Burnham’s first lifeboat was given by Sir Peregrine Acland to the Corporation of Bridgwater in 1836. This boat was first stored near the Wooden Lighthouse on land near to and belonging to the Royal Clarence Hotel. It was replaced by a new boat, ‘The Protector’, in 1847.
Press reports from the period suggest that this boat house was destroyed by a storm in 1856 and that subsequently the lifeboat was stored temporarily in the Customs House boat house (see Major Storms and Floods).
In 1866 the RNLI took over the service from the Bridgwater Harbour Trust. A new boat, The ‘Cheltenham’, was provided, paid for by that town. The boat was some 35 feet long, a standard self-righter, with ten oars and carrying a crew of twelve. At about the same time a new boat house was built, but this was replaced by a newer building in 1874 next to the railway station. A siding was laid to the boat house and the boat on its carriage was hauled down the track by horses to the slipway. It has been said that small boys could earn tips by helping pull it back up the jetty [Wrigley].
The Bristol Mercury Guide to Burnham of 1884 describes the story up to that year:
The ‘Cheltenham’ was replaced by the ‘John Godfrey Morris’ in 1887. One of its best-known rescues was that of the crew of SS Nornen in March 1897, the remains of the wreck of which can still be seen on Berrow beach.
The ‘Philip Beach’ replaced the ‘John Godfrey Morris’ in 1902. The building was closed as a boathouse in 1930, purchased by Mr Venn and given to the Burnham boy scouts for their HQ in 1937, to celebrate George V’s jubilee and their own 21st anniversary. After many years serving this purpose it briefly became a children’s play centre and then a restaurant.
(See commemorative plaque on sea wall at the pier head for information about a rescue in 1836)
For more information about Burnham lifeboats click here