Station history

A station was established, presumably in 1803, when one of Greathead's lifeboats was sent there. The station apparently lapsed for some time but was re-established by the Institution in 1833. In 1856 the boat was transferred to Camber (closed 26 Feb 1901) on the other side of the river, but the name of the station was not changed. In the same year (1856) another boat was stationed at Winchelsea.  Rye was closed in 1901 and in 1910 Winchelsea was renamed Rye Harbour.  Rye Harbour was eventually closed in 1928 after the lifeboat disaster.

An inshore lifeboat was first stationed at Rye Harbour in 1966.

1831

Gold Medals to Lt E C Earle RN and Lt John Steane RN for their gallant efforts in trying to save the crew of the brig Fame on 1 February. All the crew had drowned but they recovered gold worth £3,000 from the wreck.

1832

Gold Medal to Lieut H L Parry RN for rescuing the master and 30 men from the French fishing boat L'Aimee on 21 November 1831.

1834

Silver Medals to Lt John Somerville RN and Lt Richard Morgan for rescuing the master and seven men from the brig Conrad on 23 January. Four other men were drowned.

1835

Silver Medal to Lt William Southey RN for rescuing the master and six men from the French brig Charles Tronde on 9 October. Two men drowned.

1838

On 20 March a coastguard boat capsized whilst on service to the brig Hero resulting in three men drowning. They were Thomas Bolton, I Falling and J Scammel.

1844

Silver Medal awarded to James Bacon, master of the smack British Rover for rescuing the master and 12 men from the wrecked ship Singapore on 14 July.

1876

New lifeboat house constructed at Rye at a cost of £350.

1891

Silver Medal awarded to James Collins, coxswain of the Rye lifeboat in acknowledgement of his gallant services in which he assisted in saving 45 lives during the past 12 years.

1901

Rye Station closed.

Winchelsea

1864

Silver Medal awarded to William C Buck, Chief Officer of the Coastguard service for rescuing the master of the fishing cutter Thetis which, during a gale force wind had sunk off 36 Tower, Winchelsea on 13 February. Costguard G Terry was swept out of the boat and lost his life.

1879

Inspector reported that the signal gun - a 12lb cannonade at Winchelsea was considered too small and could not be heard at the next Coastguard station 1¼ miles distant, from whence half the crew came.

1882

New lifeboat house constructed at Winchelsea at a cost of £245.

Whilst proceeding to the assistance of s.s. Matin of Sunderland on 4 November (Rye lifeboat also in attendance) during a fresh gale, the lifeboat was struck broadside by two heavy seas in quick succession, which capsized her. All the crew were thrown out but, with one exception, regained the boat. Edward Robus was drowned, his body was washed ashore. Committee of Management voted £200 to the relief of the dependants.

Rye Harbour

1910

Winchelsea lifeboat station re-named Rye Harbour.

1928

The worst disaster for many years occurred on 15 November when the whole of the lifeboat crew of 17 were drowned, practically the whole male fishing population of the village. The lifeboat was launched in a south-west gale with heavy rain squalls and heavy seas to the vessel Alice. News was received that the crew of the Alice had been rescued by another vessel and the recall signal was fired three times, but apparently the crew of the lifeboat had not seen it. As the lifeboat was coming into harbour she was seen to capsize and the whole crew perished. All the dependants were pensioned by the Institution. The local fund realised over £35,000. The 17 men who lost their lives were Coxswain Herbert Head, and two sons James and John; Second Coxswain Joseph Stonham, Bowman Henry Cutting, and his two brothers, Roberts and Albert; three brothers Charles, Robert and Alexander Pope, brothers, William and Leslie Clark, brothers; Maurice and Arthur Downey, and cousins; H Smith, W Igglesden and C Southerden.

A memorial tablet made of Manx stone was presented to Rye Harbour by the people of the Isle of Man. A memorial stained glass window was placed in Winchelsea Church. It depicts a lifeboat putting out to a ship in distress while figures on the shore watch it as it goes.

Rye Station closed.

1954

The memorial erected locally had fallen into disrepair and in 1954 the Institution took over the maintenance.

1966

Inshore lifeboat station established with the placing on service of a D class lifeboat in June.

1981

A Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution awarded to Helmsman Keith W Downey for the rescue of three of the seven people, two women and a boy on board the 24ft ketch Midley Belle which had lost her main sheet and had engine failure whilst returning to harbour in an increasing fresh westerly wind with seas eight feet high over the bar. The ketch was sailed by her crew into open seas and eventually taken in tow by the Dungeness lifeboat.

1983

Lifeboat Disaster Memorial restored including re-cutting of the inscription at top of memorial.

1984

A Vellum was awarded to commemorate the station's aggregate service of 144 years service covering the periods 1803 to 1928 and 1966 to 1984.

1986

D class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by a C class on 21 June.

1990

Awarded to the station a 150th Anniversary Vellum.

1995

New boathouse constructed. It provides housing for the lifeboat and launching tractor, a self-contained office, changing/drying room, workshop, toilets, for the National River Authority, a crew room, galley and office.

A new timber slipway and an elevated walkway leading to the boathouse was also constructed.

1996

C class lifeboat withdrawn and an Atlantic 21 placed on temporary duty as of 28 January.

Atlantic 21 class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by an Atlantic 75 class lifeboat B727 which was placed on service on 17 July.

2002

Shoreworks to improve access completed in March at a cost of £53,391.

2010

The new Atlantic 85 class lifeboat B842 Hello Herbie was placed on service on 22 June. This lifeboat was provided by the generous bequest of Mrs Peggy Joan Staveley in memory of her husband Herbert. Lifeboat B727 has been withdrawn. 

MEDAL AWARDS

Three gold and six silver medals have been awarded.