Tyne & Wear

Celebration marks 160 years of Newbiggin lifeboat station in Northumberland

A Northumberland community is celebrating 160 years of a maritime rescue service which has saved more than 500 lives.

In October 1851 the foundation stone was laid for a boathouse, which would go on to become the RNLI lifeboat station at Newbiggin-by-the Sea.

The then Duke of Northumberland was so inspired by a rescue attempt by local fishermen, that he put up the cash.

Twelve lifeboats later, the station remains a focal point for the town.

Volunteer Richard Martin said: "The need for a lifeboat at Newbiggin was highlighted following a fishing disaster in March 1851, when a storm claimed the lives of 10 Newbiggin fishermen.

"The death toll would have been greater, but for the efforts of five Newbiggin fishermen, who put out into the storm in a local coble, risking their own lives to assist the overwhelmed fleet.

"Their efforts were rewarded by bravery medals presented by the Duke of Northumberland - the first of many awards to Newbiggin's brave volunteers over the last 160 years."

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was founded in 1854 after being known for 30 years as the Royal Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck.

Image caption Volunteers and crew gathered to celebrate 160 years of the lifeboat station

On Sunday, volunteers and residents gathered to cut a celebration cake at the boathouse, which remains the oldest one in operation within the RNLI.

Mr Martin added: "Now, 160 years since the foundation stone was laid Newbiggin is operating its 12th lifeboat, a modern Atlantic 75 class vessel.

"We still still uses the original boathouse, which is the oldest operational boathouse used by the RNLI.

"This modern lifeboat is crewed by three volunteers from a compliment of 20, volunteers that give up their time freely to train and help others.

"Sunday was more special than the usual Sunday get together as it was be a day to remember that these volunteers carry the baton of lifesaving responsibility for those needing help in the waters off Newbiggin now and in years to come."

The area's rich maritime history and the past 160 years of the lifeboat station are being celebrated in displays in the nearby Maritime Centre at Newbiggin's Church Point.

The centre is home to the town's last offshore lifeboat - the "Mary Joicey" - which has been restored over the past six years.

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