Happisburgh Lifeboat Station

Happisburgh Lifeboat Station (/ˈhzbʌrə/ (listen) HAYZ-burr-ə)[1] is an RNLI Inshore lifeboat station close to the village of Happisburgh in the English county of Norfolk in the United Kingdom.[2] Since 2003 the station boathouse has been re-located from the village to an area south called Cart Gap. This is because the beach below Happisburgh disappeared due to coastal erosion[3] and the stations slipway and access was washed away. The original boathouse in the village is now used for training.[4] There are currently two inshore lifeboats station at Happisburgh and they are an Atlantic 75-class inshore lifeboat called Friendly Forrester II (B-710)[5] and a D-class inshore lifeboat called Spirit of Berkhamsted (D-607)[6]

Happisburgh Lifeboat Station
Happisburgh Lifeboat Station
General information
TypeRNLI Lifeboat Station
LocationCart Gap, Happisburgh, Norfolk, NR12 OPP
Coordinates52°48′47.8″N 1°33′22.2″E
OwnerRoyal National Lifeboat Institution


The Haisborough Sands are located parallel to the shore off the village of Happisburgh. Over the years the sands have constantly shifted and changed, and have been of great danger to coastal shipping, particularly in the age of sail.[1] Although the spelling of the village and the sandbank are different they are pronounced the same.


Due to the hazardous seas off Happisburgh, in around 1850 local fishermen formed a company to assist in salvage and rescue.[7][8] Under the law of salvage, the first rescuers to arrive at a distressed vessel could claim a reward proportionate to the value of the property saved. The men also collected for salvage any goods washed ashore.[8]

First boat

In the 1870s, the company acquired its first lifeboat, the Friendship, at a cost of £160, paid for by subscriptions and the sale of shares. The lifeboat had a crew of 13 men. Their boathouse was located high on the cliff near the lighthouse, which made it difficult to launch the boat and return it to storage afterwards.[8]

RNLI station

A more formal organisation was established in Norfolk to perform rescues in 1823. The organisation was called The Norfolk Association for Saving the Lives of shipwrecked Mariners[9] which consolidated all the lifeboat services around the Norfolk coast. It was not until 1858 that these lifeboats were taken over by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In 1866 that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution established a station at Old Cart Gap[1] Happisburgh. The RNLI lifeboat was manned by the beachmen but this lifeboat was a small 32 foot self-righting pulling type with ten oars. The lifeboat arrived at the station August 1866 and was called Huddersfield and cost £406 which was paid for by the people of Huddersfield. Being on the small side, the beachmen used her for all the inshore services and carried on using Friendship for rescues at sea.[8]

Launching from Old Cart Gap

The launching of the lifeboat from the Old Cart Gap station was not an easy operation and needed a lot of manpower and a team of eight horses, which were supplied from the local farms. Retrieving the lifeboat and hauling it back up through the gap to the boathouse was even more arduous and required ten horses.[8] In 1887[10] the station was given a replacement lifeboat. The lifeboat was built by T Woolfe and Son[11] at Shadwell on the River Thames, and was also paid for by the people of Huddersfield. The lifeboat was called Huddersfield II (ON-140).[10] This Lifeboat remained on the station until 1907 when she was replaced with a lifeboat called Jacob and Rachel Vallentine (ON-580).[10][12] This lifeboat remained in operation at the station until the RNLI closed it in 1926.[10]

Re-opening as an inshore service

By the mid-1960s this area of the Norfolk coast had seen an increase of pleasure craft and beach leisure activities. The RNLI saw a change in the pattern of casualties with an increasing number of services required to rescue bathers washed out to sea, people on lilos, dinghies, and various small water craft. It was realised locally that a faster first response was needed to attend such situations and to relieve the bigger neighbouring stations of Cromer, Sheringham, Caister and Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. In 1965 the Happisburgh Inshore Lifeboat Station was opened. It operated from a small house at the top of the cliff above the gap close to the original boathouse which had been demolished. In 1987 a new inshore lifeboat house was built on the same site. These facilities included a boat hall, crew room, instruction room, drying room, toilets and washing room. In 1998 the facilities were improved and a souvenir shop was added.

Coastal erosion problems

The ongoing problems of coastal erosion along this part of the Norfolk coastline affected the lifeboat station in 2003. Damage to the cliffs below the station and the washing away of the slipway down to the beach caused the station facilities to be closed at the village location. The operations were moved half a mile south to Cart Gap, where temporary accommodation was set up. It was clear to all concerned that this move would need to be made permanent due to this situation. In 2010[13] a new boat hall and facilities were constructed at Cart Gap, and the old station was used as training room and storage. A further landslide caused more severe damage to the cliffs close to the old station, and what was left of these facilities were demolished in 2012.[14] In the storm surge in December 2013, the former site of this station collapsed into the sea.


