Selsey lifeboat station celebrates 150 years

The Queen Victoria lifeboat is pulled through the streets of Selsey in celebration of the station's 150 anniversary.
The Queen Victoria lifeboat is pulled through the streets of Selsey in celebration of the station's 150 anniversary.

Selsey lifeboat station celebrated its 150th anniversary with a fitting tribute to how it all began.

The inauguration of the station’s first lifeboat, called Friend, was re-enacted on Sunday as a renovated lifeboat from a similar era was pulled around the town by four heavy horses, 150 years to the day after the Friend originally arrived.

Hundreds of people lined the streets to watch as the Queen Victoria lifeboat, which was in service from 1887 to 1902 on the Isle of Wight, was pulled around the town for three hours in the re-enactment.

It was even manned by volunteers in period dress, who collected £1,589.37 for the station with a further £465 raised by Seal Hotel with a hog roast.

The lifeboat was sent to Chichester by train on June 4, 1861, and spent the day at The Cross in Chichester where volunteers raised money to pay for a shelter to keep it in at Selsey.

The following day it was pulled by four heavy horses to the site of the lifeboat station.

Instead of stationing Queen Victoria at The Cross on Saturday, it was instead on show at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, at the Heavy Horse and Working Animals Show where RNLI volunteers were busy fundraising as their counterparts were 150 years ago.

Spokesman for the Selsey RNLI Roger Browell said: “The sun could have shone, but apart from that it was great.

“We could not have picked a better way to celebrate it, because it absolutely replicated what happened 150 years ago to the day, apart from having the boat at The Cross in Chichester, the compromise being the Weald and Downland Museum.

“It was absolutely brilliant. We set off about midday to go through the streets, and quite a lot of people were around, the boys were well fuelled and it took probably three hours.”

When Friend was built it cost £240 and eight shillings, and the volunteers raised a further £194 at The Cross for the boathouse.

In its 150-year existence the station has had 1,871 call outs, and saved 584 lives. There have also been three different boat houses and 11 boats in its time.

The Queen Victoria vessel was used as it is almost identical to how Friend would have looked, and it has been used all over the country in RNLI celebrations and helped raise £100,000.

It was just a rotting frame when the chairman of the Isle of Wight Historic Lifeboat Trust, Martin Woodward, found it on the Isle of Wight in 1989. Its restoration was completed in 1998.

Mr Woodward said: “It reminds people how amazing these old boys were in the old days.”