The first lifeboat at Harwich was named the Braybrooke and was on station between 1821 – 1825. It was owned by the Essex Lifeboat Association.
Following a large loss of life after the vessel ‘Deutschland’ was lost, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) opened its first station in Harwich in 1876 when the lifeboat ‘Springwell’ was put on station. ‘Springwell’ was a 35ft 9in long, self righting, pulling and sailing type lifeboat and cost £432. The shed housing the current Lifeboat Museum was built in 1876 to house the new boat.
The RNLI presence remained until 1917 when the lifeboat was withdrawn. During the period 1876 – 1917, the Harwich lifeboats launched 276 times and saved 333 lives.
An increase in incidents resulted in the RNLI opening a lifeboat station at Harwich again in 1965 using a 16ft inflatable. The station became operational all year round the following year and the arrival of the 44ft Waveney class ‘Margaret Graham’ in 1967 ensured the station could function in all weathers.
The ‘John Fison’, also a 44ft Waveney class arrived in 1980 and was itself replaced in 1995 by the ‘Albert Brown’, a 55ft Severn class. The ‘Albert Brown’ is moored at the new Lifeboat Station on Harwich Quay. The Inshore Rescue Boat currently on station is the ‘Stout and Sure’, an Atlantic 21, which arrived in 1987. This boat is housed in the new Lifeboat Station on Harwich Quay.
The Harwich Society runs a lifeboat museum in the old Victorian lifeboat shed at Timberfields. As well as numerous exhibits, the 37ft Oakley class lifeboat ‘Valentine Wyndham-Quin’ can be seen. This lifeboat saw service at Clacton-on-Sea from 1968 to 1984. Visitors to the museum have a rare ‘hands on’ opportunity to see a lifeboat at close quarters.
The Museum is open (to be confirmed).