Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter

Nottingham’s own Lifeboat, the ‘Robin Hood’

By John Wilson

On 7th January 1867, Nottingham’s own lifeboat was formally launched, on the River Trent. The boat was destined for the lifeboat station at Boulmer, Northumberland. The existing lifeboat at Boulmer was one of the early boats built of fir and possessed none of the ‘recent improvements’. The coxswain and crew, although they had every confidence in their old life-boat, were desirous of having a larger one’ [1]. Funds were raised in Nottingham, largely through the efforts of Samuel Collinson Esq, towards which T F Gimson Esq of the Park in Nottingham gave £200. The boat was 33 feet long and 8 feet wide, with ten oars. The cost, including carriage, stores and other costs was £420. The boat was conveyed to Nottingham for its naming and displayed at the Industrial Exhibition Building.

At half-past twelve on 7th January, a procession was formed, consisting of the bands of the South Notts Yeomanry and the Robin Hood Rifles, many soldiers in uniform and the Fire Brigade with their engines. The lifeboat on its carriage was manned by a crew in Guernseys, sou-westers, red woollen scarves and cork jackets, drawn by six powerful horses. The procession paraded the principal streets to the great Market Place, where the Mayoress, Mrs J L Thackeray, christened it the ‘Robin Hood’, to great applause. The carriage of the boat having been taken to the bank of the river Trent, one end of the vessel was slowly raised, and immediately after it slid down into the water, with the crew on board, the Yeomanry Band struck up ‘Cheer, Boys, Cheer’. The boat rowed a short distance down the river and back again, after which a trial was made of its self-righting properties. A chain having been fastened round the side of the boat, a couple of men worked a crane and wound it out of the water. On attaining a certain height it fell over, and came up keel uppermost, but scarcely six seconds had elapsed before it toppled over again and danced about on the surface like a cork, the water shipped during the process rapidly leaving it. This operation was repeated with the same success.

The new lifeboat had been conveyed from the builders in the south of England by the Great Northern Railway, and from Nottingham to its ultimate destination at Boulmer by the Great North Eastern Railway, in both cases without charge.

The ‘Robin Hood’ had a long career at Boulmer and was very popular with the crew. The boat was eventually retired from service and broken up in 1892. Her service history included:

1871 1 January Boat from Schooner OXALIS, of MacDuff Saved 4
1876 28 April 02.00 Ketch BAVINGTON, of Newcastle Saved 4
1887 26 October 01.30 Brig SUCCESS, of Sunderland Saved 4
1887 13 February 10.30 Fishing cobles, of Boulmer, stood by  
1888 4 March 07.00 Boat from Schooner MARSHALL, of Wick Saved 4
1888 27 November 09.30 13 fishing cobles, stood by  
1889 26 February 12.30 Three fishing cobles, stood by  
1889 10 May 11.00 Five fishing cobles, stood by  
1889 31 December 00.30 Smack EFFORT, of Berwick Saved 2
1890 2 November 04.00 Schooner KATHERINE, of Banff Saved 5

Altogether the Robin Hood saved twenty-three lives and stood by in case of rescues needed on four occasions.

Unfortunately, no picture of the ‘Robin Hood’ exists. However, the picture on the right shows the ten-oar Self-Righter ‘Florence Nightingale’, which is of the same design. The ‘Florence Nightingale’ served at Sunderland station.

Modern lifeboats are expensive. A D-Class inshore lifeboat costs £52,000, a B-Class Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat costs £214,000 and a Shannon Class all-weather lifeboat costs around £2.1M.

Sources: Lifeboat Magazine July 1867 volume 6 issue 65; The Nottingham Date Book for 7

January 1867; Information from RNLI records; Data from RNLI website. See the RNLI website

Thanks to Keith Fisher for drawing my attention to the lifeboat and to Hayley Whiting, Archivist at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, for much help.

John Wilson