South Shields Lifeboat Memorial
Statue South Shields Tyne And Wear

South Shields Lifeboat Memorial

Statue In South Shields, Tyne And Wear

A monument built to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and also celebrate William Wouldhave and Henry Greathead, two of the people credited with the design of the first self-righting lifeboat.

The South Shields Lifeboat Memorial, also known as the Wouldhave Memorial, is a grand structure built in 1889 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. However, its significance goes far beyond the occasion. Designed by architect J.H. Morton, the memorial incorporates a clock tower in the Baroque style. But the true heart of the monument lies in its dedication to William Wouldhave, a local boat builder credited with pioneering the self-righting lifeboat in 1789.

Wouldhave's revolutionary design addressed the critical flaw of traditional lifeboats - their tendency to capsize in rough seas. His innovation, incorporating watertight compartments and increased buoyancy, provided a crucial leap forward in life-saving capabilities. The memorial acknowledges this pivotal contribution, etching Wouldhave's name alongside that of Henry Greathead, another key figure in lifeboat development who built the first purpose-built lifeboat based on Wouldhave's principles.

The two men had quite differing lives, Wouldhave (1751-1821) was born across the Tyne at North Shields but had moved to South Shields by the 1770s and was the parish clerk at St Hilda's, while Greathead (1757-1818) was born in Richmond in North Yorkshire and in his earlier life travelled the seas as a ship's carpenter - at one point finding himself captured by the Press Gangs at New York and forced to work on board a British sloop. He remained in service until the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783.

There is some dispute over who actually designed the first lifeboat, although at the time it was said that Greathead should take the credit, but this was mainly due to him being a supporter of the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, who in turn backed him with £1,200. Wouldhave, was a more humble man and perhaps less articulate, and this may have contributed to him only receiving a few coins in support for his work.

From what we can find it is generally felt in South Shields that Wouldhave, could have, and maybe should have got the credit...

Alongside the memorial stands a vital companion - the Tyne lifeboat. This vessel, though not the original built by Greathead (which is now housed in a museum at Redcar), represents the legacy of countless lifeboat rescues. Constructed in 1833, the Tyne served for six decades, its crew credited with saving over 1,028 lives in the treacherous waters of the North Sea.

Tragically, the original Tyne lifeboat wasn't destined to stand the test of time. During World War II, a German air raid on South Shields in 1941 resulted in its destruction. However, a replica was built to ensure this vital piece of history remained on display alongside the memorial. Today, both the memorial and the lifeboat stand as a poignant reminder of the countless lives saved and the bravery displayed by South Shields' lifeboat crews throughout history.

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How To Find South Shields Lifeboat Memorial

Where Is South Shields Lifeboat Memorial?

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Lat / Long

55.001065, -1.421957

What three words

energetic.backed.faster

Where To Park For South Shields Lifeboat Memorial?

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55.001469, 55.001469

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dollar.foil.cloth

Parking is available nearby in Pier Parade Car Park. There are also Parking areas at Pier Head and Harbour Drive South a short distance away.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Andrew Gardner

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South Shields Lifeboat Memorial was listed in Statue // Tyne And Wear // South Shields