The Zetland Lifeboat Museum and Redcar Heritage Centre is a must-see attraction for those visiting the North Yorkshire Coast, with fascinating displays that will appeal to all age groups.
The centrepiece is “Zetland”, the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world. She was built in 1802 by the lifeboat pioneer, Henry Greathead, and between the years 1802 and 1880, “Zetland” and her crews saved more than 500 lives.
The Museum is run by a team of knowledgeable volunteers who are always pleased to welcome visitors, and who are happy to answer questions or, upon request, to provide a guided tour.
Over winter 2018/19, “Zetland” received some carefully planned conservation work, including a full repaint, and she is looking her best for her visitors. The Museum has a viewing platform, from which visitors can look into the boat’s interior and see the details of her construction, and the conditions in which her crews worked. Above the viewing platform are the 12-foot-long oars that propelled the boat – it was all muscle-power as there were no engines in those days. Ask the Museum guide why one set of oars was painted blue, and the other white!
The Museum is in a Grade 2 listed building that was built in 1877 for a later lifeboat, named “Emma”. After “Emma’s” retirement, the building became empty, and in 1907 it was decided to use it to house the old lifeboat, “Zetland”. The Museum as we see it now has developed over the subsequent decades.
There are two floors to visit; the ground floor houses “Zetland” along with many other maritime exhibits. In the adjoining room is a display of model lifeboats showing the development of their designs from 1802 to the present day.
Upstairs, there are displays of model boats of all types, ranging from the local fishing cobles to incredibly detailed 19th century sailing ships. Visitors will also find a replica of a typical fisherman’s cottage from the time “Zetland” was operational. In the Laurie Picknett Gallery, there are displays of photographs and postcards relating to the local area and its many characters, and the largest display of Redcar crested china in existence. There is a TV screen from which visitors can select short films relating to the local area, and also a radar display from an antenna on the roof showing nearby shipping.
“Zetland”, being the oldest lifeboat in the world, and having been in the forefront of Britain’s great tradition of saving lives at sea, is important to our history as a maritime nation. To mark her importance, “Zetland” is included in the National Register of Historic Vessels.
The Zetland Lifeboat Museum and Redcar Heritage Centre is situated on Redcar’s seafront Esplanade, and is open from 11am to 4pm (5pm weekends) every day from Easter to mid-October.
The Museum is free to enter. Donations are encouraged in order to help with the upkeep of “Zetland” and the other exhibits, and there is a shop where visitors can purchase gifts and mementoes.