Behind-the-scenes work is now well underway for the arrival of the station's new Shannon class lifeboat. We have met with the project engineer for the new boathouse to house the new lifeboat and an environmental study, which has to be completed as part of the planning process, has commenced. We have seen some options for the design of the building and had an opportunity to feed in our own wish list. We hope to be able to set a date for an afternoon next March for a public presentation of the plans; details of the date and venue will be announced nearer the time.
The cost of the new lifeboat has been met by generous donations and legacies including a local appeal which raised £250,000 from supporters and public in the local area and across the UK. The Lifeboat Fund, a civil service charity which has long raised money for lifeboats is also supporting us, aiming to raise £1.1m towards the new boat in its 150th Anniversary Appeal.
Around 150 people gathered at the boathouse for Wells' annual lifeboat carol service with plenty of festive spirit even though the mild weather wasn't exactly seasonal. The lifeboats were moved onto the beach to make space for the congregation and the boathouse was decorated with fairy lights and a Christmas tree.
Lifeboat Chaplain Neil Woodruff led the service and gave the blessing. Fakenham Town Band accompanied the carols, which were led by the Wells Churches Together Choir. Lifeboat Chairman Peter Rainsford, Coxswain Allen Frary, Operations Manager Chris Hardy and Crewman Martyn Flitcroft read the lessons and the Rev Alan Elkin of St Nicholas Church gave the address. Afterwards, the congregation was treated to mince pies and hot drinks courtesy of the Lifeboat Guild. A collection, which will go to lifeboat funds, raised over £350.
A service of dedication and official naming ceremony for the station's new inshore lifeboat was held today at the boathouse.
More than 200 guests and supporters of the RNLI took part in the ceremony. D-797 Peter Wilcox is the 12th D-class inshore boat to be stationed at Wells since this type of lifeboat was first introduced in the early 1960s.
The boat is named after the late Peter Wilcox, whose widow Jayne officially named her by pouring champagne over the bows.
Peter Wilcox, from Windsor in Surrey, was a keen supporter of the RNLI all his life. In his later years, he fell in love with North Norfolk and bought a holiday home in nearby Weybourne. Having supported many charities throughout his life, his ambition though was to sponsor a lifeboat. Friend, Robert Holland, who gave a reading called 'It's a Shout', said how he'd once been summoned by Peter to be told that they were going to sponsor a lifeboat. That wish came true after he had died, when, with the support of family and friends, he was chosen to sponsor the new lifeboat for Wells.
RNLI Council member, William Everard, accepted the lifeboat from Jayne Wilcox and then handed it into the care of Lifeboat Operations Manager, Chris Hardy, and Wells Lifeboat Station. Lifeboat Chaplain, Rev Neil Woodruff led the service of dedication.
The ceremony also had its light-hearted moments, with Fakenham Town Band playing 'Satisfaction' and 'Goodbye Ruby Tuesday', as Peter was a Stones fan. The Blakeney Old Wild Rovers and audience also sang 'Home From the Sea'.
At the end of proceedings, Lord Leicester, who is President of Wells Lifeboat, gave a vote of thanks. After being named, the lifeboat was launched and the crew showed her paces around the outer harbour. Guests were then treated to an extensive buffet and further entertainment from the Blakeney Old Wild Rovers.More pictures in our photo gallery... (UPDATED 14/10/16)
Artist Shirley Carnt's new painting is based on filming undertaken on Holkham Beach last year for a Lloyds bank advertisement featuring a horse-drawn lifeboat launch. The painting is to be donated to the station but will be on show at Shirley's summer exhibition at her studio at The Coastguard House, The Green, Thornham, PE36 6NH, which runs from 10am to 6pm every day from 20th August to 10th September 2016.
Five Wells crewmembers joined to help with the filming with the historic former Upgang and Whitby lifeboat William Riley. The television commerical along with posters based on still images from it received wide exposure last year.
