Rye Harbour Lifeboat

This remarkable photograph of the Rye Harbour Lifeboat Crew and Launchers taken between 1890- 1900 at the Lifeboat House in the time of the “Francis Harris”.

The Lifeboat “Francis Harris” was stationed at Rye Harbour from February 1883 to October 1900. No less than 31 lives were rescued by the men of Rye Harbour using this boat.

The majority of the men saved were from the Barque “Warwickshire” of London. On a rough night in Rye Bay in December 1891 eighteen men were snatched to safety.

On a similar December night the previous year six men were brought ashore with their vessel, Steam Tug Number 15 of Plymouth, with the assistance of the “Francis Harris”.

Seven men had been rescued in January 1884 from the Brig “Silkworth”.life

 Rye Harbour Lifeboat Crew and Launchers. Photograph taken between 1890-1900. At the Lifeboat House which still stands between Rye Harbour and Winchelsea Beach Photo from the Ron Caister Collection

There had been three boats stationed at Rye Harbour before the ‘Francis Harris’. They were the unnamed First and Second boats and the ‘Storm Sprite’ which went on station in 1867. Between them they rescued no less than 73 lives. The ‘John William Dudley’ followed the ‘Francis Harris’ saving fourteen lives up to 1916.

Then came the ill fated ‘Mary Stanford’. Ten lives were rescued before the terrible tragedy on 15 November 1928 when the ‘Mary Stanford’ capsized with the loss of her crew of seventeen, after she had been launched to help the ‘S.S. Alice’ of Riga in a full south west gale with a very heavy sea.

The Station was temporarily closed following the disaster and permanently closed in July 1930.

In 1966 an inshore lifeboat was introduced at Rye Harbour, with a new lifeboat house near the moorings, the tradition of ‘lifeboat’ had returned to the little village after 36 years and in the intervening 37 years has rescued many more lives from the treacherous waters in Rye Bay.

Rye’s Own  April 2003

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