Old Lifeboat House – Lytham Saint Annes, England - Atlas Obscura

Old Lifeboat House

Lytham Saint Annes, England

This former lifeboat house now used by a funeral service was the site of a 19th-century boating tragedy.  

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This building, now home to a funeral company, was once the boathouse of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat serving Saint Anne’s in Lancashire.

On December 9, 1886, a huge storm caused the German registered barque, Mexico, to wreck. Initially, the Southport lifeboat Eliza Fernley was launched but on approaching the stricken ship, the vessel capsized in the turbulent waters. It washed up three miles from Southport, most of the crew members drowned.

About 20 minutes after the Southport boat was launched the Saint Anne’s boat, Laura Janet, was dragged from the boathouse to be launched into the storm. It too capsized as it approached the Mexico. In total, 27 of 29 of the two lifeboats’s crew members drowned. The details of the capsize of the Saint Anne’s boat are still unknown. Eventually, the Charles Biggs on its first-ever rescue attempt rescued all 12 members of the ship’s crew. 

After the storm, the Mexico was raised and went back into service, only to sink again in 1890, off the coast of Scotland.

A public fund was established to help the 16 widows and 50 orphans created by this disaster. Queen Victoria and the Emperor of Germany contributed. A sum of £30,000, nearly £4 million by today’s standards, was raised in total. This was the first time that the RNLI had raised funds by street collections, a practice that continues and remains popular among the British public.

This historic little boathouse at Saint Anne’s was kept in use until 1925, when responsibility was passed to the nearby Lytham boathouse. The old building was then repurposed and is currently used by the funeral service. 

A plaque pays homage to the disaster, and a memorial statue commemorating the events is located on the south promenade.

Know Before You Go

You need to make sure when navigating that you know whether you are in Lytham or St Anne's. Both still have active and historic lifeboat houses (the Lytham station operates an inshore rescue boat). You cannot miss the historic Lytham lifeboat house, it's next to a prominent white painted windmill near the coast road.