SKEALS Celebrates Humber Lifeboat Bicentenary

   
 

In 1810 it was decided to place a lifeboat at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire. Spurn, the most south easterly point in Yorkshire, had proved to be an area that
was in great need of some type of life-saving service, due to the swiftly flowing and dangerous river Humber. The first boat to be placed there was provided
by Francis Constable of Burton Constable, under the administration of Hull Trinity House.

   
 
   
  Hull Trinity House Emblem
   
 

The actual lifeboat was of a design by Henry Greathead of South Shields. It was some 30ft long and was powered by 10 oars. Due to the isolated nature
of Spurn a crew for the life boat had to be on hand at all times (a situation that has remained unchanged up to the present day) so a row of ten cottages
was built to house them. The lifeboat was kept busy right from the start, being called out on a number of occasions. A notable call out was to the troop
ship Thomas on June 8th 1821, when 26 soldiers and crew, and two women and a child were rescued.

   
 
   
  Spurn lifeboat alongside the troopship Thomas.
A painting by John Ward
   
 

The lifeboat crew’s income was subsidised from fishing and gravelling. This at times proved difficult and there was quite a turn-over of crew
members, who found the somewhat isolated life at Spurn Point a bit too difficult.

A new row of cottages was built in 1858, due to the old ones being flooded at times.

   
 
   
  The new houses built in 1858. They were used until 1975
   
 

A variety of lifeboats were used at Spurn, and often had to be replaced due to the damage they sustained whilst carrying out their life-saving duties.

   
  The lifeboat in 1885
  The lifeboat in 1885
   
  A lifeboat around 1904
  A lifeboat around 1904
   
 

In 1908 the Humber Conservancy Board took over the running of the lifeboat station from Hull Trinity House, but this only lasted a few years, and in 1911
the RNLI took over the station and has maintained it to the present day.

After a succession of rowing and sailing lifeboats, a motorised lifeboat was placed at Spurn in 1919 — a 40ft Watson class, named The Samuel Oakes’.
A shed was later built, to house it.

   
  Lifeboat shed under construction in 1922/23
  Lifeboat shed under construction in 1922/23
   
 
   
 

The Second World War which started in 1939 brought added dangers and a great deal more work to the lifeboat. The coxswain at the time, Robert Cross,
who had held the position since 1912, became one of the most decorated coxswains in the country, eventually being awarded the RNLI Gold medal twice,
the Silver medal three times, the Bronze medal twice and the George Medal. Cross retired in 1944 at the age of 67 years with 31 years service, a
remarkable achievement.

   
  Coxswain Robert Cross
  Coxswain Robert Cross
   
 
   
  Gold medal award rescue from the Gurth. Painting by Tim Thompson
  Gold medal award rescue from the Gurth
Painting by Tim Thompson
   
 
   
 

Over the next 20 or so years the lifeboat continued with its wonderful record of saving lives. Four of the lifeboats stationed at Spurn all carried
the same name — City of Bradford — from 1923 to 1987, and were paid for by the City of Bradford and surrounding districts.

In 1975 a new coxswain by the name of Brian Bevan was appointed. He was to achieve an outstanding service rescue record. Over the winter period of
1978/79 in the space of just six weeks Coxn. Bevan carried out three rescues that won him the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The three medals were
presented to him at the RNLI’s award ceremony, a first in the history of the RNLI.He was later awarded the MBE.

   
  Coxswain Brian Bevan
  Coxswain Brian Bevan
   
 
   
  Gold medal award rescue from the Revi. Painting by Trevor Parkin
  Gold medal award rescue from the Revi
Painting by Trevor Parkin
   
 

The lifeboat used in the above rescue was an ‘Arun’ class type, a new breed of boat that certainly proved its worth in this and a
number of other rescues. This later class of lifeboat was a far cry from the old pulling and sailing lifeboats with their open decks.

   
  City of Bradford IV - Arun Class
  City of Bradford IV - Arun Class
   
 
   
  City of Bradford II - Watson Class
  City of Bradford II - Watson Class
   
 
   
 

The lifeboat service continues to serve and rescue many people in distress. Over the 200-year period (although records are a bit sparse in the early part
of the history of this station) it is estimated that 1,500 lives have been saved and 14,000 people brought safely to shore.

