Historic lifeboat to be preserved for future generations by Newcastle Museum

City of Newcastle

The lifeboat involved in one of the most dramatic rescues in Newcastle’s maritime history will be preserved for future generations as part of a project being carried out by Newcastle Museum.

The first stage of the conservation work, which will see damaged timbers in the vessel’s bow replaced by a skilled local shipwright, will get underway next year after Newcastle Museum was awarded more than $6500 through the Federal Government’s Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme.

Newcastle Museum Manager Collections and Community Partnerships, David Hampton with the Victoria lifeboat, which will undergo restoration work next year.

Newcastle Museum Manager Collections and Community Partnerships, David Hampton, said the Victoria is a central and significant artifact from Newcastle’s maritime history used between 1897 and 1946 to enact some of our harbour’s most daring rescue missions.

“Newcastle Museum plays an important role in interpreting and preserving our city’s fascinating history and telling local stories,” Mr Hampton said.

“For almost half a century, the Victoria and its brave crew contested the turbulent waters in what was at the time one of the most dangerous harbours in the world to come to the aid of ships off Newcastle’s coast.

“This included the dramatic rescue of 32 men on board the stricken French sailing ship Adolphe, which ran aground on the harbour’s notorious Oyster Bank sand shoals in September 1904.

“Despite the huge swells, the heavily laden rescue vessel carried 47 people to safety including the lifeboat’s own crew, who were hailed as heroes and rewarded with a purse of sovereigns from the Consul-General for France, who made a special visit to Newcastle to thank them.”

Members of the Adolphe crew rescued by the Victoria lifeboat in 1904. Photo credit: Newcastle & Hunter District Historical Society Collection, Special Collections, University of Newcastle (Australia)

The Victoria’s final mission occurred on 23 July 1921 when the lifeboat crew battled gale-force conditions in Stockton Bight for 15 hours to rescue crewmen from the struggling steamer CENTURY.

Although the crew stayed on-call for many years after this event, the Victoria never again went to sea. The Lifeboat Service was disbanded in 1946.

The historic vessel has formed part of various heritage collections since being officially retired from service and was among several significant objects from the Newcastle Maritime Museum Society Collection transferred into the care of Newcastle Museum earlier this year.

Future conservation plans for the lifeboat include the construction of a new stillage (support structure), repainting and restoration works that will allow the vessel to form part of a future public display at the Museum.

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