RNLI - Barmouth Lifeboat Station

The RNLI – ordinary people doing extraordinary things since 1824
For over 180 years, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has saved lives at sea around our coast. When Sir William Hillary, a Quaker lifeboatman, founded the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck in 1824, lifeboats were few in number, powered by teams of oarsmen, and volunteer crews could only operate close to the beaches from which they had been launched.
Today, the RNLI operates more than 400 fast, modern craft from more than 230 lifeboat stations. On call day and night; 24 hours a day; 365 days a year; we provide a swift and efficient rescue service up to 100 miles offshore anywhere round the coast of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Each year our lifeboat crews rescue more than 7,000 people.

Most of the photographs between 1885 and 1986 have been kindly provided courtesy of Hugh Roberts
Individual attributions have been noted where authors are different.

If you have any pictures or family history that connects to the Barmouth lifeboat service over the years please let us know here.

Click here to view the list of past Coxswains of the Barmouth lifeboats

Barmouth has a history rich with connections to the shipping industry. In the early 1800s, schooners, brigantines, steamers and other ships headed for Barmouth. As they sailed along the coast, often in raging storms, many were shipwrecked.

1825 A Silver Medal was awarded to Edmond Lewis for rescuing seven men when the vessel Neptune ran aground. Using ropes, he helped to haul the men up the cliffs to safety.

1828 An RNLI lifeboat station was established and a stone boathouse was built at a cost of £95. It measured 30ft long by 9ft wide. The lifeboat was a 26ft Palmer type, non-self-righting, rowed six oars and weighed 18 cwts and cost £56. This lifeboat served until the early 1850's.

1852 A new lifeboat was built after a Committee of local residents raised the money to buy a new boat. The new boat was built by Forrestt of Limehouse and was a27ft by 7ft 6ins self-righter, clench built of elm to a design by Mr Peake. The new boat weighed 32cwts and rowed eight oars. Any water taken on board quickly drained away through 6in diamter tubes. The boat cost £135 most of which was subscribed locally. The boat was not given a name as naming did not become common place until some years later. In October 1853 the new boat was conveyed, free of charge, from London to Caernarvon by the North Western and the Chester and Holyhead railway companies.

1859 During the year the Barmouth lifeboat was taken away for several months to be lengthened by 6ft, the revised boat now being 33ft long and rowed 12 oars. A new boathouse was also built on the banks of the Mawddach estuary at a cost of £142.

1867 A new lifeboat, built by Woolfe of Shadwell was sent to Barmouth. The new boat was a 34ft by 8ft 4ins self righter rowing 10 oars double banked.. She cost £300 10s 6d which was provided to the RNLI as a gift by an anonymous lady. At her request the boat was named "Ellen". In all she was launched a total of 25 times saving 29 lives.

1885 In July the Lifeboat "Jones-Gibb" was stationed at Barmouth until 1905. This was a 37ft self-righting lifeboat, rowing 12 oars double banked. The cost of the boat was £390 being the gift of Mrs Jones-Gibb of Tunbridge Wells. At teh same time a new slipway was built to ease launching. The boat is seen here pictured below on the left in 1890. A picture of the 1890 crew is on the right.

1866-1892 - Pictured above is Humphrey Jones, coxswain of the Barmouth lifeboat for 26 years. When Humphrey retired from the lifeboat service in 1892 he was presented with an illuminated address signed by RNLI Chairman Sir Edward Birkbeck and RNLI Secretary Charles Dibdin, ‘together with a binocular glass, and a purse with £26’. The binoculars pictured to the right are currently on display in the lifeboat musuem section of our RNLI shop.

1896 The slipway was damaged during a severe gale.

1904 The boathouse and slipway were altered and lengthened for a new larger lifeboat. Whilst work was being carried out in connection with the alterations to the boathouse and slipway, several of the workmen were buried by a sudden fall of rock. Two men were killed and one injured. The RNLI made a grant of £50 to the family of each man killed.

 

 

 

 

 

1905 In January a second lifeboat name "Jones-Gibb" replaced the original "Jones-Gibb", staying on station until 1939. That lifeboat is pictured (below) in 1928. The cost of the new lifeboat was £1,032. The money was again given by Mrs F G Smart, formerly Mrs Jones-Gibb.