 
   
 

A truly outstanding service record.

 
   
 

This is a very condensed outline of the history of the Humber station, and there are many books available that record the history of the station
in more depth. Many other gallant members of the crews in the past have served at Spurn, and carried out numerous acts of bravery.

In 2009 SKEALS decided that it could not let the chance to celebrate the 200-year anniversary pass without celebrating it in some way, so it was
decided to put on an exhibition to reveal the history of this station that is right on our doorstep. Over a nine-month period the history of the
station was researched, and much information and a great number of photographs were brought together (in excess of 130).

   
  A display board from the SKEALS exhibition
  A display board from the SKEALS exhibition
   
 

The exhibition was a two-day event held in the Easington Community Hall over the weekend of July 31st and 1st August 2010. It consisted of
various displays of the boats, the coxswains, the crews, the rescues, the medal awards, life at Spurn Point, the families, the boat house, and
many other aspects of Spurn included the coastguards, the postman who walked there six days a week for 35 years!, and some post cards from Spurn.

The present Superintendent Coxswain, Dave Steenvoorden, was invited to open the exhibition. In addition two folk singers, Andrew Wells and John Law,
offered to sing a couple of songs, and they put on a good performance. A magnificent model of a Severn class lifeboat (the same type as the present
Humber Lifeboat), kindly loaned by the Humber station, was on display, as was a continuous playing of the television series Safe and Sound, showing
the Humber Lifeboat in action, filmed in the early 1980s. The old hand-rung call out bell, now used for christenings, was on display. A number of past
crew visited the exhibition including Bob White, Syd Rollinson and Jack Essex, along with the now retired lifeboat doctor, Dr.Duncan Busfield, the ex H.M. Coastguard District officer George Cammish, and other coxswains, Fred Walkington from Bridlington and Les Robson from
Flambrough.

   
  Superintendent Coxswain Dave Steenvoorden opening the exhibition
  Superintendent Coxswain Dave Steenvoorden opening the exhibition
   
 
   
  A model of a Severn Class lifeboat
  A model of a Severn Class lifeboat
   
 

An old kapok-type lifejacket alongside the modern inflatable jackets was there for comparison, shown modelled in the following picture by 2nd Coxn.
Martyn Hagan ably assisted by crew member Steve Purvis.

   
  2nd Coxswain Martyn Hagan models an old kapok-type life jacket.
  2nd Coxswain Martyn Hagan models an old kapok-type life jacket.
   
 

On the Sunday we had a visit from Miss Vera Cross, the daughter of legendary Coxn. Robert Cross, now in her nineties. Vera was very pleased
with what she saw, in particular the presentation of her father’s exploits. Overall we had in excess of 450 people visit the exhibition over
the two-day event, and judging by some of the comments it appears to have been a success.

   
  Miss Vera Cross shown here with retired coxswain Brian Bevan,
during her visit to the exhibition.
  Miss Vera Cross shown here with retired coxswain Brian Bevan, during her visit to the exhibition.
   
 
   
  The crew in 1885
  The crew in 1885
   
 
   
  The Lifeboat crew 2010 outside Holy Trinity Church, Hull
  The Lifeboat crew 2010 outside Holy Trinity Church, Hull
   
 
   
  The boat in 1885
  The boat in 1885
   
 
   
  The boat in 2010 - The Pride of the Humber
  The boat in 2010 - The Pride of the Humber
   
 

All monies raised from the exhibition, donations, refreshment and book sales (Cllick here to visit the SKEALS Publications page) will be presented to the Humber
Lifeboat Station at the end of the year. The following photograph was taken when SKEALS' members visited the lifeboat station following the writing of this
article.

   
  Mike Welton presents a cheque for 960 to Superintendent Coxwain Dave Steenvoorden - December 2010
  Mike Welton presents a cheque for 960 to Superintendent Coxwain Dave Steenvoorden - December 2010
   
 

Mike Welton

November 2010