Sidmouth's only recorded rescue of royals!
THIS week's Sidmouth Regatta Week has raised money for the RNLI. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has had long connections with the town and, before Sidmouth s independent lifeboat charity was founded, was involved with the provision of a lifeboat
THIS week's Sidmouth Regatta Week has raised money for the RNLI. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has had long connections with the town and, before Sidmouth's independent lifeboat charity was founded, was involved with the provision of a lifeboat house after land at the corner of Ham Lane was given by Mr G E Balfour.
Julia Creeke, in her Sid Vale Association blue plaque booklet Life and Times in Sidmouth, relates the siting of the lifeboat house after a Mrs Remington of Streatham offered to donate a lifeboat for Sidmouth in March 1869.
She writes: "...many in the town were not convinced of the need for such a boat and besides, there was no place to accommodate it permanently on Sidmouth's exposed shore."
By August the RNLI was anxious to get the boat on station before the autumn gales, but, by September, little work had been done to the boathouse. Yet the boat was sent anyway, arriving not by sea, but by train.
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"She was delivered by rail to Honiton Station on September 22 and the next day a deputation from Sidmouth went over to fetch her. They took with them eight fine horses loaned to the Lifeboat committee.
"In Honiton people turned out in great numbers to see the strange sight of the lifeboat on its transporter. At Sidbury the church bells rang a peal and the street was lined with people and the same again at Sidford."
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Its arrival in Sidmouth on the 25th was a grand occasion. The town was decked in flags, bunting and arches over the road and crowds arrived from around the district to see the procession, headed by the 2nd Devon Volunteers under the command of Colonel Lousada.
Flanked by the coastguards, the lifeboat came through the town, drawn by the horses, and the Town Band was at the rear of the procession.
Unfortunately, the triumphal arches hindered the progress of the procession as they kept snagging on the crew's upright oars.
"The result was that they kept getting tangled up in them and several fell down, and the crew, all of them Sidmouth fishermen, used some rather 'salty' language to describe events!"
It finally reached the lifeboat station and was officially named the Remington.
Victorian historian Peter Orlando Hutchinson witnessed the event and his diary records how the new crew of 12 (10 at the oars) exercised rowing, then sailing a quarter of a mile offshore before standing on the starboard gunwale and rocking the boat until it somersaulted.
"She rolled quite round, down one side and up the other and of course the men were all thrown into the water, but one or two unable to extricate themselves were shut in under the boat and went round with her.
"One or two boats were near her in case of accident and the men had their cork jackets on. It was a novel and amusing sight and Sidmouth beach was crowded with people."
Before being replaced in 1885 by a larger, more up-to-date lifeboat, William and Francis, a 34-foot self-righting boat equipped with water ballast for stability, the Remington took part in four rescues - saving 32 lives - including, in May 1881, the only recorded rescue of the royal family.
The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh had arrived in Sidmouth on HMS Lively to inspect the lifeboat station.
Reg Lane, in his book Old Sidmouth writes: "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 on board the Duke and Duchess."
It was decided, after the inspection, to take the royal couple by horse and carriage to Exmouth as it was deemed too unsafe to return them to Lively.
The Remington's replacement undertook just one rescue, in 1911, and in 1912 the RNLI closed the station, partly through lack of use and partly because of a faster, steam-powered lifeboat being stationed at Exmouth.
The boathouse's door surround, carved with RNLBI, was incorporated in a block of flats built on the site after it was demolished in 1986.