1921 The old lifeboat station was sold for 50. Pictured below are the members of the 1921 crew.


L/R top; John Lewis Jones ,O.T.Morris ,John Ellis Morris ,Rhys David Jones , Evan Richards ,Harry Lloyd Jones.
L/R front: Will Barnett Jones ,Edward Llewelyn Jones ,Bob Jones , Tommy Lewis? ,Griffith Pugh? ,John Richards , Robert Jones , Griffith Jones . . the boy -- Hywel Griffith??

1923 - Pictured below - Awaiting the arrival of The Prince of Wales 31st. October 1923.
De i'r chwith .R/L: Griffith Jones( Coxwain) , Robert Jones ( 2nd cox) , John Jones (bowman) , John Richards , Evan Richards , John H. Rees , Tommy Lewis , Griffith Pugh , Griffith Griffiths , O.T.Morris , Sam H. Beddall , Will Barnett Jones , John Ellis Morris , Ned Jones , Humphrey Richards ( winchman).

1926 - Jones-Gibb under sail (photo by H W B Reed), believed to have been taken during a pageant or carnival whilst the crew performed a demonstration of recovering a volunteer from the water. The scene is in the Harbour with the swing bridge in the background.

1928 A Centenary Vellum was awarded to the station.

1938 A Letter of Appreciation was presented to Coxswain Morris and the crew after a search for a small steamer in Mochras Bay for nearly 6½ hours.

1939 "Jones-Gibb" seen pictured here (right) using the old slip for the last time. "Jones-Gibb" has been recently purchased privately and been restored.
Now named "Thrift" she is being sailed on the west coast of Scotland.
See the story and Photos of the restoration here

 

 

1939 The first motor lifeboat, the "Laurence Ardern Stockport", a Surf class boat, arrived at the station. The lifeboat was a legacy from Mrs M.A. Ardern, Prestbury and pictured (below) are the attendees for the naming ceremony, where Lady Harlech named the boat. The Surf Class boats were 32ft long and were non-self-righting. They were light boats which could be launched from a carriage and work in very shallow water, ideal for crossing bar. The "Lawrence Ardern Stockport" was built at Groves & Guttridge at Cowes in 1938 and cost £3,492 provided out of a legacy from Mrs M A Ardern of Prestbury, Cheshire. She was powered by 2 x 12 hp Weyburn F2 Hotchkiss cones giving a maximum speed of 6.8 knots in calm weather with a range of 43 miles. She was sold by the RNLI in December 1951.

1949 The lifeboat "The Chieftain", a Liverpool class non-self-righting lifeboat, arrives at Barmouth to replace "Laurence Ardern Stockport". Pictures below are from the naming ceremony of "The Chieftain". The Chieftain was also built at Groves & Guttridge on Cowes, this time in 1948. The cost was £9,943 which was provided out of a legacy from Mr P C Peek of Branksome Park, Dorset. The boat was powered by 2 x 18hp Weyburn AE4 6 cylinder petrol engines, giving her a speed of 7.25 knots and weighing in at just under 8 tons. In 1965 she was re-engined with 2 x 32hp Parson Penguin diesel engines. During her refit the relief boat on station was the "George and Elizabeth Gow", and older single engined Liverpool class boat.

At the time the announcement of the launching ceremony appeared in the Cambrian news and Welsh Farmers Gazette on Friday 8th July 1949.
Click on the link for the detail of the announcement.
Cambrian News Naming Ceremony Announcement

1957 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellums were awarded to
William Morris and George Berridge (pictured right) for rescuing four children who had got into difficulties off the beach.

Sadly five children died that day. William Morris was also awarded the Maud Smith Award for the bravest act of lifesaving during the year by a member of a lifeboat crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1967 An inshore lifeboat (ILB) station was established with a D class lifeboat.These boats were 15ft 6ins long and powered by a single 40hp outboard engine giving them a speed of over 20 knots. In her first season on station the ILB was launched nine times. Also pictured from the same year is "The Chieftain" and her crew.

1968 A lifeboatman never ignores a shout!  When the maroons went off on his wedding day, the 22nd June 1968, John Stockford was quick to leave his reception with the coxswain, mechanic and several other crew members who were wedding guests.  Leaving his top hat in the boathouse, but with his morning suit and carnation beneath his oilskins, he joined Chieftain to go to the aid of a fishing boat with five men aboard which had broken down north of Barmouth.  After towing in the casualty, the celebrations resumed!

