The History of Hoylake Lifeboat

Adapted with kind permission of Jeff Morris of the Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society

Hoylake is situated on the north west corner of the Wirral Peninsula overlooking the picturesque Dee Estuary, with the hills of North Wales as a backdrop. As attractive as the scene is, the famous Sands of Dee are also notoriously treacherous, with many a vessel having come to grief on the various sandbanks and many a modern day visitor being caught out by the speed of the incoming tide.

Hoylake Lifeboat Station is one of the oldest on the coasts of the UK and Ireland and was founded by the Liverpool Docks Trustees, which built the first lifeboat station, in 1803. The station was taken over by the RNLI in 1894. For a time there was also a Lifeboat Station on Hilbre Island in the Dee Estuary, which was also manned by the volunteer crew from Hoylake. The Hilbre Island Lifeboat Station was closed in the 1930s. Hoylake Lifeboat Station celebrated its bicentenary in 2003. 

Following the RNLI taking over the operation of the Hoylake Lifeboat, the original lifeboat station was demolished and replaced by a red brick building on the new Hoylake Promenade in 1897. A tractor shed was added to this building in later years. The building was home to the Hoylake Lifeboat for over 100 years until it became unsuitable for modern operational requirements. In 2007 the RNLI launched an ambitious £2 million appeal to fund and build a new state-of-the-art lifeboat station. This new lifeboat station was built on the site of the old Hoylake open-air swimming baths and officially opened its doors in Novemeber 2008.

Hoylake has always operated a carriage launched lifeboat due to the distance that sometimes must be travelled from the shore to the tide line, which at low tide can be more than 1.5 miles. In the early years the lifeboat was pulled to the water by a team of horses owned by a Hoylake blacksmith - frames for storing the harnesses can still be seen on the wall of the current boathouse. Tractors eventually replaced the role of horses and today the lifeboat and carriage are towed by a state-of-the-art Supacat launch and recovery vehicle, which has been specifically designed to launch the Shannon Class lifeboat.


Historic Shouts and Awards

Since the RNLI took over the station, two silver and five bronze medals have been awarded to the crew of Hoylake.

On 22nd December 1810, the Hoylake Lifeboat was tasked to a vessel called "Traveller", which was aground in the River Mersey in a fierce storm and in danger of being lost. Tragically, while on her way to the casualty, the Hoylake Lifeboat was swamped by an enormous wave and all eight of her crew perished. A memorial to the crew lost in this tragedy stands outside the lifeboat station today. 

On 16th - 17th October 1902 the Hoylake Lifeboat rescued the nine crew of the Barque Matador of Riga, which was caught in a severe gale and very heavy seas. A silver medal was awarded to Coxswain Thomas Dodd and the Imperial Russian Association for Life-Saving on Waters awarded the crew their First Class Certificate of Merit for this service. This illuminated certificate is still on display in the boathouse.

In 1943 bronze medals were awarded to Coxswain Herbert Jones, crewman Ben Armitage and Coastguard WJ Widdup for the rescue of the occupants of a small dingy that was out of control on the lee shore in a strong westerly wind and very rough sea. Coxswain Jones considered the time it would take to muster the crew, launch and position the lifeboat would take too long, so a rowing boat was used to rescue the casualties.

A bronze medal was awarded to Coxswain Harold (Danny) Triggs for a service to the tug "Diane" in which two lives were saved. The tug had sunk and the crew were on the wheelhouse roof when Coxswain Triggs put the lifeboat alongside and plucked the men to safety.

On 20th September 1979 the Hoylake Lifeboat saved the catamaran "Truganini" and her three crew which was caught in a westerly storm and very rough seas. A bronze medal was awarded to Coxswain Harry Jones and the RNLI Thanks on Vellum accorded to Second Coxswain John McDermott and crewman David Dodd (both who later served as Coxswain) for this service. Medal Service Certificates were awarded to crewmembers Geoff Ormrod (also later Coxswain), Peter Jones, Alan Tolley and Gordon Bird and Framed Letters of Thanks were also presented to tractor drivers Jeff Kernighan and Stan Bird.

In August 1992 Hoylake's Mersey Class lifeboat "Lady of Hilbre" rescued the Polish tall ship "Warszawska Nike" and her nine crew, which got into difficulties in very rough seas and a gale force winds during a tall ships race. After almost 12 hours at sea, the lifeboat towed the vessel to safety in Birkenhead. Coxswain John McDermott and all his crew were congratulated by the RNLI for their fine seamanship and professionalism.

Honorary Secretaries / LOMs at Hoylake

NameDate NameDate
W.C.Glover 1894 - 1902   D.Geldart 1961 - 1968
J.W.Jopson 1902 - 1904   W.E.Kirkbride 1968 - 1973
W.B.Charles 1904 - 1909   J.A.Howard 1973 - 1977
J.P.Brocklebank 1909 - 1910   L.J.Farrall 1977 - 1980
C.W.Slater 1910 - 1919   D.Geldart 1980 - 1985
D.W.Hesselgrave 1919 - 1940   J.L.Ardus 1985 - 1995
A.Wilson 1940 - 1941   M.Hurley 1997 - 2002
G.F.Gibson 1940 - 1941   J.L.Curry 2002 - 2016
G.F.Gibson 1941 - 1949   D.A.Whiteley BEM 2016 -
H.H.Davies 1949 - 1961      


Coxswains at Hoylake & Hilbre

NameDate NameDate
Thomas Seed 1803 - 1808   William Henry Jones 1946 - 1948
Joseph Bennett 1808 - 1822   Benjamin Stanton Armitage 1948 - 1951
  1822 - 1840   John Henry Bird 1951 - 1963
George Davies 1840 - 1865   Harold (Danny) Triggs 1963 - 1974
John Bird 1865 - 1890   Thomas Henry Jones 1974 - 1981
Samuel (Joshua) Armitage 1890 - 1894   John Gordon McDermott 1981 - 1997
Thomas Dodd 1894 - 1916   David Arthur Dodd MBE 1997 - 1998
Arthur Thomas Dodd 1916 - 1919   Geoff Ormrod 1998 - 2001
John Sherlock 1919 - 1929   David Anthony Whiteley BEM 2001 - 2016
Herbert Jones 1929 - 1946   Andrew Thomas Dodd 2016 -


2nd Coxswains at Hoylake & Hilbre

NameDate  Name Date
John Parr 1896 - 1900    Leslie Parkinson 1948 - 1951
Jonathon Cooper 1900 - 1902    Harold Triggs 1951 - 1963
Joseph Barlow 1902 - 1908    Thomas Henry Jones 1963 - 1974
George Hughes 1908 - 1916    John Gordon McDermott 1974 - 1981
John Sherlock 1916 - 1919    David Arthur Dodd 1981 - 1997
John Cooper 1919 - 1920    Alan Tolley 1997 - 1999
William Henry Sherlock 1920 - 1929    David Anthony Whiteley 1999 - 2001
Herbert Jones 1919 - 1929    Gareth William Bird 1999 - 2004
Fredrick A Jones 1929 - 1931    Andrew Thomas Dodd 2004 - 2016
William Henry Jones 1921 - 1946    Anthony Warburton 2016 -
Benjamin Stanton Armitage 1946 - 1948      


Motor Mechanics at Hoylake

NameDate NameDate
Frank Doyle 1931 - 1951   Peter Langley 1999 - 2005
Fred Campion 1951 - 1974   David Mackenzie 2005 - 2009
Jeffrey Kernighan 1974 - 1997   Andrew Thomas Dodd 2009 -
Alan Tolley 1997 - 1999   Harry Jones 2018 -