Appledore Lifeboat Station

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Appledore Lifeboat Station
RNLI lifeboat station
Appledore Lifeboat Station 2017.jpg
Country United Kingdom
County Devon
Town Appledore
Location Jubilee Road, EX39 1SA
 - coordinates 51°03′27″N 4°11′56″W / 51.0574°N 4.199°W / 51.0574; -4.199Coordinates: 51°03′27″N 4°11′56″W / 51.0574°N 4.199°W / 51.0574; -4.199
Founded First station 1825
Current building 2001
Owner Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Visitation Classed as an Discover[1] station
Appledore Lifeboat Station is located in Devon
Appledore Lifeboat Station

Appledore Lifeboat Station[2] is the base for Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) search and rescue operations at Appledore, Devon in the United Kingdom. The first lifeboat was stationed in the town in 1825 and the present station was opened in 2001. It operates a Tamar-class all weather boat (AWB) and an Atlantic 75 B Class inshore lifeboat (ILB).


47-027 George Gibson was stationed at Appledore from 1988 to 2010. It is seen here on a visit to the RNLI Depot at Poole in front of a larger Severn-class boat

The Bideford District Association of the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck (as it was then known) introduced a lifeboat service in February 1825. The boat was kept in the King's Watch House at Appledore. In 1831 the work was taken over by the Devon Humane Society and they built a new boat house at Watertown, half a mile nearer the sea. This was large enough for two boats and a second one arrived in December that year but in 1848 was transferred to a second boat house at Braunton Burrows on the opposite side of the estuary. It was easier to launch from here to help ships on that side of the water but crews for lifeboats at Braunton Burrows always came from Appledore. A third station was built at Northam Burrows to the west of Appledore in 1851. This was expanded to house a second boat in 1856 and the old boat house at Watertown eventually lost its boats.[3]

The lifeboat station from the side

The two stations were remote from Appledore where the crews lived. With the development of boats that could be more easily sailed (rather than just rowed) a new boat house was built at Badstep in 1889 to replace Northam Burrows. During World War I it became difficult to find the horses and men necessary for launching boats at Braunton Burrows so it too was closed temporarily in 1918 but this became permanent the following year. The first motor lifeboat arrived on station in 1922. In 1938 a Watson, the Violet Armstrong, replaced the earlier, smaller, boat and had to be kept moored afloat as it did not fit in the boat house. Instead a small boarding boat was kept in it and used to ferry the crew out to the lifeboat. The new lifeboat had a shallower draught than was usual for a Watson Class and also had her stern strengthened, both modifications to help crossing the shallow water at the mouth of the estuary.[3]

An inshore lifeboat has been stationed at Appledore since 1972 and is kept in the boathouse with the boarding boat. The boat house had a new crew room installed at first-floor level in 1980 but was demolished in 2000 and a new station opened the following year.[3]

Service awards[edit]

The volunteer crews of the RNLI do not expect reward or recognition for their work, but the records include many rescues that have been recognised by letters, certificates and medals from the RNLI management. The following are just some of the most notable.

On 17 November 1962 the Watson-class Louisa Ann Hawker was launched in a northerly gale to assist the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Green Ranger which had broken free from her tug and run aground on rocks near Hartland Point. While the lifeboat found the tanker they could not find any of her crew. The lifeboat stood by for some time until it became clear that the crew had already been saved by breeches buoy, so it returned through the dangerous waters at the estuary mouth to its berth by the boat house. Despite not saving anyone, the RNLI awarded Sidney Cann, the coxswain, a Silver Medal for his work in extremely difficult seas that night.[4]

The Tyne-class George Gibson[5] put to sea on 31 March 1994 when the local fishing boat Torridge Warrior was struggling through a gale with just one of its engines working. The lifeboat reached the boat on the seaward side of the shallow water off Bideford but, due to the state of the tide and weather, had to tow her to Ilfracombe. The tow line broke but was reconnected. The Ilfracombe Lifeboat arrived and took over the tow but the Appledore boat continued to escort them. They then had to wait three hours for sufficient water to enter Ilfracombe harbour before returning home. Coxswain Michael Bowden was awarded a Bronze Medal for his seamanship that afternoon.[6]


The lifeboat station is situated in Jubilee Road. At ground level, facing a slipway, is covered accommodation for the ILB, boarding boat and their tractors.

