Hunstanton Lifeboat Station

Hunstanton Lifeboat Station
RNLI Lifeboat Station
Hunstanton Lifeboat Station
Country England
County Norfolk
District West Norfolk
Town Hunstanton
Location Sheringham Lifeboat Station, Sea Lane, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6JN
 - coordinates 52°57′14.62″N 0°30′9.53″E / 52.9540611°N 0.5026472°E / 52.9540611; 0.5026472Coordinates: 52°57′14.62″N 0°30′9.53″E / 52.9540611°N 0.5026472°E / 52.9540611; 0.5026472
Founded 1824 taken over by RNLI in 1867
Date Current boathouse 1900
Owner Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Hunstanton Lifeboat Station is an RNLI[1] operated lifeboat station located in the village of Old Hunstanton in the English county of Norfolk.[2] This is the only lifeboat station on the east coast of England which faces westward, being positioned on the east side of the square-mouthed bay and estuary known as the Wash.[3]

The station current has two lifeboats at the station. A B-class Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Spirit of West Norfolk (B-848), since 23 May 2011 and the Hovercraft, Hunstanton Flyer (Civil Service No. 45) (H-003).


The first lifeboat station to be established in Hunstanton was formed by the Norfolk Shipwreck Association in 1824.[4][5] This Association supplied the first lifeboat and also built the first lifeboat house. A Mr Samual Gilman was at this time acting land agent for the local land owner Henry Le Strange of Hunstanton Hall. He received notification that the association wished to construct a new boathouse next to an existing building used by the local Life Preservation service. This new boathouse was described as being built of stone and was 30 foot long and 12 foot wide. There are no records to show if this first lifeboat was used to rescue anyone.


In 1867 the RNLI took over the running of the station[6] A new boathouse was constructed close to the original boathouse which had at some point been demolished. This boathouse was home to the first two RNLI lifeboats to serve at Hunstanton. A local committee was formed to run the station and a Mr Preedy[6] was appointed as the stations first honorary secretary. A crew for the lifeboat was also recruited. The first lifeboat on placed on the RNLI station was the Licensed Victuallers.[7] She was funded from donations by the Licensed Victuallers’ Lifeboat Fund and was on station from 1867 to 1887. The lifeboat, its transporting carriage and all the stores for the new lifeboat station were transported to Hunstanton on the train with the expense being absorbed by the Great Eastern Railway Company, this being a standard practice by this company during this time period. The lifeboat was launched 21 times and saved 86 lives. The second lifeboat was the Licensed Victuallers II (ON 169)[7] which was also funded in the same way and was on station from November 1887 until July 1900.


In 1900 the lifeboat station was allocated a new lifeboat. The new boat was to be larger than the Licensed Victuallers (second) and so it became necessary to build a bigger boathouse. Land was acquired from the local Lord of the Manor to build the new facility adjacent to the existing boathouse. The new boathouse was designed with a watch-room above the boat bay and a concrete runway was laid to the front of the station down to the chalk roadway, which was also improved, which led down to the beach. The construction and improvements cost a total of £647. The old station house was kept but was put to use as a beach shop and café,[8] which it still is to this day.

The third lifeboat

The third lifeboat arrived at Hunstanton on the 30 July 1900[9] having been in storage in London since its launch and fitting out in February of the same year. Once again the Great Eastern Railway delivered the boat and its equipment free of cost. The equipment included a launching carriage supplied by the Bristol Wagon Works Co.[10] Once again the new lifeboat was named Licensed Victuallers III (ON 440).[7] The new boat was a standard self-righting ten oared pulling lifeboat and was 35 ft in length with a beam of 8 ft 3 in and she had a depth of 4 ft.[9] The lifeboat had two water ballast tanks and was installed with a drop keel and eight relieving tubes. There was also a 10 ft steel sliding keel and a 17 ft 6 in bilge keel.[9] The boat also was fitted with a sailing mast and she required a crew of thirteen men. This lifeboat was on station from July 1900 until 1931 and during that time she was launched a total of 19 times and is credited with saving the lives of 20 people.[6]


