Lifeboat Station

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea

In an emergency always call 999

Whitby Lifeboat Station History

Established 1802

The Whitby lifeboat station was one of the earliest to be established. This was in 1802 and its first lifeboat was one of 31ft built by Henry Greathead of South Shields, the builder of the first lifeboat, the original, built at South Shields in 1789. The station was taken over by the Institution in 1861. There have been four stations at Whitby, the Whitby old No 1 (west side), closed 1934, Upgang (1865-1919), Whitby No 2 (east side), closed 1954 and the present station Whitby (motor) opened in 1919.

1829- Gold Medal

Lieutenant J Lingard

Gold Medal awarded to Lieutenant J Lingard RN in connection with a shoreboat case, when seven lives were rescued from the brig Esther, which was wrecked in an easterly gale near Robin Hood's Bay on 28 April 1929.

1830- Gold Medal

Lieutenant R Jones

Gold Medal was awarded to Lieutenant R Jones, Coastguard Officer, for the rescue of 10 lives from the brig Smalls by a shore boat on 18 January 1830 he was awarded an addition to the Gold Medal in the shape of a gold boat for the rescue by lines of four men from the sloop Northfield on 12 December 1830.

1837- Silver Medal

Lieutenant G S Brittain

Silver Medal awarded to Lieutenant G S Brittain RN for launching the west side lifeboat to rescue nine crew from the brig Middlesbrough of Middlesbrough that was driven ashore half a mile north of Whitby in a heavy north-easterly gale on 21 December 1837.

1838- Gold Medal

Lieutenant G S Brittain

Gold Medal awarded to Lieutenant G S Brittain for launching the west side lifeboat and, with a ten man crew, rescued the crew of 10 from the rigging of the brig Jupiter of Whitby that ran aground between Whitby and Upgang in a violent northerly gale on 29 October 1838

1841- Capsize on Whitby Bar

Lifeboat Capsize

On 6 October the east side lifeboat capsized on Whitby Bar whilst going out on service to two yawls, with the loss of four of her crew of 13.

1853- Silver Medal

John Storr

Silver Medal awarded to John Storr, fisherman of Whitby, in consideration of his frequent services to save life from shipwrecks.

1861- Silver Medal Awarded

Henry Freeman

Silver Medals awarded to Henry Freeman and Thomas Robinson for the part they played when the west side lifeboat, which did not belong to the Institution, launched five times to vessels in distress in a fierce north-easterly gale and very heavy seas on 9 February 1861. On the fifth occasion two waves met underneath the lifeboat and capsized her, drowning 12 of the crew of 13. Henry Freeman was the sole survivor on what had been his first day in the crew; saved because he was wearing a cork lifebelt of Captain Wards plan, which had been sent to Whitby several years before as a specimen of the belts used by the Institution. Valliant efforts were made to save the other crewmen, one of those most prominent was Thomas Robinson who managed to get on the bottom of the lifeboat and try, unsuccessfully, to cut it open with a hatchet. The station was subsequently taken over by the Institution from the Whitby Lifeboat Association. A monument stands in the entrance of St Mary's Parish Church.

1868- Silver Medal Awarded

William T Quigley

Silver Medal awarded to William T Quigley, Chief Officer of Coastguard, for climbing down a precipitous cliff on 23 February; a dark stormy night with ten other men and, using hawsers, took off the three man crew for the schooner William Barker that had been driven ashore and wrecked near the East Pier, Whitby.
1875- Separate Coxswains to be appointed.


It was decided that the existing arrangement, by which one man acted as coxswain of the two Whitby boats should cease and separate coxswains be appointed.

1877- Lifeboat Capsized

East side lifeboat

East side lifeboat capsized while on service to the schooner Agenoria of Whitby on 10 January. Three of the crew drowned. Committee voted £250 to a local fund for dependants of Richard Gatenby, John Thomson and Coxswain Samuel Lacey.

1880 - Henry Freeman

Silver Second-Service

Silver Second-Service Clasp awarded to Coxswain Henry Freeman for launching the number one lifeboat Robert Whitworth on 28 October four times to vessels in distress. At about 1200 with an east-north-easterly hurricane blowing and extremely high seas the lifeboat went to assist the schooner Reaper that was drifting rapidly towards rocks and took off her four man crew. At 1330 the lifeboat assisted the fishing yawl Good Intent and saved her crew of eight. The number two lifeboat Harriott Forteath launched at 1515 to the Rye schooner Elizabeth Austin also stranded on the beach and immediately took off her crew of five. At 1630 the Great Yarmouth schooner John Snell was seen making for the beach with tremendous seas continually sweeping over her. After she struck, the number one lifeboat launched for the third time and saved her five man crew. Every one of theserescues was carried out under great difficulty with Henry Freeman as coxswain.

