Landguard Fort Lifeboat

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The Landguard Fort Lifeboat is an example of early attempts to design an unsinkable vessel. Several years before the foundation of the RNLI, Richard Hall Gower had been addressing the special problems of lifeboat design. Bayleys at Ipswich built one to his design, being paid for by public subscription initiated by Admiral Page, they launched her from the yard near Stoke Bridge in April 1821 and thoroughly tested her on the Orwell. She took station at Landguard Fort, South of Felixstowe. There is a plan of this vessel in Gower’s “Original Observations” .

She had a long flat floor, flared out to project at both head and stern, she was steered by a long sweep over the stern. Fourteen copper-clad water-tight cases, five on each side and four down the mid line provided buoyancy. Oars and two foul-weather sprit-sails provided propulsion and there was provision for self-draining when she was fully waterlogged. About 30’ overall and 7’ breadth, she was capable of supporting 25 men even when flooded, her normal crew was six oarsmen and a coxswain. Gower remarked very emphatically that a coxswain should be in constant charge of her; for without such an experienced man, she would be almost useless.


Gower, R. H. (1834). Original Observations regarding the inability of ships to perform their duty etc. S. Piper, Albion Press, Ipswich.Ch. IX pp. 67-74