Because of the natural terrain of the Wash with its wide expanse of beach and mud flats the station often found the launching of the lifeboat at low water particularly difficult, arduous and time consuming to reach the water deep enough for a launch. With this in mind the RNLI used the Hunstanton station for trials to assess the use of motorised tractors to launch lifeboats across beaches and mud flats. These trials began on 26 March 1920 when a Clayton agricultural tractor[11] was used to tow the lifeboat out to the waters edge. The T1 tractor had been in production as a crawler tractor since 1916[11] and was powered by a 35 hp engine and had been used extensively within the food production and haulage and haulage industries. Following these successful trials, the first specially adapted tractor was delivered to Hunstanton before the equipment was rolled out to other stations[4] which had the same issues of reaching the water.

Station closure

In the early years of the 20th century the frequency of which the Hunstanton lifeboat was launched to service was in rapid decline. The services carried out by Licensed Victualler’s in 1916 proved to be some of her last services. Her last call took place on the 7 December 1922 when she was launched to the aid of a steam trawler called ME 26 of Montrose which had run aground on sandbanks. The trawler managed to re-float herself under her own power and the lifeboat returned to the station for the last time. By 1931 the RNLI carried out a structural survey of Licensed Victualler’s with the results showing that the lifeboat was in a bad state of repair and was no longer fit for launching to service. The Licensed Victualler’s was finally withdrawn from service on 25 June 1922. The following month the station was officially closed when it was decided that the motor lifeboats stationed at Skegness and Wells-next-the-Sea were sufficient cover for the coast of Hunstanton and the Wash.

Station re-opening

During the 1970s it became apparent that the need for an inshore lifeboat to operate in the Wash would need to be considered. With the population's increased income and greater leisure time the use of this part of the coastline was on the increase.[12] The RNLI proposed at a local meeting that an inshore lifeboat be placed at Hunstanton and that the station should begin operations once again. The local population and council agreed and the previous boathouse was acquired for use as the station once more.[12] The RNLI provided a D class inflatable ILB for a one-year trial at the station, which if all went well, would be replaced with a new boat for the 1980 season. On May 24 a standard relief ILB D 181 was sent to the station. The Hunstanton lifeboat station was officially opened in June 1979 with D 181 performing its first service in July 1979, saving two people from a rubber dinghy. In April 1980 another D-class ILB D 126 was sent to the station. With the re-opening of the station being a resounding success the RNLI agreed that the station would be sent a new Atlantic-class 21 ILB together with a new drive-on drive-of trailer and a new Talus MB-4H amphibious tractor[13] to launch the ILB.[14] In December 1982 the stations new lifeboat arrived to replace the relief Atlantic 21. She was named Spirit of America (B 556)[14][15] on the 11 May 1983 by Vice Admiral Donald D. Engen,[14] a retired US Navy Officer and the former president of the Association for Rescue at Sea (AFRAS).[14]


More improvements were made to the stations facilities in 1996 which included a new fuel store constructed adjacent to the boathouse. The Spirit of America was also sent off to the Inshore Lifeboat Centre at Cowes where she was refitted and re-equipped with more powerful 70 horse power engines and GPS equipment,[14] returning to the station on the 2 December 1996.[14]

Latest innovations

In 2001[16] Hunstanton was chosen to be one of five lifeboat stations around the coast to carry out evaluation trials on a rescue hovercraft, the other stations being Morecombe, Flint, West Kirby and Southend-on-Sea.[16] The hovercraft spent approximately two weeks at each station where local crew members were shown how to fly the craft. Following the testing local comments were sought and in November 2001 decisions were made as to the placement of the crafts. One of the first stations to receive an RNLI hovercraft lifeboat was Hunstanton. On 2 May 2003[16] the Hunstanton Flyer (Civil Service No. 54) (H-003)[17][18] arrived on station. She had been built by Griffon of Southampton. The hovercraft was officially handed to the station on the 25 July 2003[16] and her naming ceremony took place on the 21 May 2005[16] along with the opening of a new building to accommodate the hovercraft adjacent to the main lifeboat station.

