Situated on the South Coast of England some 60 miles west of Dover and nearly 50 miles to the east of the Isle of Wight, Newhaven is one of only two fully navigable harbours between these two points. With the English Channel being one of the busiest waterways in the world there has always been a large number of vessels passing the port. Before the relatively recent building of marinas at Brighton and Eastbourne there were few places for vessels to take refuge making Newhaven’s location of special importance. Chart of a section of the English Channel showing the shipping lanes off Newhaven

In the year 1800 H.M.S Brazen was wrecked in a storm off the cliffs just west of Newhaven with the loss of all but one of her 105 crew and this tragedy apparently inspired a local committee to look into the provision of a lifeboat at Newhaven. As a result in May 1803 a lifeboat of William Greathead’s "Original" design was provided, partly paid for by Lloyds of London, the balance funded locally. Since 1803 records show that 17 station lifeboats have served at Newhaven together with a number of temporary and relief boats. Records show that the first lifeboat actually built for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) after its’ formation in 1824 was in fact sent to Newhaven in January 1825. Later the first RNLI lifeboat to be fitted with a petrol engine was sent to Newhaven for trials in 1904.

An oil painting of the 1954 rescue of the crew from the Danish schooner VegaSince the station was established 19 medals for gallantry have been awarded, 10 Silver Medals and 9 Bronze Medals. The Silver Medal was awarded to Coxswain Richard Payne for his outstanding skill and tremendous courage during the rescue of ten crew from the Danish Schooner "Mogens Koch" in storm force winds in December 1929. Coxswain Payne was seriously injured on the return trip when he was thrown against the after end-box. His injuries forced him to retire and he died aged 57 in 1931. In 1943 Coxswain Leonard Peddlesden was decorated for his courage and determination in escorting the Naval Trawler "Avanturine" into Newhaven in a gale. During the service the lifeboat was rammed and severely damaged by the trawler and sadly the Signalman, Benjamin Clark was lost overboard and drowned. Coxswain Peddlesden was awarded the Silver Medal and the other seven of the crew were awarded Bronze Medals, Benjamin Clark’s posthumously. The rescue of eight crew from the sinking Danish Schooner "Vega" during a severe gale in 1954 earned Coxswain William Harvey the Silver Medal and the Maud Smith award for the bravest act of life-saving by a lifeboatman during that year. In addition 2 Framed Letters of Thanks have been awarded, to Coxswain Leonard Patten for the rescue of 5 crew from the fishing vessel "La Francoise" in a violent storm on 16 October 1987 and to Coxswain Ian Johns for his part in saving 2 people swept out to sea on 1 August 2006. In 1940 the Cecil & Lilian Philpott was one of the 19 RNLI lifeboats that took part in the evacuation of British Forces from Dunkirk. In 2003 a Vellum was awarded to commemorate 200 years as a lifeboat station. A more complete account of some of the more notable rescues carried out by Newhaven’s lifeboats can be found on the Callouts - Historic Archive page.

This photo shows how tricky it can be towing a casualty through the shipping lanesAs with all lifeboat stations our "patch" is not strictly defined. All of the All Weather Lifeboats (ALB’s) of the RNLI are committed to provide cover to 50 miles off the coast. The extent to which we cover either side of Newhaven is determined more by operational requirements than by geographical boundaries. Our flank station to the east is Eastbourne where a Mersey class ALB together with an IB1 class Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) cover as far west as around Beachy Head. Our westerly flank station is Brighton where an Atlantic 75 ILB is based. Further to the west is Shoreham where a Tamar class ALB and D class ILB are currently stationed.

Our rescues are co-ordinated by H M Coastguard normally by the Maritime Rescue Sub Centre at Solent but sometimes through their colleagues at Dover. We often work together with the H M Coastguard Rescue Helicopters based at Lee-on-Solent and most of our callouts involve the local volunteer Coastguards at Newhaven, Birling Gap or Shoreham. Most callouts are instigated by the Coastguard as they receive 999 calls and VHF radio calls concerning safety and distress at sea. Once they have the detailsThe Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 104 lifting a diver requiring medical assistance of the incident the Coastguard will use their knowledge together with computer prediction programmes to decide which resources to send to best deal with the situation. This means that often we will be working on our own in the area local to Newhaven but sometimes we might work with our flank stations or the helicopter in more complex situations.

Our regular field of operations covers the coast from about the Palace Pier at Brighton to the west and Beachy Head to the east. This coastal area includes Brighton Marina and Newhaven Harbour which between them are havens for conventional and high speed cross-channel ferries, merchant ships, fishing vessels, charter fishing boats, yachts and power boats not to mention the sailing dinghies, wind surfers, kite surfers and jet skis that launch from the beaches and marinas. These all contribute to provide a wide variety of callouts. The area contains some stony and some sandy beaches together with about 12 miles of sheer cliffs including the famous Seven Sisters. It is these cliffs that give rise to other causes of callouts from people being cut off by the tide when walking under them or from persons or dogs falling from the top. From the point of view of the people their falls are sometimes accidental but on occasions intentional. A personal plea from the webmaster is never to allow dogs near to cliff Our good friends from Le Havre lifeboat who we are twinned withtops unless on a lead. They are unaware of the dangers and no matter how well trained may take off without warning in chase of birds or rabbits.

We are twinned with our French colleagues of Le Havre Lifeboat and are proud of the connection with our friends of the Societe National de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM). We have had several mutual exchange visits between our stations and were lucky to be able to visit Le Havre on our extended passage to station with our new Severn and we were entertained royally.

In this age of litigation and Health & Safety the RNLI has, like many other large organisations, imposed on itself a policy of Competence Based Training (CoBT). The skills and competencies needed to be a Crew Member, Navigator, First Aider, Mechanic or Coxswain have been broken down into a list and each person has to be independently assessed in each area appropriate to their position on the boat. This means all lifeboat crews, including us at Newhaven, have embarked on a huge training and assessment programme requiring an even greater level of commitment from them.

School and group visits to the station can be arranged with the opportunity to look over the lifeboat and view a video about the work of the RNLI. The maximum size of group per visit is normally 20 persons and the minimum age for visits is 7 years old. If you are interested in booking a group visit please contact our Lifeboats Visits Officer, Lyn Davies tel: 07985 240063, email: visits.newhavenlifeboat@gmail.com Click here to download booking form.
The telephone number for the boathouse is 01273 514143 and the station email address is Newhaven@rnli.org.uk


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