|Penlee Lifeboat Station|
The 1983-built crew facilities at Newlyn Harbour
|Type||RNLI Lifeboat Station|
|Location||Newlyn Harbour, TR18 5HW|
|Owner||Royal National Lifeboat Institution|
Penlee Lifeboat Station is the base for Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) search and rescue operations for Mount's Bay in Cornwall, United Kingdom. The lifeboat station operated at various locations in Penzance from the early 19th century. It moved to Penlee Point near Mousehole in 1913, thus gaining its current name, but was moved to Newlyn in 1983 without any change of name. The station is remembered for the loss of the entire lifeboat crew on 19 December 1981.
Since 2003 the station has operated a Severn-class all weather boat (ALB) and an Atlantic-class (currently an Atlantic 85) inshore lifeboat (ILB). The Severn-class lifeboat has an operating range of 250 nautical miles (460 km) and a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h), enabling it to reach any casualty up to 50 miles (80 km), and within two hours in good weather. Adjacent lifeboats are at The Lizard to the east, and Sennen Cove to the west.
The first lifeboat in Cornwall was purchased for Penzance in 1803. Part of its cost was paid by Lloyd's of London but it was sold, in 1812, without ever being used in service and was not replaced. In 1824 a district association was formed as part of the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck and the next lifeboat in Mount's Bay was again stationed at Penzance from 1826 to 1828 by the recently formed Institution.
The station then lapsed until 1851, when a lifeboat was again stationed in the town. The boat was kept at several different places around the town until a boathouse was built in 1856, for £88, by the RNLI (as the Institution was now known), at what is now the entrance to the railway station. There was local controversy when the boat did not launch on several occasions in 1862, and as a consequence, there was a proposal to move the lifeboat to Newlyn, which would have been unpopular with the residents of Penzance. As a compromise the lifeboat station moved to Wherrytown, where a new timber lifeboat house was opened in 1867 at the bottom of Alexandra Road, near the Coastguard Station. It was decided to move back to Penzance harbour, and in 1884 a new boathouse built of Lamorna granite at the foot of Jennings Street, at a cost of £575–6s–6d. This was paid for by a £1000 gift from Henry Martn[typo?] Harvey of Hexworthy, which also paid for a new lifeboat (Dora) and carriage. In 1908, the Penzance Lifeboat Elizabeth and Blanche was moved to Newlyn, where it was kept under a tarpaulin beside the harbour, although the 1884 boathouse remained in use until 1917 as a reserve station.
At Penlee Point
The lifeboat remained at Newlyn until 1913, when a new boathouse was built at Penlee Point south of Newlyn on the outskirts of Mousehole. This was elevated a little above the water, and the lifeboat could be launched down a slipway into open water at all states of the tide. The old "pulling and sailing" lifeboat was replaced by one with a motor in 1922. Several similar motor lifeboats were to follow, culminating in the Solomon Browne, a wooden, twin engined, 47ft Watson-class boat that arrived at the station in 1960.
In 1936, Coxswain Frank Blewitt was awarded a bronze medal for rescuing the crew of nine from the SS Taycraig after it ran aground in Mount's Bay during a gale. Coxswain Edwin Madron received a silver medal and Mechanic Johny Drew a bronze medal for another exceptional service in April 1947. They took the W and S out into 30 feet (9.1 m) seas to rescue eight people from HMS Warspite (03) which ran aground on the way to the breakers yard after it had been retired at the end of the Second World War. Madron was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1957 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the King's Theatre, Hammersmith, London.
In January 1975, the Solomon Browne was launched into a Force 12 hurricane when it was reported that the 13 crew members of the MV Lovat had abandoned ship 24 miles (39 km) south west of Lizard Point. A helicopter saved two people but the rest were drowned. The lifeboat had to drop the safety rails around its deck so that the bodies could be hauled out of the sea, all while the boat was rolling side-to-side at 60˚ and the seas were washing across the boat. They were at sea for nearly eight hours. The coxswain, Trevelyan Richards, was awarded a bronze medal.
