Swanage RNLI

Our History

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Saving lives off the Dorset coast from Swanage since 1875.

An RNLI Lifeboat station was established at Peveril Point in 1875 at the request of the local residents as a result of the wreck of the Brig Wild Wave on 23 January 1875. The station was opened on the 16th of September 1875 at a cost of £525 for the boathouse and slipway and a further £389 for the boat. The current lifeboat station is situated on the original 1875 site on the southern side of Swanage Bay, Dorset and was rebuilt in 2015/2016 to accommodate the station’s new Shannon class lifeboat. The station now has two boats, an all weather Shannon class, launched down a slipway and a D class inshore lifeboat (ILB). Costs have somewhat increased over the years with a D class lifeboat costing £39,000 and the Shannon approx. £2,000,000.


Silver Medal awarded to Lt W Parsons RN of the Coastguard for the rescue of the crew of seven of the ship L'Aimable Mere on 8 April 1839. Silver Medals awarded to Lt G Davies RN, Edward Leggett and Charles Stubbs of the Revenue Cutter Tartar for the rescue of the crew of eight of the French Brig Le Jean Marie on 11 March 1839. 1839

23rd January 1875

Silver Medal awarded to Mr John Lose, Chief Officer of Coastguard for the rescue of the crew of six of the Brig Wild Wave of Exeter which was wrecked on Peveril Ledge in a gale of wind and heavy sea on 23 January 1875. 23rd January 1875

4th March 1875

RNLI's Committee of Management agree to form a lifeboat station at Swanage. 4th March 1875

3rd June 1875

An order was placed for a boathouse to be built at Swanage, on a plot of land which was provided by the Earl of Eldon. The building cost £350, the stone slipway £175. 3rd June 1875

16th September 1875

Lifeboat station formally opened. The new lifeboat 'Charlotte Mary' (cost £389) was launched in to Swanage Bay. Mr Henry Hixson became the station's first Honary Secretary with William Masters being appointed Coxswain. 16th September 1875

13th March 1876

The new lifeboat launched on service for the first time. To a ketch 'William Pitt' of Poole drifting ashore near Bournemouth. 13th March 1876


Slipway lengthened. 1890


Two men were washed out of the lifeboat whilst on service to the Barque Brilliant on 12 January. One was rescued but Coxswain William Brown was drowned. Committee voted £275 to local fund in aid of dependants 1895


Water laid on to lifeboat house. 1897


Gas laid on to lifeboat house. 1902


Motor lifeboat first sent to station. 1928


Bronze Medal awarded to Assistant Motor Mechanic Robert C Brown for gallantry going overboard in his oilskins, life belt and sea boots, and holding on to an unconscious man who had been flung into the sea from the yacht Hally Lise until the lifeboat was able to pick them up on 19 March 1934 1934


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to the Coxswain, Robert C Brown for the rescue of one man from a barge which had broken adrift from her tow and was driving ashore in a near gale and rough sea on 12 December. 1936


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded collectively to the crew of the Swanage lifeboat for the rescue of a man stranded on a cliff near Worbarrow Head on 8 May. 1965


Thanks of the Committee of Management inscribed on a Vellum certificate accorded to Dr D I Aitken in connection with the service on 1 December to the motor vessel Maya of Beirut. 1966


Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Ronald Hardy and the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Second Coxswain D Dyke and crew member P Dorey for the rescue of a youth cut off by the tide on 12 September 1970. Due to the rapidly rising tide there was urgent need of help for the stranded youth. Sea conditions were moderate with a heavy south westerly swell. At the foot of the cliff, the swell was breaking heavily and the backwash from the cliffs produced very confused conditions. The lifeboat anchored off the mouth of the cave and Second Coxswain D Dyke and crew member P Dory, using the rubber dinghy on the end of a veering line, made their way into the cave. Having picked up the youth, they were then hauled back, through the surf, and taken aboard the lifeboat. 1970


