Lifeboat Three Perhaps!

With all the rain we have experienced this year you can understand some local Wolverhampton people are talking about some sort of safeguard for the future. A Lifeboat perhaps?
But as some may already know this is not the first time a Lifeboat was a topic in our town.

The 1st Wolverhampton Lifeboat

The idea of helping people they didn’t know,  had never met or were ever likely to meet
was a wonderful enterprise by the people of our town.

But a major factor was the 19th century ethos of wealthy people helping the less fortunate.

Business men and rich people would use their money to fund things like lifeboats. A lot of cities and towns had been involved raising funds to provide a lifeboat. The Wolverhampton Councillors had seen this and wanted to be involved.

The Lifeboat 1866
The Lifeboat 1866.

It stood 33 feet long, eight feet wide with ten oars double banked as well as masts and sails, she was built with a keel weighing 6 hundredweights, two airtight compartments fore and aft and 9.5 hundredweight of cork between keel and deck. Cost with equipment was £325 plus a further £95 for the carriage.

Wolverhampton’s first lifeboat is pictured with full sail, at the naming and launching ceremony at Showell Pool, Bushbury.

Left to right: Dr. Troysell, Charles Burkitt, Arthur Tudor, George Meanley, Oliver Williams, Alfred Hinde, John Ridges, John Smith, Joseph Ford (Mayor of 1872), John Ford, Joseph Crowther Smith (residing Mayor), James Langman (Mayor of 1868), Joseph Lloyd, Edward Bagley, Henry Willcock, Joseph Pringle, Edward Whitehouse, Richard Dean, William M. Fuller, George Pennell, Thomas Skidmore and Samual Hand (Secretary).

The gentleman in the boat (coxswain) is Mr. E. Whitehouse of Horseley Fields.

The group witnessing the event included local dignitaries such as Joseph Crowther Smith, Mayor of 1866 (whose wife performed the naming ceremony), Captain Robertson representing the RNLI, James Langman, future Mayor of 1868, Joseph Ford, future Mayor of 1872, Alfred Hinde  and Arthur Tuder who kept the Carnarvan Castle Inn in Berry Street.

The Old Deanery Wulfruna Street.
The Old Deanery Wulfruna Street.

After standing for several days outside the “Deanery”, on the morning of Monday August 25th, pulled by teams of volunteers she set off on a tour of the town centre and then down the Stafford Road to Bushbury Pool, or Showell Pool as it was then known.

After being formally handed over to the Royal Naval Lifeboat Institution and being accepted by Captain Robertson R.N. the vessel was launched to the sound of “The Death of Nelson” in pouring rain.

Trips around the pool were available at a shilling a head, and then onlookers took their places on seats which had been set up around the pool to watch the vessel undergo tests to prove its capability of righting itself after being capsized. All achieved with rousing cheers from the spectators.

Looking down  Great Berry Street toward five ways, in  1880 The Caernarvon Castle is at the bottom on the left.
Looking down Great Berry Street toward five ways, in 1880 The Caernarvon Castle is at the bottom on the left.

That evening there was a public dinner for subscribers hosted by Mr Arthur Tudor at the “Caernarvon Castle” hotel in Great Berry Street, and next day the lifeboat started its journey to South Wales (again provided at no cost by the Great Western Railway Co.)

The “Wolverhampton” saved many lives in the Bristol Channel before It was unfortunately wrecked whilst attempting to rescue the crew from from the German barque ‘Admiral Prinz Adalbert’ of Danzig on January 27, 1883. Four of the crew were lost in the attempt.

The lifeboat had saved a total of 78 lives between 1866 and 1883. A larger replacement lifeboat – also called ‘Wolverhampton’ – was built and housed in a new house at the Mumbles. This second lifeboat saved 20 lives between 1883 and 1898 when it was condemned as being unfit for service.

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  1. Hi Billy, I’m researching the Victoria/Britannia Hotel as part of the Queen Street project and it’s brought up the subject of the Caernarvon Castle Hotel. The Victoria Hotel Company purchased 1370 square feet of land from the Wolverhampton Corporation in 1890, with 101 feet being on Lichfield Street and 85 feet being on Berry Street, which included the “Castle Hotel”. Do you have any other photos of this hotel at all? The first meeting of the Victoria Hotel Company is actually held at the Castle Hotel, so it would be of interest to the project.

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