Hastings and the tale of the "self-righting lifeboat"

Hastings historian David Renno is in print with James Beeching of Hastings and the Self-Righting Lifeboat.

Hastings historian David Renno
Hastings historian David Renno

It is available in Hastings from the History House, Courthouse Street, the Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-a-nore Road or at www.hastingslocalbooks.com.

David explains: “James Beeching was born in 1788 into a local Bexhill smuggling family and was the youngest of seven children.

“It is perhaps not surprising having been born into this environment his attention in later life turned to boats and boat building. He learnt his trade with a Hastings boat builder and eventually had his own very successful boat yard on the town’s beach with partner John Gallop until 1814.

“Three years later Beeching left the country with his wife and family and made a new life in Vlissingen, Holland and created another very successful boat yard. He was there for seven years before returning to the UK with his family in 1824 and settled in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where he again started up yet another successful boat yard. During the mid-19th century the number of lives being lost at sea around our coasts was rising considerably and in 1850 there was believed to be 784 lives lost from 681 shipwrecks. It was this statistic that prompted the 4th Duke of Northumberland to sponsor a competition the following year, to find the best lifeboat design.

“One of the competition’s terms was the lifeboat had to have the ability to self-right. James Beeching submitted a design and was deemed the winner from the two hundred and eighty entries from around the world and claimed the prize of one hundred guineas (£105).

“Beeching’s first lifeboat, built to his design, was named the Northumberland after the competition sponsor and was stationed at Ramsgate, Kent for 14 years. Beeching of course was not the only designer/builder of lifeboats but this book is about him and records the numerous boats and lifeboats he and his family built during a century of boat building.

“The book also refers to lifeboat designers that preceded Beeching.”