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RNLI receive National Lottery funding for exciting new project

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has received £30,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project which will involve preserving and digitising a unique collection of glass plate negatives of lifeboats built in the 20th century.

The project is made possible by money raised by National Lottery players and a generous gift from Christopher Andreae, an Isle of Wight resident who is much interested in local and maritime history. The collection will be preserved and digitised and then shared via a programme of events and activities.

The collection of nearly one thousand glass negatives formed part of the historic archive of the Beken family in Cowes, who for generations have been photographing the yachting and maritime activity in the area, which were transferred to the RNLI with advice from Sibylla Jane Flower, consultant on archives at Christies. As a result of this project the collection will be better cared for and better described. Most importantly, the project will create digital content that can be used to reach a wide range of audiences.

This project is a significant step towards engaging coastal communities and diverse groups across the UK with the crews' stories of bravery in saving lives at sea since 1824. Working with photographer Jack Lowe, there will be a programme of outreach activities and innovative ways to take the RNLI's heritage from the archive to everyone.

The records in the RNLI archive date from our foundation in 1824 as the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck right through to the present day. They are largely held at RNLI Headquarters in Poole, Dorset, and relate to the administration, key figures, crew, lifeboats, gallantry medals, fundraising activities, legacies and publications of the RNLI. Beken of Cowes on the Isle of Wight photographed RNLI lifeboats built by JS Whites on the island from the late 19th century until the early 1980s.

Commenting on the award, Hayley Whiting, RNLI Heritage Archive and Research Manager said:

“We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players and Chris Andreae. The project will ensure the long-term preservation of a unique collection and result in innovative and exciting ways to engage the public with the heritage of the RNLI.”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support this project which will provide a fascinating glimpse into our maritime heritage – from coastal communities to crews at sea. As well as ensuring the survival of this unique collection, this project will give people of all ages the opportunity to get involved in exploring their heritage.”

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen, Carrybridge and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland