Category Archives: History

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911

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‘It is impossible to assign to any one person the merit of inventing the Life-Boat’

Based on a 1910 Royal Society of Arts lecture, Sir John Cameron-Lamb’s small book The Life-boat and its Work was published in the following year, and sold for the now-laughable sum of one shilling. I promised the gentlemen who look after Southwold’s historic Alfred Corry I’d scan this book, and so here’s the first instalment!

To see the rest of this series:

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part I

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part II

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part III

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Port of London Authority archives to be catalogued and made available

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Access to the Port of London Authority archive – said to be one of the most significant in London – is set to be unlocked in a three-year cataloguing programme.

The archive covering 250 years of London’s water-borne history is to be catalogued by Museum of London Docklands staff. The work is expected to take at least three years and will give historians, river lovers and members of the public easy access to the archive.

The PLA was created through an Act of Parliament overseen by Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to bring order to the chaos of the busy and congested port of the early 1900s. It came into existence on 31 March 1909.

The archive includes 30 boxes of documents relating to the 19th century dock companies; 120 boxes of documents relating to the early years of the PLA; 140 boxes of documents relating to post-war PLA activities; 50 boxes of post-war PLA personnel documents; architectural drawings relating to all aspects of the docks; and a range of PLA river charts. It adds up to a lot of material.l

An entertaining historical presentation telling the story of the PLA is already available can be found on the organisation’s website at www.pla.co.uk.

Alfred Corry, Southwold’s fabulous old lifeboat

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One of Southwold’s best attractions for boat enthusiasts is the Alfred Corry Museum, a small museum by the harbour where the main attraction is the lifeboat named Alfred Corry itself.

The Alfred Corry came into use in 1893 and continued in service until it was withdrawn in 1918. Provided by the Lifeboat Institution, it was built at a time when it was customary to discuss the boat’s size, type and sail plan with local lifeboatmen. The result of their deliberations was that the boat should be and improved 44ft by 13ft Norfolk and Suffolk type, non-self-righting, and capable of being both rowed and sailed. It was to have five tons of water ballast (the boat itself weighed 8.3 tons), and 14 oars – though the finished boat actually had 16.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the lifeboatmen had their new craft rigged like one of the local beach yawls and fishing punts, with a dipping lug on the foremast and a standing lug on the mizzen.

Over the two and a half decades following her launch, the Alfred Corry was launched 41 times on service, and saved 47 lives.

On retirement she had a long life as a yacht until she was abandoned on the Blackwater, from where she was rescued by John Craigie, great grandson of her original coxswain, also known as John Craigie. The Craigies began the process of repairing the boat (see a clip of her sailing as a yacht here); she has since been restored in her original lifeboat form under the auspices of a charitable trust.

The museum building itself has a story worth telling. Built in 1922 it previously stood on Cromer pier, where it was the home of that town’s lifeboat. It is said to have seen over 1000 lives saved and was of course associated with legendary and highly decorated lifeboatman coxswain Henry George Blogg.

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