Watch House Details

THE HISTORY OF T.V.L.B As you have been reading the stories which our figureheads have to tell. you may have pictured the scenes of disaster which the witnesses of their demise beheld as they watched from the cliffs at Tynemouth.Imagine. then, the even greater horror of a small schooner and a Large passenger steamship crashing onto the Black Midden Rocks in a terrible late afternoon winter storm. Lifeboats try to approach the stricken vessels: one is disabled as she is smashed into the steamship by the awesome seas. then is caught up in the wreck of the schooner. four of her crew being thrown out of the Lifeboat onto the wreck. The other lifeboats are unable to approach because of the ferocious storm. Lives are Lost when a lifeboat launched from the steamer is overwhelmed by the waves. Hopes rise as the Coastguard get a rocket line aboard the steamer and rig up the breeches bouy. Then, disaster strikes again as the breeches buoy gear fails and darkness falls. ALL through the black night, the terrible screams of crew and passengers are heard as they cling to the wreck or are dragged to their death by the raging seas. The steamer is heard breaking up.but those on the shore are utterly helpless and can only watch and wait as people die but a few yards from where they stand. No one can help them. On 24th November 1864, exactly that tragedy was played out at Tynemouth when the Glasgow to London passenger steamer " Stanley " and the schooner " Friendship " ran aground on the Middens in a severe storm. Over 30 people were rescued, but 24 Lives were lost. including the 6 man crew of " Friendship " and two of the lifeboatmen, who died when the schooner was smashed to pieces in the darkness.

The wreck of the SS Stanley at Tynemouth November 24th 1864

One of the witnesses of the disaster was John Morrison. an officer in the Rifle Volunteers in Tynemouth Castle. He thought that, if more trained men had been available to assist the 4 Coastguards who had struggled against hopeless odds with the breeches buoy gear, those 24 Lives might have been saved. He approached two local dignitaries. John Foster Spence and his brother Joseph, with his idea and they immediately seized upon and called a public meeting in North Shields Town Hall to sound out public opinion. That meeting. held on 5th December 1864, resolved that a body of men be formed, to be trained up ready to assist the Coastguard whenever the need arose in the saving of life from shipwreck Over 140 men immediately volunteered and the Tynemouth volunteer Life Brigade was born. The Board of Trade's approval and help was enlisted, and so impressed were they with the performance of the Tynemouth men that they circulated the rules of TVLB to every Coastguard station in the country. to be used as the basis of similar organisations all round the coast. Thus the mouth of the river Tyne gave birth to a second major lifesaving force on the coast, the Auxiliary Coastguard Service, the first being the Tyne Lifeboat Society at South Shields. Today, the TVLB continues to provide coastal search and rescue on beach, rocks and cliffs for H.M. Coastguard. Since 1983. the Brigade. along with our fellow VLBs at SouthShields and Sunderland. has been a Declared Facility, an autonomous, wholly self organised and financed rescue service.We use the Latest rescue and communications equipment. all paid for by voluntary public donations, but still serve the same purpose as our predecessors of 1864 the saving of life from the sea. That we do so from our headquarters in this wonderful Watch House is a priceless bonus! The present Watch House was built in 1887. As guardians of one of the most important parts of Tynemouth's heritage, the Committee have registered the Watch House as a national museum and are committed to maintaining the building and the collection which it houses for the benefit of you. the public, for the foreseeable future. We would ask you for your support, not only for the upkeep of the Watch House, but perhaps more importantly, for the reason behind the buildings existence. the vital lifesaving rescue service's provided by the unpaid volunteers of the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigrade.

OPENING TIMES: Tues. - Sat 10 - 3/Sun 10 to - 2.00 - ENTRANCE FREE For further information and party bookings Tel: 252 0433
Return to Tynemouth homepage