Horses played a major role in launching lifeboats around the UK right up to the 1930s. At Wells, horses were rounded up from local farms to tow the lifeboat on its carriage out over Holkham Beach to the sea. Committee notes dating back to 1869, when the station was formed, show it was not always easy to persuade owners to let their horses be used. In Novemer 1872, the minutes note:
Mr. Lord having refused to furnish horses to take the boat down to Holkham Beach on the 15th inst. It was resolved that a letter be written to Mr. Walker asking him if he would provide horses when required for carriage of the Boat.
and again in 1876,
Proposed by C. Middleton, seconded by R.R. Rump that all the farms in Wells be asked if they are willing to supply horses to transport the Life Boat to any point required.
And in Sept 1877:
Proposed by Mr. J. Wilden that Misters H.R. Rump, R.R. Rump, H.A. Dewing and J. Andrews wait upon the farmers above or near this beach to know if they will supply horses to convey the Life Boat to any place required.
It seems that farmers were unwilling to volunteer their animals for free:
Jan 1878. Mr. Charles Middleton having offered the use of eight horses for one year to convey the Boat to any place required at the cost of 10s for each horse.
Nov 1879. C. Middleton Esq. has agreed to find horses to convey the Boat to any place for the sum of ten shillings per hour and two shillings and six pence for each driver.
Wells was the last RNLI lifeboat station to use horses to launch its lifeboat, with a tractor finally being installed to replace them in 1936.Visit Shirley Carnt's website
An estimated 1000 people attended the 56th Annual Lifeboat Service on Wells Quay on Sunday.
The lifeboat chaplain, the Reverend Neil Woodruff, led the service and gave the address from on-board the all-weather lifeboat Doris M Mann of Ampthill. The readers were Coxswain Allen Frary and crewmembers Jim Heasman and Angel Eaglen who has also been crowned this year’s Carnival Queen. Operations Manager Chris Hardy gave the closing prayers and vote of thanks to all who have supported the lifeboats in Wells so magnificently over the years.
The traditional seafarers' hymns were accompanied by the Fakenham Town Band and led by the Churches Together choir. During the final hymn, Abide With Me, the inshore lifeboat went round all the small boats anchored in the quay for the service to take a collection while Guild members collected from those on the quayside. As this was taking place the Mersey Class all-weather lifeboat did a circuit of the harbour sounding her siren before returning to the boathouse.
The collection raised £2016.76 for lifeboat funds.
Tesco in Fakenham kindly donated essential supplies for our recent open day... pictured is Guild Secretary Amanda Hastings with Tesco Community Champion Sara and Sue, one of the store's managers.
Our thanks to all at East Anglian Working Newfoundlands who once again came to Wells last month to put on a show on our behalf. A good crowd on the quayside were treated to seeing these amazing rescue dogs in action in the water, culminating in a mass staged rescue by one dog bringing 14 people to shore including two of our lifeboat crew. Over £700 was raised for the lifeboat service from sponsorship and a collection taken on the quay.
A brand new inshore lifeboat D-797 Peter Wilcox was delivered by the RNLI and placed on service at Wells today. The IB1 D-Class lifeboat was generously donated in memory of Peter by Jayne Wilcox and his family and friends.
Jayne came to Wells to welcome the new boat and joined in helping crew members change the boats over and prepare the new boat for use. Once set up, D-797 was launched and given a brief test run around the harbour to ensure all was well before being washed down, rehoused and officially placed on service as the station's new inshore lifeboat.
Peter Wilcox is the 12th D-class inshore boat to be stationed at Wells since this type of boat was first introduced in the early 1960s and replaces the previous D-661 Jane Ann III which left the station to return to the RNLI, where she will likely serve in the relief or training fleet. D-661 was on station for almost 10 years, launching on service 223 times and was the third boat in sequence to carry the Jane Ann name, covering a period of 28 years.
A formal naming ceremony and welcome for the new lifeboat will take place later in the year.
pics: FW and MP