RNLI 200th Anniversary

Nestled along the stunning coastline of Salcombe lies a beacon of hope and bravery—the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station. This humble yet formidable station stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment of its crew members, who valiantly serve to save lives at sea. 365 days. 24/7. RNLI crews country-wide selflessly volunteer to prevent loss of life at sea, just like our hometown heroes in Salcombe. 

On March 4th 2024, it was the 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Salcombe is set to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the RNLI in grand fashion this year. A magnificent light display, courtesy of renowned international light artist Bruce Munro, will illuminate the fields across the water, strategically crafted for optimal viewing from Salcombe. The grand illumination ‘Field of Light’ is scheduled to be unveiled on October 5th, marking the official switch-on, and will continue to captivate spectators until January 10th, 2025. Keep reading for a little history about Salcombe’s very own RNLI. 


The story of the Salcombe RNLI station began amidst the bustling maritime activities of the 19th century. With the increasing trade and traffic along the English coast, the need for a reliable rescue service became paramount. It was in response to this necessity that the station was born.

In 1869 the Earl of Devon presented the site for the lifeboat house at South Sands. The high sheriff of Devon provided funds so that Salcombe would be equipped with both a lifeboat and a new building. A year later, in 1870, at a cost of £285, the lifeboat house was completed at South Sands. The inaugural moment when the lifeboat first touched the waters of Salcombe, carrying the hopes and aspirations of the community, marked the dawn of a new era in maritime safety.

Over the years there have been a lot of rescues, and lives saved by the Salcombe lifeboat. In 1878, the Freemasons of England established a station in Hope Cove. After 58 years in service, the Hope Cove lifeboat station closed. In 1922 the lifeboat, stationed at South Sands was moved to a more permanent mooring in the harbour near Batson’s creek. The lifeboat station at South Sands closed and then a station shortly re-opened in the harbour. New facilities were given to the crew, including a museum and gift shop. 


At the heart of this operation is the dedicated crew, a diverse group of volunteers who come from all walks of life. They share a common passion; a commitment to respond to distress calls, whatever the weather or time of day. Their training is rigorous ensuring they can navigate treacherous waters and face daunting challenges with unparalleled expertise.

Every member of the RNLI Salcombe crew has a story: a profession, a hobby, a life beyond the station. Yet, when the call to action resonates, they transform into a cohesive unit, driven by a singular purpose: to save lives. But it is not just about responding to emergencies; the RNLI Salcombe crew is deeply embedded in the community. They engage in educational outreach, spreading awareness about water safety and instilling a sense of responsibility among locals and visitors alike. Their presence extends far beyond the station doors, embodying the RNLI's ethos of prevention, rescue, and education. 

For as long as the tides ebb and flow, the courageous crew of Salcombe will remain guardians of the sea, ready to answer the call of duty, ensuring that the waters remain a sanctuary for all who traverse them.



Salcombe Lifeboat RNLI, https://salcombelifeboat.co.uk/#about [Accessed: January 9th 2024, 15:00]

Salcombe Lifeboat RNLI, https://salcombelifeboat.co.uk/history/ [Accessed: January 9th 2024, 15:00]