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Alec Edmonds, a member of the Swanage lifeboat crew for rescuing a man from the sea on 17 January. The coxswain and remaining members of the crew received letters of thanks signed by the Secretary of the RNLI. A man had fallen over the cliff near Anvil Point lighthouse and, although weather conditions were not severe, the sea was rough with a very heavy south westerly swell and visibility was only moderate. The coxswain sighted the man floating in the water and a line was thrown to him. It became obvious that the man was unconscious, and Alec Edmonds went over the side in full protective clothing and life jacket to support the man while the lifeboat manoeuvred to pick them both up. The casualty was revived by artificial respiration and was found not to be the man who had fallen over the cliff but a volunteer who had gone to his assistance. The man over the cliff was subsequently rescued by helicopter. 1971


Centenary Vellum awarded to station 1975


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Ronald Hardy and Emergency Mechanic Philip Dorey in recognition of their meritorious service on the night of 24/25 September when a yacht and her crew of three were saved in a strong south easterly wind and a rough sea 1976


The Bronze Second-Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Ronald Hardy and Bronze Medal awarded to Second Coxswain/Mechanic Victor Albert Marsh in recognition of their courage and determination when assistance was given to the yacht Campscharles in tow of the Russian trawler Topaz in a south-south-westerly storm and a rough sea on 14 October 1976. 1977


Framed Letters of Appreciation signed by the Chairman awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Victor Marsh, Second Assistant Mechanic George Bishop and crew member Thomas Haw in recognition of their thoroughly capable and seamanlike manner during the service carried out on 13 July when the crew of six of the yacht Carillion of Wight were rescued after she went aground on the rocks in fog just below the St Albans Head coastguard lookout. Letters of appreciation signed by the Director were sent to the other members of the crew. 1978


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Dr William Tudor-Thomas, Honorary Medical Adviser, and crew members John Corben and Christopher Haw, in recognition of their outstanding action during a service by the lifeboat on 16 June to a seriously injured climber. Dr Tudor-Thomas was lifted by helicopter from the cliff top, lowered onto the lifeboat and then ferried in the lifeboat's inflatable dinghy to the base of the cliffs at Ragged Rocks to give medical attention to the injured climber. The two crew members also went ashore in the lifeboat's inflatable dinghy and despite rock fall administered a high standard of first aid. 1979


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Acting Coxswain Philip Dorey in recognition of his leadership, judgement and seamanship when the lifeboat rescued the sole occupant of the motor fishing vessel Outlaw which had gone aground on the western end of Kimmeridge Ledges in a strong south-south-easterly gale and very rough seas on 19 September. 1981


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain/Mechanic Victor Marsh and Emergency Mechanic Martin Steeden in recognition of their skill and determination when the J Reginald Corah lifeboat assisted the crew of the motor vessel Renee, which was in difficulties approximately three miles south-south-west of Anvil Point in a strong south-westerly gale and heavy seas on 22 January. 1988


The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Coxswain Christopher Haw in recognition of the determination and seamanship displayed by him when on 28/29 October 1989, the Horace Clarkson lifeboat, on temporary duty, stood by the RoRo cargo vessel Al Kwather 1 which was in difficulties three and a half miles east of Peveril Point in a south-westerly storm and very heavy seas. This was a joint service with the Yarmouth (IoW) lifeboat, whose coxswain, David Kennett, was awarded the Bronze Medal. 1990


Adaptation work was carried out on the boat house in order to accommodate the station's new Mersey class lifeboat. This work comprised of an extension to the side of the boathouse, an increase in the height of the roof and the provision of improved crew facilities. Following completion of the boathouse, work was undertaken on the refurbishment and adaptation of the slipway. A collective Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the Chairman was awarded to crew members Malcolm Turnbull, Anthony Byron and Christopher Coe for the rescue of a man who had fallen from Durlston Head on 11 April. The men were returning to station in the boarding boat when a young man was found submerged under a rucksack attached by a rope with severe injuries to his head, neck and face. 1992


