Aldeburgh’s Coastline

Shoals and sandbanks off Aldeburgh

The coast of Aldeburgh is treacherous. The many shoals and sandbanks, often swept by fierce gales, present a real danger to shipping: and during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was a busy seaway.

James Cable, cox’n of the ‘Aldeburgh’ lifeboat wearing the cumbersome cork lifebelt



Until the nineteenth century there was little help for a vessel in distress. Few who went to sea could swim and untold numbers lost their lives in disasters around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. Then in 1824 the “National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck” was founded as a charity after an appeal made by Sir William Hillary. The title was changed to the “Royal National Lifeboat Institution” (RNLI) in 1854. Cork life jackets were first issued to crew members that same year. The flag was not designed until 1884.

Life for the early lifeboat-men was harsh and dangerous. Their boats were powered by sails and oars and depended upon the skill and toughness of their crews to achieve impossible rescues, often in appalling weather conditions. Aldeburgh’s first lifeboat arrived more than 150 years ago and since then the names of the crew-members and of the boats they sailed have become legend within the town.

The Aldeburgh Station

Lifeboats at No. 1 Station

1826-1851              Grafton

Jack Pead; Cox’n 1929 1938

1851-1853              A lifeboat from Sizewell

1853-1870              Pasco

1870-1890              George Hounsfield

1890-1899              Aldeburgh

1899-1902              Reserve boat Mark Lane

1902-1928              City of Winchester

1928-1931              James Leath

1930                         William Macpherson

1931-1959              Abdy Beauclerk

1959-1979             A and P Gottwald

1979 -1982            Charles Dibdin

December 1955; the lifeboat delivers Christmas provisions to a lightship.

1982-1993             James Cable

1994-                       Freddie Cooper

Lifeboats at No. 2 Station

1905-1929              Edward Z Dresden

1929-1933              James Leath

1933-1940              Baltic

1940-1959              Lucy Lavers

1959-1979              Station closed

1979-1989              In-shore inflatable

1989-                        D class Lifeboat D/376

Coxswains of No 1 Lifeboat

1851-1856              Sam Ward

1856-1881              Rodney Pallant

1881-1888              Charles Ward

1888-1917              James Cable

1917-1929              Charlie Mann

1929-1938              Jack Pead

1938-1942              George Chatten

1942-1945              Tom Parnell

1945-1954              Johnny Smith

1954-1954              Billy Green

Steven Saint; cox’n today

1954-1958              Johnny Burrell

1958-1978              Ruben Wood

1978-1985              Billy Burrell

1985-1993              Jimmy Churchyard

1994-2003              Ian Firman

2003-2009              Lee Firman

2009-                        Steven Saint

The Freddie Cooper coming ashore

The Freddie Cooper coming ashore