The Lizard Lifeboat Station at Kilcobben Cove is set in a ruggedly beautiful spot at the foot of a 140ft (45 metre) cliff less than a mile from England’s most southerly point. The station’s location at the bottom of a cliff means that when the boat needs to be launched the crew have to run down more than 170 steep steps from the station car-park to the boathouse (fortunately there is a funicular lift to take them back up!)
Lizard Point has been a famous navigation marker for seafarers since prehistoric times and is mentioned as early as 250 BC. Countless ships and lives have been lost in its treacherous waters – but in the last 160 years, many ships and lives have also been saved by successive Lizard, Cadgwith and latterly, Lizard lifeboats.
There have been RNLI lifeboats at The Lizard since 1859. From 1867 until 1963 there was also a lifeboat station at Cadgwith, a couple of miles east along the coast. The old Cadgwith lifeboat house is practically on the beach in the centre of the village and is still made good use of today by Cadgwith residents.
The first Lizard lifeboat station was at the most southerly point, Polpeor, and in 1885 another station was built at nearby Church Cove, a mile or so to the east. The Church Cove station closed in 1899 but the Polpeor station continued right through until 1961. A lifeboat station was opened at Cadgwith in 1867 and remained fully manned until *1961 at which time the 2 stations, The Lizard and Cadgwith were amalgamated. The Cadgwith station was finally closed in 1963.
When the first boathouse to be built at Kilcobben opened in *1961, the station became known as “The Lizard Cadgwith Lifeboat Station”. The name was officially changed by the RNLI in 1987 to its current “The Lizard Lifeboat Station”.
A series of boats have served The Lizard stations over the years, ranging from the original six-oared, 30 ft Anna Maria in 1859 costing the princely sum of £135 to the present £2.7m twin engine 53 ft Tamar class lifeboat Rose (16-20), official number 130.
The last lifeboat to be stationed in Cadgwith was “The Guide of Dunkirk” so called because the Girl Guide Movement funded the building of the boat. Before the start of her long and distinguished career at Cadgwith and before her official naming, along with 18 other RNLI lifeboats she saw proud service at Dunkirk hence her final name, a fitting tribute …. She was the 4th and last lifeboat to be stationed in Cadgwith and the only one of the four to be motorised. She served from 1941 to the stations closure.
The last Cadgwith Lifeboat “Guide of Dunkirk”. For launch and recovery the lifeboat was hauled onto rollers and pulled up and down the beach by a winch. Photograph: circa 1957
The current Lizard Lifeboat Station, and its funicular lift on the way down to meet the crew coming home from an exercise launch …..