Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lifeboat museums in Sheringham...

When we were on holiday in Norfolk recently, I noticed that there are lots of places for lifeboat fanatics to visit... such as the RNLI lifeboat stations dotted along the coast, the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum at Cromer and various other private museums and visitors centres.

Ade's a bit of a lifeboat and fishing heritage fan, so when we were in Sheringham, we decided to check out The Mo, which bills itself as 'a place of people and boats' and has an impressive historic fleet of lifeboats.

It's quite a modern museum, with a glass frontage looking out over the sea and a viewing tower perched on top of the building...
The Mo

We admired some of the old wooden lifeboats...
Manchester Unity of Oddfellows lifeboat

Enterprise lifeboat

And then checked out the old photos in the 'social history' section upstairs, including this slightly random one of a woman with a goat-pulled cart...
Goat pulled cart
Looks like a great way to travel! :)

On one floor was an area dedicated to the 'Sheringham Shoal', which is a wind farm currently being built off the Norfolk coast (due for completion in 2012). There was an interactive display where you could try generating some electricity by cranking a handle.

I managed what I thought was quite a respectable 84 watts (enough to power a light bulb)...
Kate power

But Ade blew that out of the water by generating enough to power a TV using only one hand!
Ade power
I think I need to find a way of hooking him up to the national grid... :)

We bought some lovely prints of old railway advertisement posters in the shop on the way out, which feature 'East Coast Types'...
East coast types prints
There's the Lobsterman at the bottom, the Broads Wherryman (looking dapper in his cap) in the centre and my favourite, the Scottish Fisher Lass at the top. They're by artist Frank Newbould, who designed lots of railway posters in his bold, colourful trademark style. We haven't got room to put these prints up at the moment but couldn't resist buying them! We might live somewhere with more wall space one day...

When we came out of The Mo, the weather turned a bit bleak so we nipped into the Fishermen's Heritage Centre, just around the corner.

The building has lovely cobbled stone walls inside (a typical Norfolk building feature) and I liked the display of wooden fish hanging from large metal hooks against the wall...
Wooden fish 1

I also liked the huge (about 3ft in diameter) ball of discarded fishing rope and nets that was stuffed into a cubby hole...
Net and rope ball
It looked like a giant ball of marine litter yarn!

One of the most entertaining things in the Fishermen's Heritage Centre was a photograph of one of the lifeboat crews, complete with a caption listing all their nicknames...
Lifeboat nicknames
The Grice family seemed to have the most inventive monikers, with Butterballs Grice, King Kong Grice and TaRaRaBoomdeay Grice all getting a mention. We both felt a bit sorry for Dogless Farrow... :(

One the way back down the sea front, we noticed that the sea wall has been decorated with murals depicting what life was like for fishing families in the past.

I particularly liked the sections featuring the women's work, such as mending nets and knitting clothes for the family...
Net mending wall painting
'When fishing boats came home, a mass of nets would be laid out on Beeston Hill, and afterwards, when they were dry, wives and daughters would mend them in their yards.'

Knitting wall painting
'Sheringham's fishermen's wives were renowned for their gansey (jersey) knitting skills, knitting "in the round" with vertical patterns. If lost at sea, and the body found down the coast, a Sheringham fisherman could be identified by his gansey and bought home.'

We didn't have time to fit in any more lifeboat excitement on this holiday but there's plenty left for next time we visit! :)


  1. Gosh, what a life they must have lived. Fancy having to be identified by your sweater when you drown! More amazing is that they were able to be identified by their sweaters!!

  2. Yup, it is a bit grim... life was rough for fishermen in wooden boats! I saw some examples of the ganseys in the museum and they were really intricately patterned with cables and other designs worked into the body and the arms of the jersey. I think they tended to be indigo dyed and tightly knitted to keep the weather out. They were close-fitting so that they didn't get caught up in the various machinery on the boats!

  3. Fascinating blog, F. I always feel sad about the origin of the fishermen's sweaters, though I guess they mostly came home safe and sound and their woolies got a good wash! xxx

  4. Yes! Lets hope that most of the ganseys that were so carefully knitted by the fishermen's wives provided many years of service and ended up keeping their wearers cosy by the fire in old age :) x x