The Lizard Lifeboat

The Lizard Lifeboat Station History

RNLB Duke of Cornwall pictured in 1961 arriving at The Lizard and being winched into the first boathouse to be built on the site at Kilcobben, and 50 years later “The Duke” as she has now been named in her privately owned life, returning to Kilcobben in May 2012 to salute the then newly built boathouse and the latest of her successors RNLB Rose on her naming day …
 Pictured are 3 of the 5 RNLI Lizard Lifeboat Stations which have served, including the first and only station to be built at Polpeor Cove. Two earlier stations were sited at The Lizard’s Church Cove but unfortunately there are no known photographs of these as working stations?  The lifeboat house still standing at Polpeor Cove was inaugurated in 1914 and used until the first of the 2 stations to be sited at Kilcobben Cove was officially opened in 1961.
… please read on for the full history of our station


There have been RNLI lifeboats at The Lizard from 1859 to the current day and at Cadgwith from 1867 to 1963. The first station to be built at Kilcobben Cove was opened by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1961. The previous Lizard Station sited at Polpeor, Lizard Point was extremely exposed and in certain conditions launching lifeboats there and also from Cadgwith was a difficult and sometimes  dangerous operation and the cost of repairs, together with the general upkeep of both stations at The Lizard and Cadgwith was fast becoming prohibitive. 

After WWII it was soon recognised that this vitally important area sited at the beginning (or end) of one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world warranted a larger lifeboat than could be operated from either The Lizard or Cadgwith stations. in 1958 therefore, the Institution decided to construct a station at Kilcobben Cove, The Lizard, which lies approximately half-way between the 2 former stations, and 1¼ miles east of The Lizard Lighthouse.  Subsequently the first station to be built at Kilcobben was completed and opened in 1961. Because of it’s generally remote position, i.e. at the bottom of a cliff,  the station became a “first” building experience for many of it’s skilled workmen.

In 2010 the original 1961 built station at Kilcobben was demolished to make way for the current Lizard Lifeboat Station again another magnificent feat of engineering was completed slightly ahead of schedule in October/November 2011.  

During and after the demolition and while the re-building of the current Lifeboat House was underway, the then Lizard Lifeboat Tyne Class RNLB “David Robinson”  and then later immediately after her arrival, the new Tamar Class RNLB “Rose” both had to be stationed afloat at Cadgwith with the lifeboatmen being ferried to and from the boat during a service call-out.  At times during this period if an unfavourable easterly wind was forecast then the Cadgwith lifeboat mooring became untenable, and in this instance rather than the lifeboat having to go “off service” she was moved to be moored afloat in Polpeor Cove back at The Lizard.  

For almost 2 years the logistics of actually getting to Cadgwith in particular, or down to Polpeor  along narrow winding lanes and then getting on board the lifeboat, especially in the hectic summer months, is a testament to the dedication and skill of our boat and shore crews as well as the co-operation and willing help from the people of Cadgwith and The Lizard.

 With the arrival of our brand new Tamar Class Lifeboat RNLB “Rose”  in the summer of 2011, we said a fond farewell to the long serving  Tyne Class RNLB David Robinson” although both “Rose” and the state of the art boathouse weren’t officially named and opened by Lady Mary Holborow DCVO previously Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall until May 2012….


 A station was established at Polpeor by the RNLI in 1859 following the wreck of the SS Czar on 22 January 1859 when part of her crew was rescued by local boatmen.

1859 Boat-house built at the top of the roadway leading down to Polpeor Cove, cost £120.

1866 On 2 January, lifeboat washed among rocks and smashed while on exercise in hurricane force winds – Three of 10 crew drowned – Coxswain Peter Mitchell, Richard Harris and Nicholas Stevens. Institution gave £130 to local fund.

1885 A larger boat was provided for Polpeor, and the old (smaller) boat moved to a new station at Church Cove, where a new boathouse was built for £300.

1888 Silver Medal to Coxswain Edwin Matthews for long and gallant services.

1893 Silver Medal to Captain David G Ball, master of the Gustav Bitter for gallantly saving one of his crew while stranded off The Lizard 4 March 1893.

1899 Church Cove station closed. Boathouse purchased by owner of the site for £40.

1907 Silver Medals awarded to Coxswain William Edward Mitchell and Second Coxswain Edwin Mitchell for their part in a service to the liner Suevic on 17/18 March 1907. Silver Medals also awarded to the rev. Henry Vyvyan, Coxswain Edward Rutter (both Cadgwith lifeboat) George Anderson and William Williams (both crew of Suevic) The Lizard boat rescued 167 persons in six trips, see also Cadgwith for details of service.

1914 New boathouse constructed at a cost of £5,000.

1959 A Centenary Vellum awarded.

1961 Polpeor Station closed.


The station was established by the Institution in 1867.

1859 Silver Medal awarded to Mr John Ridge for the rescue of 18 people by shore boat from the Schooner Czar that broke in half and sank after hitting Vroge Rocks during a south-westerly gale on 22 January 1856.

