Historic lifeboat returns

Following a period of sanctuary at Chichester Marina, the historic Louisa Heartwell is now back in the care of the RNLI, being stored at the all-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole until a permanent berth becomes available at the historic lifeboat collection in Chatham, Kent.

The Louisa Heartwell is a historic lifeboat with a big story and was acquired by Premier Marinas in 2019 to be restored back to her original design and returned home to be displayed as the national asset she is.

Built in 1902 by the Thames Iron Works in London, she is a 38ft long non-self-righting rowing lifeboat originally donated to the RNLI by Emily Heartwell. She was designated as lifeboat number 495 and based at Cromer, on the north coast of Norfolk which, during the early 1900s, was prone to many shipwrecks and was a very busy lifeboat station.

During her time with the RNLI, Louisa Heartwell only ever had two coxswains, James ‘Buttons’ Harrison and Henry Blogg. Her rescues with Henry Blogg became history and he is famously one of the most highly decorated members in the history of the RNLI, despite never learning to swim.

Louisa Heartwell had been launched 115 times and saved 195 lives before being decommissioned in 1931. Her record is historic for an open rowing lifeboat, driven by the heroism of her brave and fearless crew battling against the most horrendous elements.

In her civilian life, she was initially converted into a motor yacht and renamed Waiora, but little was known about her new life until she resurfaced under her original name as a houseboat on the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire. In 1996, Louisa Heartwell arrived in Chichester by road and was used as a houseboat until she was acquired by Premier Marinas in 2019.

Marina manager, Paul Cook said: “We were delighted when the RNLI accepted our donation and took on the refurbishment of Louise Heartwell. She is a little boat with such an amazing story and can now enjoy her rightful retirement.”

Dr Joanna Bellis, Heritage Interpretation Development Officer at the RNLI, added: “Now that the Louisa Heartwell is out of the water we have full access around the hull and can further develop our conservation plan based on condition and originality of material.

“We know she is in extremely good condition for her age and dramatic operational history and we are looking forward to getting to know the boat in detail.”

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