The Zetland is the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world and is listed within the National Historic Ship Register as part of the Nations Historic Fleet and was built in 1802. She saw 78 years of service and saved over 500 lives from the treacherous Redcar coast.
The Museum has existed in its present form since 1980. In that year it was threatened with closure and a public meeting was subsequently called to prevent this. From this meeting a group of dedicated volunteers formed the ‘Friends of the Zetland’.Over thirty years later the museum continues, staffed on a voluntary basis by volunteers and with some of the original ‘Friends of the Zetland’ still active. The museum building itself is a Grade II listed structure. It was originally erected in 1877 to house the lifeboat Emma with her Coxswain and family, and has several rooms open to the public on two floors.
With free admission, it is well worth a visit to view the many artefacts within the museum representing local heritage and maritime history. The ground floor houses Zetland herself, together with her famous call-out drum, and there is also several displays, including one showing lifeboats through their different eras of development. Upstairs in the Laurie Picknett Gallery is an extensive collection of photographs, postcards and memorabilia relating to Redcar and its characters, dating back to the 1800’s.
Also on this floor is a replica fisherman’s cottage of the early 1900’s.
On both floors are audio-visual displays and a small selection of short films.
Zetland is the oldest lifeboat in the world and is important to our history as a maritime nation and is included on teh National Register of Historic Vessels that lists existing vessels of our nation that are considered historic. This register comprises about 1200 names and from these a small select few of about 45 have been placed in a 'core collection'. This special core is of pre-eminent national importance and contains such as HMS Victory, Mary Rose, Cutty Sark, HMS Belfast and includes Zetland.
Zetland came to Redcar in 1802. She had been purchased by public subscription for the use of the fishermen and subsequently saved over 500 lives during 78 years of service. She was saving lives before the Battle of Trafalgar and had been doing this for 22 years before the RNLI was set up in 1824.
It is therefore fitting that Zetland still sits in the Zetland Lifeboat Museum and Redcar Heritage Centre where she can look out over the scene of her historic activities. Long may she continue to do so.