1881- Fierce Storm

Robin Hoods Bay

On 19 January a fierce storm drove a vessel onto the dangerous rocks at Robin Hoods Bay and, owing to the distance and raging sea, it was decided to go to the rescue overland. It seemed a hopeless task for deep snow drifts blocked the bleak country road to the bay. Assisted by a small army of helpers and horses the lifeboat Robert Whitworth was dragged six miles over a hill and moorland. The journey took two hours. The crew of the wreck were rescued.

Whilst the number one lifeboat was being exercised on 8 August, Second Coxswain James Pounder dropped dead. The Committee of Management voted £50 to a local fund.

1906- Silver Medal Awarded

Thomas Langlans

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Langlands for putting off in a coble and rescuing three men from the coble William and Tom that had foundered on Whitby Bar in a strong north-north-easterly breeze on 14 May. Coxswain Langlands, who was in his own coble, at once went to help and picked up one man, the other two had seized a line thrown from the pier and were driven by the sea close to it, but even though his coble had lost two of her oars Coxswain Langlands went in and picked them up.

1914 - Gold Medal Awarded

Thomas Langlands

Gold Medal awarded to Coxswain Thomas Langlands, and Silver Medal to Second Coxswain Richard Eglon, and George Peart for saving 35 lives when the hospital ship Rohilla on her way to Dunkirk to evacuate wounded, with 224 men and five nurses on board, ran onto a dangerous reef at Saltwick Nab and almost immediately broke in half in a terrific east-south-easterly gale at 0400 on 30 October. Lifeboats from Scarborough, Teesmouth, Tynemouth, Upgange and Whitby nos.1 and 2 were involved in this rescue which resulted, on 1 November when the rescue finished, with 85 lives having been saved by lifeboats and the loss of 83 people. Whitby number two lifeboat with her coxswain and second coxswain showing undaunted enterprise and determination in the face of what to lesser men, would have been insurmountable difficulties, rescued 35 of these lives. Other survivors made their own way ashore assisted by a number of onlookers, prominent amongst them was Mr Peart, who rushed into the surf at great personal risk to drag them out. This was the most outstanding service of the war and one of the greatest in the whole history of the lifeboat service.

1915- New Boathouse

New Boathouse for motor lifeboat

Station reconstructed for motor lifeboat at a cost of over £3,000.

1920- Coxswain Retired

Thomas Langlands

Coxswain Thomas Langlands retired after nearly 50 years service. He held the Institutions Gold and Silver Medals and took part in the rescue of over 200 lives

1924- Sliver Medal Awarded

John W Storry

Silver Medal awarded to John W Storry for the rescue of three of the five boy occupants of a small pleasure boat which overturned when trying to cross the Bar on 30 May. The capsize was seen by Mr Storry who jumped into the sea and brought the three boys, all unable to swim, to the pier where he supported them, in spite of a sprained arm until a coble came to pick them up. The other two boys were able to swim to safety.

James Harland, shore signalman, was helping at a Flag Day launch of the lifeboat on 16 October when he was accidentally run over by the carriage and killed. His dependants were pensioned.


A Centenary

A Centenary Vellum presented.

1938- David Harland

Received Blow to face

Coxswain David Harland received a severe blow in the face whilst launching for service on 16 May. He received a special weekly allowance. He died in 1955. His widow was pensioned.

1939-Silver Medal Awarded

James Murfield

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain James Murfield and Bronze Medals to Acting Second Coxswain John Dryden and Mechanic James Philpot for the rescue of 18 crew from the minesweeper Cape Comorin that ran ashore under the cliffs on the south side of East Pier on a dark foggy night in very heavy swells on 12 November. At 0350 the lifeboat launched but when arriving on scene was unable to anchor, so maintained a position alongside with the engines, and took off 11 crew before a huge wave threw the lifeboat back. Two more attempt were necessary to take off the remaining seven men.

