Here in Lyme Regis our beautiful beaches are open to anyone, providing space for kids to play, adults to swim and everybody to enjoy the beautiful south coast sunshine. It’s a huge part of why so many people choose to holiday in the area, but we all know how dangerous the ocean can be.
It’s for that reason why, in 1997, the community helped to raise the money for an entirely new Lifeguard station, which has been in proud operation for over twenty years now. It’s also why we’re now helping to fundraise for the purchase and installation of a 24-hour emergency lifesaving defibrillator.
It’s a source of local pride and of great reassurance to anyone going in the sea throughout the year, but Lyme Regis’ history of lifeboats and lifeguards goes back a great deal longer than twenty years.
Join us as we share with you a potted history of lifeboats within the area, and how modern Lyme Regis celebrates this most vital of services.
Lyme Regis and Lifeboats – a History
The formation of the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck (how’s that for a mouthful?) in 1824 came following a number of devastating losses at sea, and it didn’t take long before Lyme Regis was recognised as a town in dire need of a functional lifeboat.
It was November of 1824 when a ‘nightmare’ storm sunk the crew of the sailing ship ‘Unity’. Fearing the worst, three rescuers, Captain C Bennet, William Porter and John Freeman hopped aboard their own vessel in a bid to save their lives.
Pulling the crew of Unity aboard, they were later awarded some of the first medals from the RNIPLS (renamed as the RNLI in 1854), and singled out the area as one which would benefit tremendously from a dedicated lifeboat. It was a Coastguard Captain named Richard Spencer who made it possible in 1825, modifying a local boat with airtight compartments and cork fendering to such an impressive degree that the Association made it an official lifeboat for the area.
For 26 years the station was manned by two such vessels, however, on Boxing Day 1852 four of the five lifeboatmen aboard died in an effort to save the sailing boat ‘Heroine’, carrying emigrates heading to Australia. It was the following year that the town received its first two purpose-built ‘Peake Plan’ lifeboats.
In the following years, Lyme Regis would be home to a number of lifeboats, each more advanced and capable than the last, before closing in 1932, as new motorised boats from Exmouth and Weymouth were believed to be able to cover the area sufficiently.
It wouldn’t be until 1967 when a new lifeboat station would open in Lyme Regis, thanks to its status as an extremely popular tourist location. Just like in 1997, it would be community funding which made the dream a reality.
Lifeboat Week and Lyme Regis Lifeboat Station
In modern day Lyme Regis, you can find the lifeboat station on The Cobb, with visiting hours between 9am-5pm daily, with staff always on hand to answer questions, give advice and show kids around the equipment they use.
Each year from the 27th of July to the 3rd of August the town celebrates the amazing work of the RNLI and local volunteers with Lifeboat Week. Packed full of fun for all the family, you’ll find everything from teddy bears picnics to bathtub races alongside musicians, fireworks, displays and even a parachute display from the RAF! It’s an amazing time, and a fitting way for both locals and tourists to show their gratitude for the tireless work of the lifeboat community.