Swanage RNLI volunteers get invite to Westminster Abbey

To mark the 200th anniversary of the RNLI, representatives from Swanage Lifeboat Station will join other volunteers from around the UK at a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in London.

Swanage RNLI’s coxswain Dave Turnbull, operations manager Rob Pullman, water safety officer Gary Richardson and chair Dave Corben, will be travelling up from Dorset for the event, which will be livestreamed on the RNLI website from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm on Monday 4th March 2024.

Poole Lifeboat College at the official opening for HM The Queen's visit. Crowds gathering in the background. In the foreground is the Severn all weather lifeboat 17-44, ON 1277 (Annette Hutton). Landscape
Annette Hutton

The RNLI Lifeboat College in Poole was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2004

Saving 146,277 lives over two centuries of history

The RNLI was founded in a London tavern on 4th March 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and who witnessed many shipwrecks.

It’s estimated that its lifeboat crews and lifeguards across the UK have saved 146,277 lives during its two centuries of lifesaving.

The Swanage branch of the RNLI was founded 51 years later in 1875 and since that time its crews have launched the lifeboats 3,106 times and saved 783 lives.

The lifeboat house on Peveril Point Road will be open to visitors during the day from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday 4th March 2024, as part of the 200 years celebrations.

Swanage Lifeboat Station was first built in 1875 at a cost of £350 on a plot of land provided by the Earl of Eldon.

The provision of a lifeboat at Swanage was in part a result of a petition organised by Mr J Robinson of Newton Manor, Swanage, following the wreck of the ‘Wild Wave’ in January 1875.

The station has remained operational since it opened with its first Swanage lifeboat ‘Charlotte Mary’, with the exception of a temporary closure in 1914 during World War One. It will mark its 175th anniversary in 2025.

Swanage lifeboat crew 2024

The current Swanage Lifeboat crew outside the lifeboat house

Lifesaving by generations of Swanage families

Dave Turnbull from Swanage RNLI said:

“The RNLI has been saving lives for 200 years and we’re the latest generation carrying on the lifesaving work which has been carried out by many generations before us.

“At Swanage, we have a number of crew members who are continuing a family history of volunteering at Swanage for multiple generations. I followed in my dad’s footsteps, Gav and Matt Steeden served alongside their dad, Martin Steeden, and followed the footsteps of their grandfather, Vic Marsh.

“Currently we also have three families with two generations serving together; Steve Williams and his son Felix, Rob and Lucie Aggas and their son Sam, and Roydon Woodford and his son Morgan.”

The launch of Swanage’s first powered lifeboat, the Thomas Marksby, in July 1928
Swanage Museum

The launch of Swanage’s first powered lifeboat, the Thomas Marksby, in July 1928

Swanage Lifeboat Station

Nearly a century later Swanage’s all weather lifeboat, the George Thomas Lacy is launched during lifeboat week in August 2023

“Truly remarkable”

The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, including four on the River Thames, and has seasonal lifeguards on over 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK.

It designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes.

RNLI chief executive, Mark Dowie, said:

‘It has been an honour and a privilege to be at the helm of the RNLI for the past five years, and to see the charity reach its bicentenary.

“For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable.

“It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two World Wars and, more recently, a global pandemic.”

Throughout its bicentenary year, the charity is running events and activities to remember its important history and celebrate the modern lifesaving service it is today, while hoping to inspire generations of future lifesavers and supporters.

Painting of Colonel Sir William Hillary, Bt. Founder of the RNLI. Oil on canvas, half length portrait. Shown wearing the robes and cross of a Kinght of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, commonly known as a Knight of Malta. Artist unknown, English School, mid 19th Century.

Founder of the RNLI, Colonel Sir William Hillary

Further information

  • Watch the livestream of the Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey from 11.30 am to 12.30 pm on Monday 4th March 2024 on the RNLI website
  • More about the RNLI’s 200th anniversary

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