Tyne and Wear
Society , Maritime, Social Reform
The North East has played a major part in the development of safety at sea from the invention of the world’s first lifeboat to the foundation of Trinity House.
On 24 October 1864, the people of Tynemouth watched helplessly as two ships broke up on the Black Middens rocks near the mouth of the river. Their response to the tragedy was to form the world’s first Volunteer Life Brigade. The Headquarters, which they built on the cliffs, opened in 1867 and is a classic and highly picturesque seaside building – clad in timber and painted blue and white.
The building now doubles as an active Watch House and a museum because since 1867 the Brigade has been involved in innumerable rescues and their Headquarters is stuffed with unusual, sometimes beautiful and often unbearably touching mementoes of the rescues making it one of the most atmospheric and emotional places in the area.