All Weather Boats

Dates in service Class ON Name
1886–1887 Self-Righting (Pulling) Huddersfield
1887–1907 Self-Righting (Pulling) ON 140 Huddersfield II
1907–1926 Self-Righting – ON 580 Jacob and Rachel Vallentine

Inshore Lifeboats

D-class Lifeboats

Dates in service Class Op. No. Name Comments Photo
1964–1970 D-class (EA16) D-72 (Unnamed) provided by Norwich Round Table
1972–1987 D-class (EA16) D-213 (Unnamed) provided by the Biggleswade Round Table
1987–1994 D-class (EA16) D-327 (Unnamed) provided by the Leicester branch of the RNLI
1994–2003 D-class (EA16) D-468 Colin Martin
2003–present D-class (IB1) D-607 Spirit of Berkhamsted provided by the Berkhamsted branch of the RNLI

B-class Lifeboats

Dates in service Class Op. No. Name
2008–present Atlantic 75-class B-710 Friendly Forrester II

Notable rescues and awards

The Minerva

On 25 December 1870[1] the brig Minerva of Seaham was on a voyage bound for Rochester with a hold of coal. She ran aground off Ostend near Happisburgh. Most of the beachmen were at church, but four men rowed out to the vessel in a crab boat and discovered that she was fast filling with water. The lifeboat Huddersfield was hauled by road on her carriage to Ostend where she was launched from the beach. The crew of the brig by now had taken to their own lifeboat but were soon taken aboard the Huddersfield. By this time the wind had increased considerable and with the tide against them the lifeboat landed the men down the coast at Sea Palling. There with the weather still bad the lifeboat had to be hauled back to its station by carriage.[1]

Coxswain John Cannon

In 1886, coxswain John Cannon[15] of the Happisburgh lifeboat Friendship retired from the service and as an acknowledgement of his long and valuable service in saving life from many shipwrecks, was awarded an RNLI silver medal. The citation of services included the schooner Atalanta (1868), the brigs Launceston and Arctic Hero (1871), the sloop Richard and Elizabeth (1875), the ketch Rival (1880) and the collier Ludworth (1881).


  1. For Those In Peril – The Lifeboat Service of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Station by Station. Author: Leach, Nicholas. Publisher: Silver Link Publishing Ltd, First Issue 1999. Work:Part 1, East Coast of England, Berwick to Hastings, Page 48, Happisburgh, Norfolk. ISBN 1 85794 129 2
  2. OS Explorer Map 252 - Norfolk Coast East. Publisher: Ordnance Survey (21 Jul 2008).ISBN 978 0319240380
  3. "Coastal Village – Living on the Edge". News report on the damage to happisburgh due to coastal erosion. BBC News© 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  4. "RNLI Happisburgh Lifeboat Station – Home Page". Home page of station website – RNLI. ©2014 RNLI. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  5. "B-class Atlantic 75 Production List". List of Atlantic 75 B-class including B-701. Lifeboat World On-Line© 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  6. "D/IB1-class Production List". List of D-class inshore lifeboats, includes D-607. Lifeboat World On-Line© 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  7. The Ship-Wrecks off NORTH NORFOLK. Author: Tikus, Ayer. Publisher:Ayer Tikus Publications, First Edition 2003. Work: The Beach Companies, Page 18, Description of the activities, reference to Happisburgh Longshoreman's company. ASIN B0032Z2NU0
  8. "Lifeboats – Happisburgh Village Website". History of the Lifeboats of Happisburgh. ©2014 Jim Whiteside - Happisburgh Village Website. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  9. Title: The Beachmen. Author: Higgins, David. Publisher: Terence Dalton. ISBN 978 0861380473
  10. "Norfolk Heritage Exploration – Life saving". Details about Happisburgh Lifeboats. © 2014 Norfolk Heritage Explorations. Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  11. "Life saving on the Thames – The Thames Lifeboat Builders". Reference to T Woolfe and Son at Shadwell. © 2014 Royal Museum Greenwich. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  12. "Thames Ironworks - Lifeboats". Reference to the building of Jacob and Rachel Vallentine ON-580. © 2014 Newham Council. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
  13. "RNLI website - Happisburgh new lifeboat station opens". Details of the opening of the new station boathouse. © 2014 RNLI. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  14. "Plans lodged to replace Happisburgh's demolished Beach Road homes". Reference to the demolished lifeboat station. © 2014 Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  15. Lifeboat Gallantry - RNLI Medals and how they were won. Author: Cox, Barry. Published by: Spink & Son Ltd. Work: Page 178 – CANNON, John, Coxswain Happisburgh Lifeboat. ISBN 0907605893
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