She was built by Griffon Hovercraft Ltd of Woolston, Southampton and has been on station since 25 July 2003. She cost £122,000 and was funded from the Lifeboat Fund of the staff and pensioners of the Civil Service, Royal Mail and British Telecom. She weighs 2,500 kg and has a hull made from marine grade aluminium and fibre reinforced composite. The hovercraft is powered by twin VW Golf turbo diesel engines.


All Weather Boats

Dates in service Class ON Name Photo
1867–1887 Self-Righter Licensed Victuallers
1887–1900 Self-Righter, ten-oared ON 169 Licensed Victuallers II
1900–1931 Self-Righter, ten-oared ON 440 Licensed Victuallers III

Inshore lifeboats

Dates in service Class Op. No. Name Photo
1979- 1980 D-class D-181
1980- 1982 D-class D-126
1982–1998 Atlantic 21-class B-556 Spirit of America
1998–2011 Atlantic 75-class B-749 DJS Haverhill
2011–present Atlantic 85-class B-848 Spirit of West Norfolk

Hovercraft lifeboats

Dates in service Class Op. No. Name Photo
2003–present H-class (Griffin 470TD) H-003 Hunstanton Flyer (Civil Service No. 54)


  1. "Hunstanton Lifeboat Station". RNLI station web-site. RNLI. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  2. Ordnance Survey (2002). OS Explorer Map 250 - Norfolk Coast West. ISBN 0-319-21886-4.
  3. Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works: History of The Lifeboat Station in Hunstanton. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  4. 1 2 For Those In Peril – The Lifeboat Service of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Station by Station. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher: Silver Link Publishing Ltd, First Issue 1999. Work: Part 1, East Coast of England – Berwick to Hastings, Page 43, Hunstanton. ISBN 1 85794 129 2
  5. Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher: Tempus Publishing, First edition, 2008. Works: History of The Lifeboat Station in Hunstanton, Page 13 – The first lifeboat. ISBN 9780752447490
  6. 1 2 3 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher: Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works: History of The Lifeboat Station in Hunstanton, Page 14 – The first lifeboat. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  7. 1 2 3 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works: Appendix I. Pulling Lifeboats, Page 90. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  8. "Images of Old Hunstanton". Image 7 and 9 show the boathouse of 1887 and the 1900 boathouse to the right. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works=The last pulling Lifeboat 1900 -1931, Page 25. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  10. "The Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works Co Ltd". The Bristol Wagon and Carriage Works Co., Ltd. – description of the Company. ©Strictly Copyright E.G.Brain. 1996. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  11. 1 2 "Steel Wheels – The website for veteran tractors". Photos and description of a T1 Clayton tractor. Copyright © 2006-2011 David Parfitt. All rights reserved. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  12. 1 2 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works=Part 3 – Inshore Lifeboat, Reopening of the Station, page 44. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  13. "Clayton Engineering – Talus MB-H Lifeboat Tractor". Description of the Talus MB-764 tractor. Clayton Engineering Ltd. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works=Part 3 – Inshore Lifeboat, Upgrading the station, page 47 to 67. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  15. "Association for Rescue at Sea". History of AFRAS - Section - Expanding AFRAS Assistance, to the RNLI and Beyond - reference to the RNLB Spirit of America. ©2012-2013 Association for Rescue at Sea, Inc. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Hunstanton Lifeboats. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher:Tempus Publishing, First edition,2008. Works=Part 4 – Flying to the Rescue, page 82 to 88. ISBN 9 780752 447490
  17. "RNLI Hoverecraft". Details of the Griffon 470TD SAR Hoverecraft Fleet. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  18. "Hunstanton Flyer – The Lifeboat Fund". Details and description of the hoverecraft. The Communications and Public Service Lifeboat Fund. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
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