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Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone Lifeboat station (RNLI), Sandgate

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) can trace its origins back to 1824, when it was founded as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, soon afterwards becoming the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, under the patronage of King George IV. On 5 October 1854, the Institution’s name was changed to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and in 1860 was granted a Royal Charter.

In 1875, the RNLI decided to establish a station near Folkestone and Sandgate, to the west, was chosen as the best location. A site for a lifeboat house was found at Seabrook, near Sandgate, on land rented from the War Office. The cost of the establishment of the lifeboat station, together with a sum towards its future maintenance, was provided by Hannah de Rothschild (1851-1890) in memory of her father, Mayer de Rothschild (1818-1874) who had first been elected Liberal MP for Hythe in 1859. A lifeboat house, designed by the RNLI architect C. H. Cooke, was built by J. Bissenden at a cost of £541. The station was known as Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone, and the formal inauguration took place on 20 April 1876.

The Mayer de Rothschild lifeboats

The station's first lifeboat, the 35ft self-righter Mayer de Rothschild, arrived in April 1876, together with her launching carriage. Between 1876 and 1930, a succession of three lifeboats named Mayer de Rothschild were provided. The boats were launched 39 times in that period, saving a total of 41 lives.

Once such occassion was in 1891, whena violent gale swept the coasts of Kent and Sussex on 11 November . The French schooner, Eider, was driven against the seawall at Seabrook, near Hythe and the iron sailing ship, Benvenue, en-route from London to Sydney, ran aground off Sandgate. Coastguardmen from Hythe were able to rescue four from the Eider as she began to break up. A valiant attempt to reach the Benvenue, by the Sandgate lifeboat, the Mayer de Rothschild, was unsuccessful, the lifeboat being overturned in the surf and one man killed. Attempts to reach the wreck by rocket apparatus were similarly unsuccessful. The Dover lifeboat was with difficulty launched and headed for the scene but in the meantime a scratch crew of coastguardmen and fishermen from Folkestone and the surrounding area was gathered together and were able to launch a lifeboat. In heavy seas and with great difficulty the wreck was reached and the rescue was accomplished. The lifeboat returned to Folkestone to be greeted by a large crowd. For his part in the rescue operations, Lawrence Hennessey, Boatman of the Hythe Coastguard Station, was awarded the Albert Medal in Bronze.

Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone Lifeboat station: photographs, c.1876

000/861, 1 item

Black and white photograph of lifeboat named the Mayer de Rothschild and crew, c.1876. Provenance unknown.

Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone Lifeboat station: photographs, 1876

000/284/37, 1 item

Mounted sepia photograph of the new Lifeboat station, Hythe c.1876, by Charles H. Cooke, Architect. This image is from  a small colelction of private photographs believed to have formerly been at Mentmore.