A New Life for the Charterhouse Lifeboat.

Charterhouse lifeboat

We have been fortunate to receive this piece from Sue Lewis about the Charterhouse Lifeboat, Sue  is involved with a group who have rescued the boat and returned it to the area for restoration. If you are interested to know more or would like to get involved in bringing this piece of local history back to life, please contact the group. 

Fishguard has a long history of saving lives at sea but there is one astonishing rescue that made national headlines nearly 100 years ago.

The Charterhouse lifeboat – in service between 1909 and 1931 – took part in a dramatic rescue off the Pembrokeshire coast in the winter of 1920.

The boat was at the time the most technically advanced in Wales, self righting and motorised with both sails and oars. She had been funded by pupils of the exclusive Charterhouse School along with several other such boats around the British coast.

On December 4, 1920 a Dutch schooner got into trouble outside Fishguard Harbour and began dragging its anchor towards Needle Rocks. The Charterhouse Lifeboat went to the rescue, but the heavy waves overpowered her engine and the mission was in peril.

The crew was out for seven hours in a howling gale, with torrential rain in an open boat. All but one of the Dutch crew were saved and the efforts of the Charterhouse men gained them a place in history.

A year later the crew  travelled to London, along with the lifeboat, where they were awarded medals for bravery by the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. The boat was feted and put on display outside of the Houses of Parliament. The crew was also honoured by the Dutch royal family.

After it was decommissioned in 1931, the Charterhouse was sold off and eventually came into the possession of the Lomas family in north Wales where it stayed for nearly 60 years as a pleasure cruiser, .

In 2009 a group of volunteers, led by the late Phil Davies, travelled to Porth Penrhyn and brought the boat back to Fishguard.

Phil spent the last years of his life researching the Charterhouse, drawing together a team to help. He lived to see her return to Fishguard and Goodwick, creating a blog www.charterhousereturns.com as an ongoing record of the enterprise.

The boat is now under cover on the quayside in Fishguard Harbour. But what happens next? Will this extraordinary piece of local history be left to rot? Or could she be the centrepiece of a long dreamed-of heritage centre in the town?

A new committee, led by chairman Cllr Gwilym Price and vice chairman Patrick Beaumont, are looking at possible options. The most pressing problem is where to store the boat while funding streams are explored. A public appeal has gone out to find an empty barn to store the Charterhouse. Fishguard Town Council have funded tarpaulin to keep the boat protected from the elements.

The next pressing problem is what happens next? Dreams of a heritage centre have to be explored in partnership with other groups in the town and tentative moves are being made to bring people around the table.

In the meantime the Charterhouse committee is doing its best to keep the story of the lifeboat’s history in the public eye.

Vice chairman Patrick is happy to give illustrated talks on the project – he can be contacted at happydiver1942@gmail.com

 

FOOTNOTE.

Patrick Beaumont has recently emailed us with the news that next year (2020) is the centenary of the incredible rescue of Dutch seamen by the Fishguard Charterhouse Lifeboat (although it is known as the Fishguard Lifeboat it has always been kept in Goodwick).

He says, “Anyone who has been out in a small boat (at 40ft. the Charterhouse is a small boat) in a Force 8 Gale will know how frightening it can be. But on 4th. Dec 1920 at 7.15pm fourteen Fishguardians and Goodwickians where launched into a Storm Force 10 gusting Force 11 to the rescue of the crew of the Dutch sailing coaster Hermina. The waves were so high that one moment the men were looking at the sails and rigging then the next second were looking at the barnacles on the hull.

Although the crews incredible bravery was recognised by the RNLI, The Dutch Royal Family and eventually by the UK Royal Family there is no lasting memorial to those brave Welsh lifeboatmen.”

Patrick very much hopes that the community will be become involved with celebrations and the committee are discussing options that will put the occasion on the tourist itinery of West Wales. Please contact the team if you would like to be involved.

 

Guest Writer

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