Growing demand for lifeboats
The demand for both merchant and shore-based lifeboats grew with the successive repeals of the Merchant Shipping Acts during the later half of the 19th century. As a result, boatyards and some of the larger shipyards on the Thames were building them in large numbers.
|Forrestt's Life-Boat Building Yard, Limehouse. © NMM|
|Lifeboats under construction at Thames Ironworks, 1902. © NMM|
The hulls of RNLI lifeboats had a complex construction with double diagonal planking. The exacting standards required by the RNLI surveyors meant that only a small number of boatyards were awarded these coverted building contracts.
During the 19th century, nearly 90% of the RNLI fleet built was built by yards on the Thames. The first to take full advantage of this was Forrest & Son of Limehouse. More than 115 lifeboats were built at this yard after 1864. This work was later shared with Woolfe & Son of Shadwell, who built 143 from 1876. Then, finally, Thames Ironworks built more than 206 boats between 1896-1913.
|Steam lifeboat Duke of Northumberland (1889). © NMM|
|Lifeboat under construction. © NMM|
Other yards worth mentioning are:
- R & H Green of Blackwall, who built the Duke of Northumberland , the world's first steam lifeboat, launched in 1888
- J L Thornycroft of Chiswick, whose work on marine petrol engines led to their introduction in the early 1900s.