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The Alfred Corry came into use in 1893 and continued in service until it was withdrawn in 1918.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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