RNLI – Seahouses Lifeboat Station, Northumberland, UK







Seahouses Lifeboat Station-Medium

Station address:

Seahouses Lifeboat Station
Seafield Road
NE68 7SH

Station telephone: 01665 720370

Station opening times: 9am–dusk daily

Accessibility: Disabled access, disabled parking, parking

Visitor contact: John Hanvey

Visitor contact telephone: 01665 720370

Shop telephone: 01665 721604

Shop opening times:



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Lifeboat name: Grace Darling

Lifeboat class: Mersey

Funded by: The Grace Darling Anniversary Appeal together with other gifts and legacies

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Lifeboat name: Peter Downes

Lifeboat class: D class

For nearly 180 years, Seahouses (formerly North Sunderland) Lifeboat Station has operated an all-weather lifeboat and its crews have been presented with five awards for gallantry. Today the station operates both an all-weather lifeboat and an inshore lifeboat.

This station is classed as an Explore station. Explore stations offer the best visitor experience. With free access, you can go inside and look around the station, see the lifeboat and, in most cases, pre-book a tour. They are normally open all year and have an RNLI gift shop.


Holy-Island-Causeway web

One frequent call out is to vehicles stranded on the causeway to Holy Island. The causeway is very well marked and signs warn of the dangers. In the image above, a vehicle is attempting a crossing before the causeway is clear of water. To the left of the vehicle (viewing the picture) is one of refuges on stilts. Pedestrians and vehicle occupants can seek safety if they are caught out by the incoming tide. Seahouses lifeboats are called to rescue stranded individuals and to check stranded vehicles. As with any rescue, there is risk and financial cost. The RNLI and Seahouses Lifeboat Station are funded by public donations and bequests, receiving no funding from the government.



Stranded vehicles have to be closely approached to ensure that no one is trapped inside the vehicle.



Hi-tech solar-powered signage advises drivers and pedestrians approaching the causeway to Holy island


The station was established in 1827 but little is known of its history before it was taken over by the Institution in 1852 from Lord Crewe’s trustees. Between 1827 and 1852 Seahouses had two lifeboats.

Of these early years however one of the notable events was the attempt that men of Seahouses made to rescue the survivors of the Forfarshire wrecked in 1838. Seven fishermen of Seahouses put out to the wreck only to find that the survivors had already been rescued by William Darling and Grace Darling, who set out from the lighthouse.

Four Medals have been awarded, Three Silver and one Bronze, the last being voted in 1959.

WAR RECORD 1939-1945
Launches on Service: 20
Lives rescued: 34

Lifeboats stationed at North Sunderland (Seahouses).

A lifeboat 1827-1838 No Record

(Lord Crew trustees)

A lifeboat 1838-1851 No Record

(Lord Crew trustees)

A lifeboat 1851-1865

Launches on Service: 10
Lives rescued:

(Lord Crew trustees)

“Joseph Anstice” 1865-1884

Launches on Service: 17
Lives rescued: 48

Gift of Mrs Anstice of Tynemouth.

“Thomas Bewick” 1884-1906

Launches on Service: 42
Lives rescued: 44

Legacy of Miss I.Bewick of Gateshead.

“Forster Fawsett” 1906-1925

Launches on Service: 56
Lives rescued: 123

Legacy of Miss T.C.Fawsett of Maidenhead.

“Lizzie Porter” 1925-1936

Launches on Service: 21
Lives rescued: 0

Legacy of Miss E.Porter, of Halifax.

“W.R.A.” 1936-1954 56 44

Legacies of Miss M.Savage, of London, Miss A.Matthews, of Leeds, Mr A.Gardiner of Craigavad, Co Down.

“Grace Darling” 1954-1967

Launches on Service: 69
Lives rescued: 16

General funds of the RNLI

“Edward and Mary Lester” 1967-1989

Launches on Service: 108
Lives rescued: 27

Gift and bequest of Miss Mary Lester of Carmarthen.

“William Henry and Mary King” 1989-1990

Launches on Service: 8
Lives rescued: 0

Legacy of Miss J.G.King.

“Ernest Tom Neathercoat” 1990-1991

Launches on Service: 8
Lives rescued: 0

Legacy of Mr E.Neathercoat, of Horsham.

Temporary Lifeboats to date

Launches on Service: 17
Lives rescued: 11

Inshore Lifeboats to date

Launches on Service: 195
Lives rescued: 64

“Grace Darling” 1991 to date

Launches on Service:
Lives rescued:

Funded by the Grace Darling Anniversary Appeal and other gifts and legacies.

The first motor lifeboat at this station, was the “W.R.A.” as detailed above, a 35 foot 6 inch Liverpool Class, non self righting, powered by a 35hp Weyburn AE6 petrol engine. Until then, the boats were powered by oars and sail, and by human strength difficult to imagine today. They were launched by men and women, pulling the launching carriage into the sea and surf. It was not until 1961, that a motor tractor was issued to the station to aid in recovery and launch of the lifeboat. Today, the Tallus tractor can launch and recover the Mersey class lifeboat “Grace Darling” with a minimum of manpower assistance. A Landrover 110 replaced the quad bike used for launching the Inshore Lifeboat and towing the recovery equipment trailer for the Mersey. The Landrover also provides the option of taking the ILB to other launch sites by road, if that is more expedient. Fitted with blue lights and sirens, the vehicles can make progress through the holiday traffic if necessary.

Notable dates in the history of the station.

1853 – Silver medal awarded to John T Knight, coastguard boatman, for his exertions in attempting to rescue the crew of the Schooner Nisus of Goole, which was wrecked at Seahouses during a north-east gale on 26 February.

