Northumberland flag.

 Newbiggin Lifeboat Station 

150th Anniversary.

Part One.

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Station Officer Eric Campbell

On the 27th May 2001, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, at Newbiggin-By-The-Sea, celebrated it's '150 birthday'.  It also boasts having the oldest operational boathouse of all the RNLI lifeboat stations.

A (very) brief history of Newbiggin and it's very first Lifeboat Station is taken from Mr. John Robinson's booklet "The Story of Newbiggin-By-The-Sea Lifeboat Station - Established 1851."  My sincere thanks to John for his permission to use the extract.  Please click the title to read the history.Preparing the area. - Hosing down!

To hold the 150th Anniversary Service, there is a large compound next to the Lifeboat Station, usually for storing the local fishing boats (called cobles).  The boats were all moved onto the beach and the area cleaned as quite a bit of sand had blown up over the previous months, after, the area was hosed down - courtesy of the local Fire Brigade!  See left.Preparing the area with seating.


Once the floor had been cleared, the seats were laid out ready for the public - See right

A large trailer with side curtains was loaned by Fergusons Transport of Blyth, a local company, was turned into a stage for the event - an ideal size and height.

Newbiggin Lifeboat Station also boasts three roundels, one with RNLBI i.e., Royal National Life Boat Institution, one for 1851, i.e., the year the station was established, and one for 1998 the year the major improvement works  were completed, together with a new flag.  See below rightLifeboat Station gets spruced up!   The roundels were made using molds owned by the RNLI and produced by Newbiggin Artificial Stone Company (NASCO) who cast the roundels which were kindly donated to the Station.

Tapestry designed by the Moorside First School.Staff and children from the local  Moorside First School designed a wonderful large tapestry depicting the Newbiggin Lifeboat in action - see left.

The tapestry was displayed on the front of the stage for all to see, it is now displayed inside the Lifeboat Station.

One of the main stars to appear at the Anniversary Service was the RNLI Tractor No. 50 (registration    KLA 84).  This was Newbiggin's first motor tractor, used to launch the Lifeboat and first arrived during late August 1949.  Indeed this tractor was the station tractor for the presentation of the Centenary award to Newbiggin Lifeboat Station at a ceremony in June 1951.  The Duchess of Northumberland presented the award at a special ceremony on that day.   See below right.The modified Case tractor.

Previously the Lifeboat was launched by the Women of Newbiggin, pulling the carriage carrying the Lifeboat with long thick ropes, and then bringing it back into the station, in all weathers.  The women of various families carried out these arduous tasks throughout their family generations.  Without their brave, heroic help, there would not have been over 370 people rescued.  There have been two 'Thanks on Vellum' awards to the Women of Newbiggin in appreciation of their untiring help.

The model LA tractor was manufactured by Case of USA, the imported tractor was specially modified by Middlesex based Roadless Traction Co, of Hounslow.   The specifications required the tractor to launch the Lifeboat and it's carriage into three to four feet of water, with a combined weight of over 12 tons.  The "Augustus and Laura" was the first Newbiggin lifeboat to be launched by tractor in 1949.  The tractor had been sent to Newbiggin however in readiness for the larger and heavier "Richard Ashley" lifeboat which arrived in August 1950.

The 'driver' is dressed in period waterproofs of the 1950's.Richard Martin, the Lifeboat Station mechanic, actually found the tractor in Ireland, in a farmer's field, rather worse for wear!  Richard and his father Tim Martin, the Deputy Launching Authority at Newbiggin went out to Northern Ireland in 1996 after months of negotiations for the purchase of the tractor.  They were joined out there by a large articulated lorry which was hired to bring it home. However, the loading arrangements didn't go to plan when lifting machinery wouldn't start.  After a reconnaissance of the local area, a loading ramp was found over a mile away.  The tractor was towed along a narrow lane and onto the ramp.  After a few hours of hard work, the tractor was eventually loaded and on it's way home.  (The model is dressed in 1950's waterproofs.) 

Alcan Farms Limited at Ellington kindly provided facilities and assistance in the unloading operation.  The New Dolphin Garage, Newbiggin, (proprietor George Birchall), provided a garage area and facilities for the restoration  period free of charge.  With his father Tim, and over 2,000 man hours later, the marvellous tractor is once again back to it's former glory - see upper left, it is a credit to them for all their hard work and effort they have put in.


Please Click Here to continue the story with Part two......


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