Area of operation[edit]

The RNLI aims to reach any casualty up to 50 miles (80 km) from its stations, and within two hours in good weather. To do this the Tamar class lifeboat[7] has an operating range of 250 nautical miles (460 km) and a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h).[8] Appledore is situated on the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge near the north Devon coast. Adjacent lifeboats are at Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station to the North, and Clovelly Lifeboat Station to the South.[9]

Current fleet[edit]

The tractor and boarding boat

Former lifeboats[edit]

'ON' is the RNLI's sequential Official Number; 'Op. No.' is the operational number painted onto the boat.

Pulling and sailing lifeboats[edit]

ON Name Built At Appledore At Braunton At Northam Class Comments
Volunteer 1825 1825–56 [11]
Assistance 1831 1831–48 1848–57 Palmer [11]
Petrel 1848 1848–51 10 oars Rebuilt with 12 oars in 1851.[12]
Petrel 1851 1851–61? Peake [12]
Mermaid 1856 1856–62? Peake [12]
Dolphin 1857 1857–66 Peake [12]
Hope 1862 1862–90 [12]
George and Catherine 1866 1866–81 10 oared self-righter [12]
? 1870? 1870–85 [13]
? Robert and Catherine 1881 1881–1902 [12]
? Jane Hannah MacDonald 1885 1889–? 1885–89 Self-righter [13]
? ? ? 1890–? [13]
? ? ? ? –1897 [13]
? Jane Hannah MacDonald ? ? –1910 [13]
485 Robert and Catherine 1902 1902–11 Rubie Capsized 21 December 1911. Sold 1934 but broken up 2001.[12][14]
611 Jane Hannah MacDonald 1910 1910–22 Sold 1939; in 2008 was undergoing restoration in France.[13][15]
632 Robert and Catherine 1912 1912–19 Sold 1922.[12][15]

Motor lifeboats[edit]

ON Op. No. Name Built At Appledore Class Comments
675 V.C.S. 1922 1922–1938 40ft Self-righter Sold 1945.[13][16]
815 Violet Armstrong 1938 1938–1962 46ft Watson-class Specially modified for the shallow waters at Appledore. Sold 1962; reported in 2001 working as a pleasure boat in Bristol.[17][18]
965 Louisa Ann Hawker 1962 1962–1986 47ft Watson-class Sold, reported in 2008 working as a pleasure boat in Sarawak.[4][19]
958 Laura Moncur 1961 1986–1987 47ft Watson-class Sold, reported in 2008 working as pleasure boat Chizz at Lowestoft.[19]
950 Kathleen Mary 1959 1987–1988 47ft Watson-class Sold, reported in 2007 working as pleasure boat Katie May at Peterhead.[19]
1140 47-027 George Gibson 1988 1988–2010 Tyne [6][20]

Inshore lifeboats[edit]

Op. No. Name At Appledore Class Type Comments
B-500 (No name) 1972–1973 B Atlantic 21 First Atlantic 21
B-520 Wildenrath Wizzer 1974–1986 B Atlantic 21
B-565 Manchester and District XXXIII 1986–1997 B Atlantic 21
B-705 Vera Skilton 1997–1997 B Atlantic 75 [21]
B-742 Douglas Pasley 1997 - 2012 B Atlantic 75 [9]


  1. ^ "Visiting stations". Explanation of the visitor-classification of the RNLI stations. The RNLI - copyright © RNLI 2014. Archived from the original on 13 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Appledore Lifeboat Station – RNLI website". Home page of the Appledore station. RNLI © 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Leach, Nicholas (2009). Devon's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater: Twelveheads Press. pp. 39–44. ISBN 978-0-906294-72-7. 
  4. ^ a b Leach, Nicholas (2009). pp. 42–43.
  5. ^ "Tyne Class Lifeboats". List of RNLI Tyne class Lifeboats with service dates and Details including George Gibson. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Leach, Nicholas (2009). pp. 43–44.
  7. ^ "Tamar-class 16.25-metre Lifeboat". List of Tamar-class lifeboats. Lifeboat World On-Line© 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Wake-Walker, Edward (2008). The Lifeboats Story. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-0-7509-4858-6. 
  9. ^ a b c Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. p. 68. 
  10. ^ "Appledore Fleet". RNLI. Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  11. ^ a b Leach, Nicholas (2009). p. 39.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Leach, Nicholas (2009). p. 40.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Leach, Nicholas (2009). p. 41.
  14. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 4–5. 
  15. ^ a b Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 10–11. 
  16. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 12–13. 
  17. ^ Leach, Nicholas (2009). pp. 41–42.
  18. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 18–19. 
  19. ^ a b c Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 24–25. 
  20. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 32–33. 
  21. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. p. 43. 

External links[edit]