In 2002 it was agreed that an Atlantic 75 inshore
lifeboat would be co-located at Looe and a new
lifeboat station would be built on the site of the old
Albatross warehouse. Its construction
commenced in the autumn of that year. As well as
housing the station’s two lifeboats, the building
would provide facilities for the crew and a
purpose build RNLI souvenir shop. The first floor
of the building was designed to provide a training
room, office facilities and an observation point
from which safety of the lifeboats could be
The new purpose built station was opened 2003
and houses two inshore lifeboats. The thriving
souvenir shop is one of the busiest in the South
West and raises substantial funds which have
helped save many lives at sea.
Since it opened, there have been over 400 shouts and
290 people rescued.
2010 - Ollie Naismith
Following the tragic death of a popular local
teenager Ollie Naismith in a road traffic accident
in 2009, Ollie’s parents Maxine and John
Naismith spearheaded a fundraising campaign to
raise sufficient funds for a new D Class lifeboat.
Funding of over £35,000 was raised and the new
lifeboat named Ollie Naismith brought into service
2017 - Sheila and Dennis Tongue II
In 2017 the Sheila and Dennis Tongue II was
brought into service, funded by a generous
legacy from the late Sheila and Dennis Tongue.
It was in their retirement years that they began to
appreciate the value of the RNLI, not just for its
crucial work in saving lives, but as an integral part
of the life of a coastal town.
They became regular visitors to the RNLI shop for
Christmas cards, tea towels and calendars and as
they had no children, the decision to leave a
substantial legacy to the RNLI was partly as a
’thank you’ for the happy days they had spent in
and around Exmouth
It was also in recognition of the vital work of the
Since the re-establishment of a Lifeboat station in
1992, various Atlantic and D-Class inshore lifeboats on
station have launched 353 times, rescuing 283 people
and saving 54 lives.
Currently, in addition to the 22 volunteer crew, 20
male and 2 female, there are 8 Shore Helpers
and a very active fundraising committee of around
Over the stations history one RNLI gallantry
medal has been awarded, a silver medal which
was given to William Jennings, a Coastguard, for
a rescue he carried out from shore in 1838.
The French government also awarded a gold
medal, 2nd Class to Coxswain Edward Tomes
and a silver medal, 2nd Class, to each of the crew
of the Boys Own No. 1 when she rescued the
crew of the French barque Gypsy in 1901, when
she lost her bearings and having mistaken the
lights of Downderry for Plymouth, ran aground on
The French captain attempted to keep the boat
afloat by pumping out, but eventually gave the
command to abandon ship and 14 of the crew
were taken into the lifeboat which had been
standing off. Also saved were 3 kittens. The
lifeboat eventually returned to Looe at 1.30 am.
By morning Gypsy was a total wreck.
Looe Lifeboats are now are part of a national
RNLI safety initiative known as Community
Safety. It is designed to prevent various types of
incidents both ashore and at sea, prevention
being significantly better than ‘cure’. Locally, this
is a joint initiative between the Looe Community
Safety team, HM Coastguard and RNLI
The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea
Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736).
Registered charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland
With your support, we save lives at sea
We save lives by providing a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service,
seasonal lifeguards, water safety education and initiatives, and flood rescue response.
1866 - The First Station
The first station was established in Looe in 1866,
following the loss of several lives when local
boatmen went to the assistance of a fishing
vessel. Sadly their boat capsized in the breakers
on returning ashore.
At that time, there was a great demand for a
lifeboat due to the large number of vessels using
the harbour. So on 28 December 1866, after £420
was raised from families in Oxfordshire, a 32 foot
ten oared lifeboat with a carriage was
‘commissioned’ on condition that the Looe
townspeople provided a boathouse for £220 and
maintained it for £35 per annum.
The new boat was named The Oxfordshire, at the
request of the late Sir John Pollard Willoughby
and she remained on station until 1885 having
launched 14 times and saved 14 lives.
The Oxfordshire was succeeded by Boys Own
No. 1, a gift of the readers of Boys Own Paper,
who raised £1,200, split between two lifeboats,
one for Poole and one for Looe.
The boat was launched on seven occasions and saved
1902 - The Ryder
In May 1902 a new boat arrived, funded by a
legacy from the late William Ryder of Brixton,
Similar in design to Boys Own No. 1 and built at a
cost of £750 plus £85 delivery, the boat was
named Ryder by Lady Trelawney.
During the following years the Ryder
distinguished herself in many services. In 1915
many of the crew had gone to war and five new
volunteers were recruited. In 1928 the Ryder was
despatched to assist the Paris, a French liner with
1,500 people on board, bound for Plymouth which
had run aground on the Eddystone Rocks.
The Plymouth lifeboat was out of action so the
Ryder launched and made all possible speed to
the Eddystone, but later a message came through
that the Paris had got off on a rising tide with little
damage. This was the last service performed by
the Ryder before, much to the consternation of
local people, the Looe lifeboat station closed in
The Ryder carried out 12 launches and saved 37 lives.
It is worth noting that all the lifeboats of this
period were powered by the crew, rowing.
Today the restored Ryder is moored in Polperro
and in the summer, volunteer’s row round the
headland to Looe and join in many of the events
1991 - Relief Boat
In 1991 the RNLI resolved that, subject to the
provision of suitable shore facilities, a summer
only D Class lifeboat would be allocated to Looe
for one season’s operational evaluation. A relief
lifeboat was then stationed here until the summer
of 1994, when Spirit of the ROAC took up station
in a temporary lifeboat house provided
generously by East Looe Town Trust. In 1998 the
lifeboat was moved to the lifeboat house at
Middleton’s corner on East Looe Quay.
2002 - New Station
A History of Looe Lifeboat Station - Established 1866
Click to enlarge pictures