1940-Silver Medal Awarded

James Philphot

Silver Medal awarded to Motor Mechanic James Philpot and Bronze Medals to Coxswain James Murfield, Acting Second Coxswain John Dryden (posthumously), Acting Bowman Christopher Wale (posthumously), Assistant Mechanic William Dryden and crew members Matthew Winspear and John Walker for a service on 3 February, when the Belgian s.s. Charles was wrecked in a south-easterly gale on Salwick Nab. The lifeboat launched at 2120 in intense darkness but en route to the casualty was thrown on her beam end by a huge wave, throwing out two crewmen who were drowned, and badly injuring the coxswain. The lifeboat returned to station where a second crew was assembled including Mechanic Philpot who had been on the first launch, but they too were unsuccessful in finding the wreck in the total darkness. At 0730 the lifeboat launched a third time in an unsuccessful attempt to local a reported life raft, Mechanic Philpot was again on board. Crew members John Dryden and Christoper Wale were the first members of a lifeboat crew to be lost during the war. Their dependants were pensioned.

1946- Silver Medal Awarded

John Harland

Silver Medal awarded by the King to John Hartland and Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Harry Murfield for rescuing a man overboard from the fishing vessel Easter Morn that was buried by a large sea in a north-north-westerly gale on 23 February 1946. Coxswain Murfield took the lifeboat towards the man, and threw a lifebuoy on a line, but the man made no effort to reach for it. It was obvious that he was unconscious, then without hesitation Mr Hartland jumped overboard in his oilskins and lifebelt, seized the man and grabbed the lifebuoy. They were both hauled back on board the lifeboat. The Maud Smith Award for the Bravest Act of Lifesaving was won by J R Harland for this service.

1948- Long Service

John W Foster

Few Honorary Secretaries had a longer record of service than Mr John W Foster, who retired in 1948, after being Secretary of the Whitby station for 44 years. He was appointed an Honorary Life Governor of the Institution on his retirement.

1952-150 years award with Vellum


A Commemorative Vellum for 150 years awarded.

1954- Bronze Medal Awarded

Eric Taylor

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain Eric Taylor for rescuing four men from the fishing boat Foxglove of Whitby on 15 April in a north-north-westerly gale and very rough sea. The lifeboat was at sea escorting small boats back to port when the Foxglove was hit by a heavy sea which caused her engine to fail and to be carried onto rocks. The coxswain took the lifeboat through a gap in the rocks but the first attempt to take off the crew was unsuccessful. At the next attempt all three men were rescued and safely landed ashore.

1957- Number 2 Station

Station Closed

Number two station closed and the last active pulling lifeboat remains in her house which will be adapted as a lifeboat museum.

At one time rope ladders for use in cliff rescues were stored in the belfry of Whitby Church.

1958-Award Royal Humane Society's Testimonial

W Dryden Machinc

Mechanic W Dryden was awarded the Royal Humane Society's Testimonial for the rescue of a child who fell into the harbour on 17 July.

The Lifeboat Museum was opened on 26 July.

1966- ILB Introduced


Inshore lifeboat station established in May with the placing on service of a D Class lifeboat.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain W Harland for the rescue of the crew of 14 of the coaster Fred Everard on 27 November 1965.

1968- Vellum

John Anderson - Peter Thompson

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to John Anderson and Peter Neville Thomas for the service on 18 August when the inshore lifeboat rescued three people and a dog from a speedboat that capsized about 150 yards from the lifeboat house

1970- Bronze Medal Awarded

William Harland

Bronze Medal awarded to Coxswain William Harland for rescuing the crew of two of the fishing vessel Gannet which had broken down in a north-north-easterly gale with heavy rain squalls, poor visibility and a rough sea on the morning of 15 July.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to David Frampton and Robert Allen who jumped from the lifeboat Mary Ann Hepworth into a rowing boat which was sinking near the Scar Rocks in a west by northerly gale and a choppy sea to rescue a young man on the evening of 17 August.

1975- Medals Awarded

Mike Coates & Brian Hodgson

Bronze Medal awarded to Helmsman Michael Coates and the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to crew member D Wharton for rescuing a man cut off by the tide on 25 July. The man was clinging to a crumbling cliff face near Saltwick Nab close to Whitby and was in danger of losing his hold and being swept away by the heavy breaking sea. The lifeboat anchored off and Helmsman Coates swam to the foot of the cliff attached to a line and persuaded the man to slide down into the sea. They were then both hauled on board.