The station's new Mersey class lifeboat was officially named Robet Charles Brown on 3 September by Robert Brown, the son, and known by many as M in the James Bond movies. Robert Charles Brown BEM was a much respected lifeboatman at Swanage for over fifty years. For a week in June BBC South Today broadcast a nightly series of films on their 6.30 pm programme following the progress of the new Mersey class lifeboat, it's construction, self-righting trial, crew training and it's arrival on station. 1992


Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to the Coxswain, Christopher Haw in recognition of his skill and seamanship when the lifeboat Robert Charles Brown approached the stricken yacht Aeolian on six separate occasions to rescue four of the crew in gale force winds and very rough seas south of St Catherines Point, Isle of Wight, on 25 October 1992. BBC TV South was presented a special Public Relations Award on 13 January by Ronald Neil, the Managing Director of BBC Regional Broadcasting and a member of the RNLI's Committee, for the showing of nightly films in June last year. D class lifeboat sent to station for one season's operational evaluation as of 3 April 1993


A Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the Chairman was awarded to Coxswain Christopher Haw in recognition of his seamanship and professional manner when on the 22 January the Robert Charles Brown lifeboat rescued two cliff climbers stranded on a ledge at the bottom of a cave known as the Chimney. Positioning the lifeboat 15 feet from the entrance, the X boat was launched on veering line into the cave, but first attempt failed because of the height of the swell and water breaking into the boat. By timing the motion of the sea the X boat successfully entered the cave, and on two trips brought the survivors back to the lifeboat. A Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the Chairman was also awarded to crew member Terry Pond in recognition of his courage and seamanship when he manned the X boat. In order to accommodate the station's new Inshore lifeboat a lean-to building was constructed on the port side of the main building, together with a dedicated slipway. ILB sent to station. 1994


Inshore lifeboat permanently station at Swanage and the new D class lifeboat D475 was placed on service on 8 April. 1995


Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Christopher Haw when the crew of five was rescued from the 29 metre yacht Be Happy which was in difficulties 20 miles south of St Albans Head in winds gusting to hurricane force, very rough seas and darkness on the night of 28 October 1996. The Maude Smith bequest for the most outstanding act of lifesaving during 1996 was awarded to Coxswain Christopher Haw for this service. 1996


Shoreworks project, extra parking, completed in July at a cost of £13,333. 2002


The new station D class lifeboat D613 Jack Cleare was placed on service on 27 August. 2003


A new D Class lifeboat 'Phyl & Jack' (D-752) officially placed on service on Thursday 12th July. 2012


The RNLI's contractors (BAM Nuttall) arrive on site early November to start the rebuild of the boathouse for the station's new Shannon class lifeboat due in Spring 2016. 2014


The final slipway launch of our Mersey 'Robert Charles Brown' on Sunday 1st February. 2015

8th April 2016

Shannon class lifeboat 'George Thomas Lacy' arrives in Swanage for the first time to a great reception on Swanage Pier. 8th April 2016

20th April 2016

New Shannon class all weather lifeboat 'George Thomas Lacy' officially placed on service. 20th April 2016

22nd April 2016

Mersey class lifeboat 'Robert Charles Brown' leaves Swanage for the final time. 22nd April 2016

8th November 2016

Slipway trials for the new Shannon class slipway. 8th November 2016

14th December 2016

'George Thomas Lacy' moved in to its new boathouse. 14th December 2016

13th February 2017

D Class lifeboat 'Phyl & Jack' moved in to its new boathouse. 13th February 2017

29 April 2017

Officially naming ceremony for ON1320 (13-13) RNLB 'George Thomas Lacy' and official opening of the new lifeboat station. 29 April 2017

1st May 2017

New lifeboat station opens to the public for the first time. 1st May 2017

August 2020

Long standing volunteer Capt Neil Hardy retires as Lifeboat Operations Manager after over 30 years of volunteering. He was replaced by Rob Pullman. August 2020