The loss of the Solomon Browne
On 19 December 1981 the Solomon Browne was launched to go to the aid of the MV Union Star after its engines failed 8 miles (13 km) east of the Wolf Rock. Winds were gusting at up to 90 knots (100 mph; 170 km/h) – hurricane force 12 on the Beaufort scale – and whipping up waves 60 feet (18 m) high. On board was a crew of five and three members of the captain's family. A helicopter had been unable to rescue them and so the lifeboat with its crew of eight men went alongside. After several attempts four people managed to jump across; the captain's family and one of the men were apparently safe. The lifeboat radioed that 'we’ve got four off'; that was the last ever heard from anyone on either vessel.
Lifeboats were summoned from Sennen Cove, The Lizard and St Mary's to try to help their colleagues from Penlee. The Sennen Cove Lifeboat found it impossible to make headway round Land's End. The Lizard Lifeboat found a serious hole in its hull when it finally returned to its slipway after a fruitless search. Wreckage from the Solomon Browne was found along the shore, and the Union Star lay capsized onto the rocks west of Tater Du Lighthouse. Some, but not all, of the 16 bodies were eventually recovered.
Within a day of the disaster enough people from Mousehole had volunteered to form a new lifeboat crew. Coxswain Trevelyan Richards was posthumously awarded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's gold medal, while the remainder of the crew were all posthumously awarded bronze medals. The station itself was awarded a gold medal service plaque. The disaster prompted a massive public appeal for the benefit of the village of Mousehole which raised over £3 million (£11.6 million as of 2019), although there was an outcry when the government tried to tax the donations.
The move to Newlyn
After the loss of the Solomon Browne, the Penlee Point station remained in use until 1983 when the Mabel Alice, larger, faster Arun-class all-weather lifeboat (ALB) was acquired, and a new lifeboat station constructed at Newlyn harbour, where the new lifeboat is kept afloat at a mooring. Despite the move, the station continues to be known as 'Penlee'.
In 1991, a D-class (EA16) inshore lifeboat (ILB) was stationed on the opposite side of Mount's Bay at Marazion (although it was actually kept at St Michael's Mount). It proved difficult to find enough volunteer crews in this small village, so in 2001 the station was closed and a larger B Class boat was added to the complement at Penlee, with a new boathouse built to house it. The following year a new pontoon was built in Newlyn harbour so that crews could board the ALB more easily.
On 16 December 1994, the Mabel Alice and the Sennen Cove Lifeboat were launched to the aid of the Julian Paul which was adrift in a storm west of the Longships. The fishing boat's propeller had been fouled and she was towed back to Newlyn harbour. Neil Brockman, the Coxswain/Mechanic of the Penlee Lifeboat, was awarded a bronze medal for his seamanship, leadership and meritorious conduct, as was Terry George, his counterpart from Sennen Cove.
In 2003, the Ivan Ellen, a new Severn-class ALB, was acquired by the station to replace its Arun-class predecessor. In 2016, the stations capability was further enhanced with the introduction of a replacement Atlantic 85-class ILB, the Mollie & Ivor Dent.
The 1856- and 1867-built boathouses no longer exist, but the 1884-built boathouse still stands at the corner of Wharf Road and Jennings Street in Penzance. It is separated from the harbour by Wharf Road and now houses a bistro.
The 1913-built boathouse at Penlee Point is built into the cliffs below the Newlyn to Mousehole road. It is a single-storey building with a short slipway. It launched boats into Mount's Bay facing St Michael's Mount. Although no boat is now stationed here, the boathouse is still maintained and a small memorial garden has been created on the north side of the boathouse where people can sit and remember the crew of the Solomon Browne.
