Nostalgia: A royal rescue at sea

PUBLISHED: 07:27 20 May 2012

Hauling the William and Francis from the boathouse and down to the beach

Hauling the William and Francis from the boathouse and down to the beach

Archant

With Sidmouth Lifeboat and its crew set for another summer of sterling work, Nostalgia looks back 143 years to the town’s Victorian heyday – and a royal rescue.

For it wasn’t until March 1869 that Sidmouth had its own lifeboat, writes Reginald Lane in Old Sidmouth (Devon Books, 1990).

“It was donated by Mrs Remington, of Streatham, and named Remington.

“Its arrival in Sidmouth was a grand occasion with a procession through the town attended by military bands and the Sidmouth Town Band.

“The boat was housed in the lifeboat house on the eastern end of the Esplanade.

“It took part in two sea rescues in 1872, one in 1878 and one in 1883.

“In 1881, the Remington also performed the only recorded rescue of members of the royal family.

“On May 23, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh arrived at Sidmouth on board HMS Lively to inspect the lifeboat station.

“A steam boat was lowered from the ship to take them to the beach, but the swell was rapidly increasing and the craft nearly turned over.

“Quickly the Remington was launched and took onboard the Duke and Duchess.

“After inspecting the coastguard station and the lifeboat (at close quarters!) the Duke and Duchess were driven away in a wagonette with four horses and two postillions over Peak Hill to Otterton and on to Torquay.

“In 1885, Sidmouth received a larger and more up-to-date lifeboat, the 34ft William and Francis, equipped with water ballast for stability.

“The new boat was also designed to be self-righting.

“She had to wait until 1911 for her one and only rescue and the station was closed down in 1912.

“In total, Sidmouth’s lifeboats had saved 34 lives.”

During its Victorian heyday, Sidmouth was home to an RNLI station situated across the road from the town’s current station.

Sidmouth Lifeboat is now independently run and its supporters need to raise £1,000-a-week to keep it afloat.

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