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Blakeney lifeboat station - a tribute to the guardians of North Norfolk's coast

Looking north towards Blakeney Point and the horizon, a blue and white building dominates the landscape towards the western end of the spit.

This is Blakeney Lifeboat Station and is the last trace of a vital and important part of coastal life and tradition dating back 200 years. The lifeboats, manned by volunteers, kept local fishermen and sailors from round the globe safe.

North Norfolk’s beaches and coastal waters are still guarded by teams of volunteers – the brave men and women who form the crews and back-up teams of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Lifeboat crews from Wells-next-the-Sea and Cromer patrol a wide area providing emergency life-saving cover up to 50 miles off-shore.

Blakeney’s lifeboat station was closed in 1935 after silting up of the harbour but its large boathouse stands like a beacon on Blakeney Point . The lifeboat house was renovated in 2013.

It is now used by the National Trust as an information centre and for rangers caring for the nature reserve on the spit. You can see the building by taking a boat trip to the seals or opting for the one mile walk from Cley along the shingle spit.

Blakeney’s first lifeboat shed was built in the early 1800s and housed a rowing boat driven by 14 oarsmen. It was replaced with this larger building to accommodate larger lifeboats powered by sail in 1898. The RNLI took over the Blakeney station in the 1860s.

But the lifeboat tradition of saving those in peril on the sea reaches back 200 years in Cromer while Wells celebrates its 150th birthday in July 2019.

Wells has two lifeboats; a Mersey-class all-weather lifeboat which can operate in all conditions with a range of over 100 miles and a small, fast inshore lifeboat.

It is a historic commercial port and former shipbuilding centre and is now the only major harbour along the North Norfolk coast. It has a small fishing fleet and a busy port with windfarm and work vessels and many other leisure and private boats and yachts.

Cromer also has two lifeboats, one for inshore work and a Tamar class boat for offshore rescues. The lifeboat station is at the end of the Victorian pier on the town’s esplanade.

Both towns and the local coastline are popular holiday and tourist destinations, busy with swimmers, windsurfers, kayakers and walkers around the harbour, beaches and marshes all summer and autumn.

Coastal communities are immensely proud of their lifeboats and those who put their own lives on the line to rescue others. And Norfolk can stand proudly first in line when looking at the amazing lifesaving achievements of Henry Blogg, the coxswain at Cromer for 38 years.

Blogg is the most decorated lifeboatman in the history of the RNLI and the man who saved more lives than any other. In a staggering 53 year career he and his crew saved 873 lives.

Henry Blogg came from a long line of seafarers. He was born in 1876 in Cromer and joined the crew in a rowing lifeboat when aged 18. He retired as coxswain at the age of 74 - ten years beyond statutory retirement age for lifeboatmen - having been awarded the Royal National Lifeboat's gold medal for gallantry three times, the silver medal four times, the George Cross and the British Empire Medal.

He didn't drink or smoke, which was unusual for a lifeboatman in the 1800s. But even more unusually, he couldn't swim.

Blogg was a crab fisherman and also ran a deckchair and beach hut hire business in Cromer. He died in June 1954.

A RNLI Henry Blogg Museum was opened in Cromer to honour this national and local hero in 2006. It offers an insight into the courage these men displayed saving lives at sea in the most appalling weather and facing incredible risks.

One of Blogg’s lifeboats is on display in the museum which has free admission. There are also model lifeboats, Blogg's impressive collection of medals, old films, photographs, paintings and many hands-on activities.

A museum visit gives an understanding of what lifeboatmen have done and still do today to save lives at sea.

The blue and white former lifeboat station at Blakeney Point.
Blakeney Lifeboat Station on Blakeney Point now houses a National Trust information centre and is home to rangers caring for the spit. Credit National Trust Images / Alison Marsh

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