1867 Lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £185.

1886 Binoculars voted to Coxswain Edwin Rutter.

1891 Coxswain Edwin Rutter died as the result of the capsizing of his fishing boat. He had been coxswain since 1864. Committee of Management voted £25 to local fund.

1907 Silver Medals voted to Rev N Vyvyan and Coxswain Edward Rutter in recognition of their service when the Cadgwith lifeboat rescued 227 lives when the White Star liner Suevic in dense fog ran onto the Manheere Reef off The Lizard on 17 March 1907. Cadgwith, Lizard, Coverack and Porthleven lifeboats rescued 456 of the 524 passengers and crew.

1941 The 4th Cadgwith lifeboat Guide of Dunkirk had just been completed at Rowhedge Ironworks when the evacuation of Dunkirk came. She was one of the 19 lifeboats that went to Dunkirk. After Dunkirk she returned to the building yard for repairs and was then sent to Cadgwith.

1958 Linlithgow Sea Rangers requested permission to adopt the name of “Guide of Dunkirk” for their crew.

1961 Cadgwith RNLB “Guide of Dunkirk” left service.

1963 Cadgwith Lifeboat Station closed.

The last Cadgwith Lifeboat “Guide of Dunkirk” ready to be hauled out onto the greased wooden poles
then down on to the beach for launching …..
                 The current Lizard Lifeboat House under construction with  visiting local primary school children learning from pictures how it had been managed. 
      Photographs: Geoff Squibb & Lyndsay Bray 
boathouse kids

THE LIZARD LIFEBOAT STATION  (Formerly Lizard-Cadgwith)

The first station to be built at Kilcobben Cove was opened on 7 July 1961 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who was at the time a member of the Committee of Management of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. 

His Royal Highness named the new lifeboat The Duke of Cornwall (Civil Service No 33) 

1961 The new station, known as Lizard-Cadgwith, was opened at a cost of more than £90,000 and involved major civil engineering work.

1962 On 23 July a launch by the lifeboat was featured in the first ever television programme to be transmitted live via Telstar from this country to the continents of North America and Europe.

1967 Lifeboat launched on 28 May to welcome Sir Francis Chichester, home after sailing single-handed around the world.
1979 A special framed certificate awarded to the coxswain and crew for display at the station in recognition of their services in connection with numerous yachts in difficulties during the Fastnet Race on 15 August.

1985 Bronze Medal of the Institution awarded to Coxswain/Mechanic Peter Mitchell in recognition of the courage and high standard of seamanship displayed by him when the lifeboat rescued the crew of three and saved the yacht Bass which had lost her rudder in a south westerly near gale and a rough sea on 3 September 1984.

1987 On 1 July at a meeting of the Committee of Management of the RNLI, approval was given for the current lifeboat station’s name to be changed to The Lizard. This was in accordance with the wishes of the station and the local community.

1988 Adaptation work carried out in order to accommodate the station’s new Tyne Class lifeboat.

1993 A collective Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the Chairman of the Institution Mr Michael Vernon, was presented to Coxswain Philip Burgess, Second Coxswain David Hill, Mechanic Roger Legge, Assistant Mechanic John Harris, crew Michael Legge, Lewis Mitchell, Richard Woodmansey and Robert Francis for the service on 30 May, when The David Robinson lifeboat rescued 10 people and saved the 49ft gaff rigged yawl “Heptarchy” which had fouled a trawl and blown out her sails 41 miles south-east of The Lizard. After several attempts the lifeboat was manoeuvred along a trough in the waves and a heaving line was passed. In winds up to 60 knots and very rough seas the yacht was taken in tow to a mooring in the Helford River. The lifeboat returned to station with a very exhausted crew, who had been at sea for nearly 12 hours.

1995 Major repairs and alterations to lifeboat slipway

2004* The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was accorded to Coxswain Philip Burgess in recognition of his leadership, seamanship and determination when the lifeboat saved two people and the yacht Gellie on 7 July 2004. The service took place at night in severe weather conditions approximately 35 miles south of Lizard Point. The winds were north easterly blowing force 11 to 12 and the seas were 6 to 7 metres. The conditions precluded evacuation or any transfer of crew and therefore a tow line was successfully passed and established.  

*SEE BELOW for Media article relating to this service.

 2009 The Lizard’s new Tamar lifeboat appeal was launched. In 2010 the old station was demolished to make way for a larger 21st Century building to house the new Tamar class all-weather lifeboat.

2011 Tamar class all-weather lifeboat RNLB Rose went on service. New station due for completion October/November 2011.


Five Silver Medals for lifeboatmen at previous stations and one Bronze Medal have been awarded.

Phil and Dan May 2010
Coxswain Phil Burgess and Mechanic Dan Atkinson on one of their many trips to and fro’ The Lizard Lifeboat “David Robinson” moored afloat at either Polpeor or Cadgwith Cove during the building of the current Lizard Lifeboat Station in 2010/11.