1876 – Captain Colquhoun presented a full set of fine wheel and trace harness to the station.

1886 – Silver medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Pringle in recognition of his long and valuable services in the lifeboat.

1894 – Mortar supplied for assembling the crew in lieu of existing bell which was not satisfactory.

1908 – Silver medal awarded to Coxswain James Robson for gallantly rescuing the crew of fourteen from the SS Geir of Bergen on 18 February.

1909 – The King of Norway conferred the Silver medal on Coxswain James Robson for services in rescuing the crew from the ss Geir of Bergen.

1934 – Centenary Vellum awarded to station.

1948 – When Mr E L Hooper was appointed as Honorary Secretary, it was stated that he was one of the men rescued by the Aldeburgh lifeboat from the Magdapur – one of the first lifeboat services of the 1939-45 war.

1959 – Bronze medal awarded to Coxswain Dawson for the rescue of a man from a cliff on the Inner Farne Islands on 12 July. Details of this Rescue.

1964 – D class lifeboat sent to station in May.

1977 – 150th Anniversary Vellum awarded to station.

1991 – Mersey class lifeboat Grace Darling placed on station. A new boathouse was completed in June for the Mersey class lifeboat, after the existing house was considered unsuitable. As well as providing accommodation for the Mersey lifeboat and carriage coupled to the tractor, it includes housing for the D class lifeboat, and crew facilities.

1996 – Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to crew member Stephen Priestley. When at the helm of the D class lifeboat he rescued a wind surfer in heavy seas and surf close to the shore, with a rock scar extending out from the coastline, just north west of the boathouse, on 18 May.

1997 – New D class lifeboat D-529 placed on service on 4 November.

1999 – At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the RNLI held on 9 April 1999 it was resolved that the lifeboat station, then North Sunderland, be renamed Seahouses Lifeboat Station with immediate effect, as requested by the station personnel.

2000 – Lifeboat station extended to accommodate a long wheelbase Landrover, which replaced a quad bike, for launching the Inshore Lifeboat and towing the recovery equipment trailer for the Mersey Lifeboat.

2003 – “D” Class Helmsman receives letter of thanks for service to diver in difficulty in rough seas.

2008 – New D Class IB1 Lifeboat D-686 replaces D-529, which is transferred to the relief fleet at the end of its life as a “station” lifeboat.

The Grace Darling Rescue

History Grace Darlingresized


On September 7th, 1838, an incident took place at the Farne Islands, off the North Northumberland Coast, which was to have profound effect on maritime rescue facilities, or indeed lack of them around the coast of the United Kingdom. The 400 ton paddle steamship “Forfarshire” was on passage from Hull to Dundee when it struck rocks near to the Longstone Lighthouse, in a northerly gale. The vessel broke in two almost immediately, and many passengers were drowned as the aft section quickly sank. Some of the crew and one passenger were picked up in one of the ship’s boats, by a passing ship. Thirteen people had survived on the fore part of the stricken vessel, and were able to scramble onto the Harcar Rock. About half a mile away, on the Longstone Lighthouse, were William Darling, his wife Thomasin and their youngest daughter Grace. Their son William had across to Seahouses earlier, to help the herring fleet. At first light on the 8th, Grace spotted the wreck of the “Forfarshire from her bedroom window, and alerted her family. As the light grew stronger, they could just make out the survivors huddled on the rocks. Grace and her father decided at once to attempt a rescue, and put out in their 21ft coble, rowing it through heavy seas towards the casualties. They could not take a direct route, having to avoid other rocks, and with tremendous skill and courage, managed to reach the rocks and rescue some of the survivors, who in turn helped row the coble back to the lighthouse. Grace and her father decided to make a return trip to rescue those remaining, where they were also successfully saved and taken back to the lighthouse. here they remained for 2 days due to the storms, being cared for by the Darling family.

Meanwhile, William Robson, coxswain of the North Sunderland Lifeboat (Seahouses), on being informed of the wreck, decided to launch a local coble instead of the lifeboat, as he believed it would be better suited for getting close amongst the rocks. At this time, he was unaware of the rescue by Grace and William Darling. With 6 local men, James Robson, Michael Robson, Thomas Cuthbertson, William Swan, Robert Knox, and William Darling (the lighthouse keeper’s son), they set out into the storm. On reaching the Harcar Rock, they found that all had been rescued, and they then made their way to the Longstone Lighthouse, being impossible to return to Seahouses because of the sea state. However, on reaching the lighthouse, the accommodation was found to be full, and the crew had to take shelter in a derelict building for next two days.

News of the gallant rescue by Grace and William Darling quickly spread throughout the country, and their bravery was duly recognized, the R.N.L.I. awarded them both silver gallantry medals. They also received the Gold Medallion from the Royal Human Society, while Grace additionally received silver medals from the Glasgow Humane Society and the Edinburgh and Leith Humane Society.

Sadly, four years later, this national heroine died of tuberculosis on October 20th, 1842. Her actions focused the nation on the issues of maritime rescue, serving as catalyst for the development of new safer Lifeboats, and development of the Lifeboat Service around the coastline of the United Kingdom. Her memorial stands in the churchyard of St Aidan’s Parish Church, Bamburgh, just a mile or so north of Seahouses, opposite the house where she was born.


The Grace Darling Museum

Close by is the Grace Darling Museum, dedicated to her memory and her heroic actions. The Museum is open daily (excluding Mondays in winter). To verify opening times, call the museum during office hours on 01668 214910. Completely redeveloped, with Heritage Lottery Funding, the Museum caters for individual or Group visits (by arrangement), and includes heritage workshop facilities.


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