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Visiting Sennen Lifeboat House

There has been a lifeboat stationed at the far west of Sennen Cove since 1853, poised and ready to rush to the aid of any stricken vessels out to sea within 50 miles.

New Commercial Tragedy 1853

The Brisons, the long line of jagged rocks situated just off Land’s End, was responsible for the wreck of the brig the New Commercial in 1851. All those on board were lost apart from Captain Sanderson and his wife Mary, who spent two terrifying nights clinging to the rocks as local coastguards and fishermen tried to save them, and a crewman called Isaac Williams who grabbed hold of a piece of wreckage and miraculously managed to reach the shore . The conditions were so bad that boats trying to help those on the rocks could not get close enough to help, and a large crowd gathered to watch the rescue attempts. The coastguards had with them a new piece of equipment which had never been used before – a rocket that could be fired and take rope to stranded survivors. The second firing reached Captain Sanderson and his wife, and Mary was attached to the rope, pulled through the ocean and taken onto a boat. Captain Sanderson followed, and although Mary did not survive the exposure and exhaustion brought on by her ordeal, Captain Sanderson was brought safely to shore. Mary’s grave can still be seen in Sennen churchyard, and is cared for by the local coastguard to commemorate her tragic story. Perhaps just as tragic is the death of a local fisherman, who caught pneumonia trying to rescue the Sandersons – a forerunner to the volunteers at the RNLI who risk their lives to save others.

Lifeboat History

The public interest in this epic rescue led to the building of a lifeboat station in Sennen Cove, so that help would be available should any other incidents take place. There has been a service provided at Sennen ever since, and the lifeboat station and its crew have been responsible for many rescues. The lifeboat house and the life boats themselves have seen many upgrades, with boats originally powered by oars, then sails and now of course engines. The slipway at Sennen has also been modified over the years, with a revolving plate at the top installed to spin the lifeboat round so that it was ready for action and relaunch, and a second slipway was built so that recovery of the lifeboat can happen at low or high tide. There is currently a Tamar class lifeboat and an ILB (smaller boat used for inshore rescues) stationed in Sennen.

See for Yourself!

Sennen Lifeboat House is open to the public throughout the year from 8.30am, with a gallery through which you can see the lifeboat itself. There is a souvenir shop from Easter to September and information videos to watch, and if you are lucky (meaning others at sea are not!) you may get to see a launch – always a spectacular sight. Lifeboat Day is a highlight too, when the RNLI and Coastguard service join forces to show their joint lifesaving power and raise money needed to maintain their vital presence around our coastline.

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