130. In April 1941, during World War II, the lifeboat station was destroyed by enemy action but was re-opened six months later. On 16th September 1962, 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 donated by the coxswain and crew, incorporated a picture of the first lifeboat named ‘Original’ which was built on Tyneside. In June 1980, a new lifeboat ‘George and Olive Turner’ was named by the Duchess of Northumberland.
In February 1997, construction work was completed on a new building to provide improved crew facilities, including a small extension to the rear of the existing boathouse in order to provide housing for a B class lifeboat and launching tractor coupled in-line.
7th October 1998 saw an incident when the Tynemouth ‘D’ class lifeboat capsized in surf whilst on service. Fortunately there were no injuries to crew or damage to the inshore lifeboat (ILB).
Improved boarding facilities were completed in September 2004 at a cost of £20,151.
Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station currently operates two lifeboats: a ‘D’ class inshore lifeboat called ‘Mark Noble’ and a Severn class all-weather lifeboat called ‘Spirit of Northumberland’. Since its inception, the organisation has carried out many rescue missions and many achievements have been recorded and recognised with awards. Over the years, 22 medals (2 gold, 15 silver and 5 bronze) have been awarded for acts of bravery, courage and heroism.
by Charlie Steel © 2013
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village’ Vols 1 & 2, and ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ Parts 1 & 2, all of which are available from most local booksellers.