Bronze Medal awarded to crew member Brian Hodgson for the rescue of two people overboard from a swamped speedboat in rough seas on 18 August. One man was seen in the water outside the line of breaking surf and a second man, a non swimmer, on the edge of the surf. Crew member Hodgson entered the water to help support the first man so that the inshore lifeboat could go directly to the other person who was in the greater danger. Having picked up this survivor just as he was about to be engulfed in the surf, the inshore lifeboat returned to recover the other survivor and Brian Hodgson. By this time they too, were right on the edge of the surf line. Both survivors were landed.

1977- Medals Awarded

Robert Allan & Richard Robinson

Silver Medal awarded to Coxswain Robert Allen and the Bronze Medal awarded to Helmsman Richard Robinson for rescuing a survivor of the fishing vessel Admiral Van Tromp, which was wrecked after grounding on the Black Nab Rock in thick fog, an easterly wind, and a heavy breaking sea on 30 September 1976. When a survivor was seen on a rock Helmsman Robinson drove the D class lifeboat in at full speed, onto a ledge, and the man was grabbed just as a large sea broke over the rock and washed the boat back into the sea.

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Helmsman M Coates and crew members B Hodgson and J Easton in recognition of their skill, determination and seamanship when the inshore lifeboat gave help to a man who had been cut off by the tide on 5 June.


Peter Thomson

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson in recognition of his determination and perseverance when the lifeboat gave assistance to the fishing vessel Rayella, which had broken down approximately four miles east of Whitby in a long and hazardous service lasting over nine hours in a strong north-north-westerly gale and a very rough sea on 8 April.

1988-Bronze Medals Awarded

Nick Botham & Peter Thomson

Bronze Medals were awarded to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson and Helmsman Nicholas Botham in recognition of their courage and seamanship when one of the crew of the yacht Cymba was rescued and the body another was landed after the yacht had capsized near Whitby Rocks in a fresh northerly breeze and heavy breaking seas on 9 April. The casualty was being driven inland with the survivor in the water on the stern side, apparently attached in some way. Taking the lifeboat up to the casualty stern first through atrocious sea conditions the Coxswain managed to secure the survivor at the third approach and drag him alongside the lifeboat where he was lifted aboard to safety.

1993 Bronze Medal to Helmsman John Pearson

The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to Crew Members Nick Bentley and Glenn Goodberry A collective Framed Letter of Thanks to Coxswain Mechanic Peter Thomson and his five crew members for rescuing a man after his rigid inflatable boat had capsized.

1996 - New Boat on Station

New Boat 1414 Trent Class

Tyne class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by a Trent class on 10 April.

1997- OEM Stone II on Station

New D-Class

The new station D class lifeboat D521 O E M Stone II was placed on service on Wednesday 23 July 1997.


Keith Elliot

The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum accorded to Second Coxswain Keith Elliott for a joint service with the Staithes and Runswick inshore lifeboat when an elderly man was rescued from a trimaran on 20 September 2000 at night in breaking seas.

A Framed Letter of Appreciation signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Mr Peter Nicholson, presented to Coxswain Keith Stuart for saving three men and their fishing coble the Mary Ann, which was disabled but under tow by another coble on 30 October. When this tow parted the lifeboat took over. This service was undertaken in a Force 11 Violent Storm, with four metre breaking seas, poor visibility and only a quarter of a nautical mile off shore. The lifeboat's radar had been disabled by the sea on leaving Whitby.

2001-200 Years


On 28 November 2001 the Committee of Management voted the award of a Vellum to Whitby to commemorate the completion of 200 years as a lifeboat station in 2002.

A Bicentenary Vellum was awarded to the station to commemorate 200 years as a lifeboat station.

2003- Letter of Thanks

John Pearson

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution, Mr Peter Nicholson, presented to Helmsman John Pearson in recognition of his initiative and actions in raising the alarm and landing the D class inshore lifeboat to save three men in a small boat on the afternoon of the 23 July 2003. The small boat was in danger in three metre breaking seas at the mouth of the harbour. Having rescued the three men he safely negotiated the entrance to the harbour, despite the dangers to the D class that the sea conditions had created


Boathouse substructure and new berth completed.


The new D class lifeboat D674 - OEM Stone III was placed on service.

New boathouse completed and opened by H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent


New D Class lifeboat D810 - Warter Priory placed on service.