Blyth Rocket House

Building Blyth Northumberland

Blyth Rocket House

Building In Blyth, Northumberland

The building used to house the rocket apparatus for saving crews from stranded ships near Blyth harbour.

I bet you never thought that firing a rocket at a ship in trouble would be the best way to save the crew, but hear me out!

In the 19th century, if a ship ran around too near the shore or in the mouth of a river, then it was pretty difficult for lifeboats to help out. So an ingenious solution was to fire a rocket from the shore to the ship with a line attached to it.

The sailors on the ship would then haul in a thicker line and set up a breeches buoy. This was a life ring with a pair of shorts attached to it (quite the fashion statement!). The rope would be attached to the ship and the ring would travel across to the shore like a zip line. The folks on the shore would then haul each crew member over.

 Of course you would need a building to store the rocket (which was mounted on a cart) and rescue apparatus and so these rocket houses were built. The building you see here is the Blyth Rocket House in Bath Terrace and was completed in 1880, although Blyth had been using the rocket apparatus since 1835.

There were actually over 300 rocket houses built around the UK coast and there were nearby rocket houses in Cullercoats and Newbiggin too, with the first being set up in Tynemouth in 1865. (Will have to find the others soon and post some pics.)

Volunteers would often sleep in the building so they were ready in case of an emergency.

Here are a few rescues from the information board attached to the building. (Pictures above also from info board.)

In a January storm in 1895, the iron ship Urania broke free from the tug bringing it in to harbour, and it was beached. Blyth Life-Savers quickly set up their apparatus and brought the captain, his wife, child and 18-strong crew to shore. It took 3 hours.

Also in 1895, the steamer Sinbad hit rocks outside Blyth. As first, the ship's captain chose to stay on board, and the volunteers had to wait until 8 o'clock for his distress signal. They set up the breeches buoy and rescued him and his crew.

After harbour upgrades the rocket house was no longer near the water's edge so was eventually retired in 1912. This is the same reason why the nearby High Light Lighthouse also looks oddly placed.

The last time a rocket was fired on the north east coast was in 1963 and a new watch house was built instead. To see some pictures of the rocket and breeches buoy in action, head over to the Newbiggen Rocket House website. 

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Where Is Blyth Rocket House

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55.125067, -1.499363
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55.127924, -1.500873

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Plenty of parking on the quayside, just a few minutes walk away. Of if a fleeting visit to get a snap, then you could probably ditch the car right outside.

Simon Hawkins

Contributed by Simon Hawkins

Thanks for checking out this place on the Fabulous North! I do enjoy a wander out in to the countryside trying to find hidden gems that not many people know about. You can't beat a rogue Pele tower up a remote hill or a mysterious stone circle or a stunning waterfall secluded in a forest.

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