1971 Silver Medals were awarded to ILB Crew Members John Henry Stockford, Colin Pugh and Dr Robert Airdrie Haworth for rescuing a woman who had fallen over a cliff, incidentally the first silver medals in the history of the RNLI to be presented to members of any ILB crew. The Ralph Glister Award was also awarded to all three crew for the most meritorious service of the year performed by the crew of an ILB. A Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was awarded to each of the five shore crew.

1978 A 150th Anniversary Vellum was awarded to the station.

A visit by the Duke of Kent to celebrate 150 years of the town's Lifeboat Station.

Pictured left to right are : Coxswain Evan David Jones , Lt. Commander R.M. Richards , J.P , D.L. , (President ), H.R.H. Duke of Kent, Victor Jones and R.N.L.I. Inspector John Unwin.

 

 

 

 

1979 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain Evan Jones for the rescue of two men from a liferaft from the motor fishing vessel Boy Nick. Coxswain Evan Jones also retired that year when George Kenneth Jeffs succeeded him as coxswain, pictured on the left with RNLB "The Chieftain" and the crew on the right.


The Chieftain picture
Back l-r :- Frank Cocksey , Eric Griffith , John Henry Stockford and David Llewelyn Griffith.
Front :- Dr Robert Haworth , Jim Slater , Len Vaughan , Dewi Wyn Davies , George Kenneth Jeffs, B.E.M. , Evan David Jones, Miss Vera Hooper , Ioan Morris Jones and Lt. Commander R.M. Richards , J.P. , D.L.
The Crew picture
Back l-r ;- Eric Griffith , John Stockford and Dr Robert Haworth.
Front :- Evan David Jones , Ken Jeffs , B.E.M. , David Llewelyn Griffith , Dewi Wyn Davies , Frank Cocksey and Len Vaughan.

1980 The Royal Humane Society’s testimonial on parchment was awarded to Crew Member John Henry Stockford for rescuing a man who had jumped into the sea from Barmouth Viaduct.

1982 The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum was awarded to Acting Coxswain Edward Leonard Vaughan for rescuing the three crew and saving the trawler "Gardelwen". The lifeboat "Dorothy and Philip Constant", on temporary duty at Barmouth, rescued the crew of three and saved the trawler which had an engine and steering failure and was making water 17 miles West by South of Barmouth on 31st October.

1982 The RNLB "The Chieftain", a Liverpool class boat, is withdrawn from service and replaced by the RNLB "Princess of Wales", a Rother class. The "Princess of Wales" was built in 1981 at William Osbornes of Littlehampton. At the time of building her cost was £239,197 and her displacement was 13.6 tons. She was powered by twin 52hp Ford Mermaid Melody diesel engines, had a maximum speed of 8 knots and a range of 180 nautical miles. The Rother class was the first lifeboat at Barmouth to incorporate Radar which was fitted to the aft end of the wheelhouse.

Pictured (left) are their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales, Charles, and Diana, Princess of Wales, arriving at the Quay for the naming ceremony, 25th November 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1986 The main boathouse was altered for the D class lifeboat and boarding boat, providing a new crew room as well.

1992 A Mersey class lifeboat, Moira Barrie, arrived at the station. Pictures of the arrival and more details about the Mersey class can be seen by clicking here.

1997 A new D class lifeboat, Pilgrim, was placed on service on 13 August.

2003 175th anniversary of the RNLI. All Coxswains where invited to the RNLI college in Poole where the Queen honoured the RNLI. Pictured (right) are the Coxswain's and ILB Helmsmen of the North West Wales stations.

2004 The new boathouse was completed in February.

2007 A new D-Class lifeboat, 'The Rotarian Clive Tanner', was placed on service.

2009 The Chieftain past crew members meet up again when the new owners bring the boat to Barmouth.

Pictured , left - right :-
Leonard Vaughan , Hugh Roberts , Harry Allday , Frank Cocksey , Dr. Robert Haworth , Dewi Davies , Kenneth Jeffs , B.E.M , Robert Wyn Jones , Peter Phillips and Cedric Griffith.
 

Station honours :

At Barmouth lifeboat station the following awards have been made:

Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum 8, Bronze Medal 1, Silver Medal 4.