The new station at Newlyn harbour comprises two buildings. The main one, which houses the crew facilities, workshop, and fund-raising gift shop, is a single-storey masonry structure with a tile roof. The ALB berth is alongside a modern pontoon that is accessed by a metal truss walkway. A separate masonry and corrugated metal boathouse contains the ILB, which is launched from a shallow slipway by its entrance.
'ON' is the RNLI's sequential Official Number; 'Op. No.' is the operational number painted onto the boat.
Pulling and sailing lifeboats
|–||1803||1803–1812||North Country||27 feet (8.2 m) long, The site of lifeboat house is now the entrance to the railway station car park|
|–||1825||1826–1828||Plenty||24 feet (7.3 m) long|
|1853||1853–1856||Peake||New lifeboat house built adjacent to the railway station in 1856|
|Alexandra||1860||1860–1862||Peake||Moved to Wherrytown c. 1862 after failure to launch to the aid of the Saint Prospere|
|Richard Lewis||1865||1865–1884||Self–righting||10-oared boat of 32 feet (9.8 m) length and 7.3 feet (2.2 m) breadth. New timber lifeboat house opened in 1867|
|49||Dora||1884||1884–1895||Self–righting||Provided by Mr H M Harvey of Hexworthy. Sold 1895 and broken up in Ireland 1980. A new lifeboat house opened in 1885 at Penzance Harbour and built under the first Penzance bathing-house.|
|378||Elizabeth and Blanche (1)||1895||1895–1899||Self–righting|||
|424||Elizabeth and Blanche (2)||1899||1899–1908||Watson||To Newlyn in 1908|
|341||Cape of Good Hope||1892||1908–1912||Self–righting||Penzance became a reserve station|
|386||Janet Hoyle||1912||1912–1917||Self–righting||The lifeboat house at the bottom of Jennings Street is still extant.|
|424||Elizabeth and Blanche (2)||1899||1908–1913||Watson||To Penlee in 1913|
|424||Elizabeth and Blanche (2)||1899||1913–1922||Watson||First launch on 25 October 1913, sold 1922 and last reported in use as a yacht at Falmouth in 1969|
|ON||Op. No.||Name||Built||At Penlee||Class||Comments|
|671||–||The Brothers||1922||1922–1930||45ft Watson||Single engine, transferred to Falmouth and sold in 1952; reported working as a dive support boat at Dover in 2007. Transferred from a Rochester boatyard to Gweek for restoration in 2020.|
|736||–||W and S||1930||1930–1960||45ft 6in Watson||Twin engines, reported being converted to a pleasure boat at Falmouth in 2008.|
|954||–||Solomon Browne||1960||1960–1981||47ft Watson||Wrecked in service.|
|987||70-001||Charles H. Barrett (Civil Service No. 35)||1965||1981||Clyde||Relief lifeboat|
|866||–||Charles Henry Ashley||1949||1981–1982||46ft 9in Watson||New to Porthdinllaen, transferred to Fowey, sold 1986 and last reported as pleasure boat Charles Ashley in 2008.|
|926||–||Guy and Clare Hunter||1954||1982–1983||Previously at St Mary's and Fowey, transferred to Padstow; sold in 1988 and reported working as a pleasure boat at Donaghadee in 2008.|
|ON||Op. No.||Name||Built||At Newlyn||Class||Comments|
|1085||52-24||Mabel Alice||1982||1983–2003||Arun||Sold in 2004 and reported working at Portishead in 2008.|
|1086||52-25||A.J.R. & L.G. Uridge||1983||2003–2003||Sold for further use as lifeboat Hebe at Kemi, Finland.|
|Op. No.||Name||Built||At Penlee||Class||Type||Comments|
|B-753||City of Bradford V||1999||2001–2002||B||Atlantic 75|||
|B-787||Paul Alexander||2002–2016||B||Atlantic 75|||
|B-893||Mollie & Ivor Dent||2005||2016–present||B||Atlantic 85|||
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