Old Lifeboat House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Walton Maritime Museum (former Lifeboat House), East Terrace, Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, CO14 8PY


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Statutory Address:
Walton Maritime Museum (former Lifeboat House), East Terrace, Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, CO14 8PY

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Tendring (District Authority)
Frinton and Walton
National Grid Reference:


Former Lifeboat House built in 1884 to the designs of C H Cooke.

Reasons for Designation

The Old Lifeboat House, built in 1884 to the designs of C H Cooke, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* it is an architecturally accomplished example of a building type that is often utilitarian in design; * the standard, wide gabled structure is here given a notably ornamental treatment, overall creating a finely detailed and strikingly composed building; * other than the replacement of the main doors, the lifeboat house has remained almost in its original state, retaining all the historic external detailing and open-plan interior.

Historic interest:

* the architectural quality of the lifeboat house reflects the pride in the local community in raising the funds for such an important provision in a coastal town; * the building is an eloquent reminder of the crucial role played by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in saving lives at sea since the C19.


Walton’s maritime significance centred on the Naze Tower which was built in 1720 as a navigation guide for entry to Harwich, the Stour and Orwell Estuaries, and the Hamford Waters. The Thames was already a busy highway with traders from Europe and beyond as well as barges plying up and down the coast. The sandbanks off the Walton coast were a well-known hazard. Private fishing boats operated an informal lifeboat service but the lifeboats from the established stations on the Kent and Suffolk coasts took too long to arrive. In 1876, following the wreck of the émigré ship Deutschland on the Kentish Knock sandbank with heavy loss of life, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) decided that Essex should be provided with lifeboat stations. There was strong support in Walton and a local branch of the RNLI was formed which included John Warner and J W Eagle, local landowners on the Naze.

The Lifeboat House was built in 1884 to the designs of C H Cooke FSA, the architect of the RNLI. Cooke is associated with two Grade II* listed buildings: the Church of St Mary in Sundridge with Ide Hill in Sevenoaks, Kent, that he designed in 1865-6; and the medieval Church of St Nicholas in Plumstead, Greenwich, that he enlarged in 1867-8. The Lifeboat House was built by Everett and Son of Colchester at a cost of £487.10s on land donated by a local landowner. It was purpose-built to house Walton’s first lifeboat, Honourable Artillery Company, a 37ft ‘self-righter’ Norfolk/ Suffolk class ‘sailing & pulling’ lifeboat, a design suited to the east coast’s shallow waters. It was built at Limehouse by Forrestt and Son for £394 10s. Both the building and the boat were funded by the Drama Section of the Honourable Artillery Company which regularly held a summer camp on the Naze at Walton. The Duke of Portland was Colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company at the time, and the Duke’s mother, Baroness Bolsover, agreed to launch the boat. The ceremony was held in Walton on 18 November 1884 outside the new Lifeboat House where the boat had recently arrived by train on 12 November. The distinguished guests also arrived by train and were escorted through the town by mounted officers of the Company along a route decorated with bunting and the Company’s flags.

Honourable Artillery Company was on station until 1900 by which time she had launched 84 times and saved 132 lives, including 25 from the Deike Rickmers on Christmas Day 1884. She was replaced by James Stevens No 14 who was purchased by the RNLI in 1900 (along with nineteen other boats that bear the same name but with different numbers) from a £50,000 legacy of the Birmingham businessman, James Stevens (1813-1894). The rear of the Lifeboat House was extended in 1899 to a plan drawn up by W.C. Douglass, in order to house the larger lifeboat. No 14 was one of the very first lifeboats to have an engine added, and is now acknowledged to be the world’s oldest surviving motor lifeboat. She is included in the UK’s Historic Fleet. A slipway was built in front of the Lifeboat House but was rarely used by the lifeboat after 1900 as she was usually moored off the pier, making the Lifeboat House redundant in 1904, except for repairs. It is now the home of Walton Maritime Museum run by the Frinton and Walton Heritage Trust. On the south side of the Lifeboat House is the former Coastguard Station manned look-out post and cottages for the guardsmen, built in 1891.


Former Lifeboat House built in 1884 to the designs of C H Cooke.

MATERIALS: rich red brick laid in English bond with brick dressings and a roof covering of red clay tiles.

PLAN: the building has a long rectangular plan and faces south-east.

EXTERIOR: the double-height building has a picturesque character in the domestic revival style. The steeply pitched roof is hipped on the rear (north-west) end with a louvred gablet. It is surmounted by cresting along the ridge and has gabled dormer windows halfway along each slope with fishscale tiling, with some remaining cresting on the south-west dormer. The decorative brick cornice is enriched with ovolo, lozenge and bead mouldings, and the low plinth is edged in blue brick. The principal south-east elevation has a full-width opening to allow the entry and egress of the lifeboat on its carriage. The original doors have been replaced with vertical timber boarding which has a small inserted entrance door. The hinges of the original doors remain. The opening is flanked by stepped buttresses which are capped in stone (painted white) and surmounted by gabled pediments decorated with moulded brick rosettes and individual leaf tiles. Each buttress bears a glazed terracotta roundel commemorating the date (1884) and the dedication of the building (RNLBI). A marble plaque on the left-hand buttress which incorporates the arms of the donor, the Honourable Artillery Company, is engraved with the details of the inauguration ceremony. The gable head is hung with fish-scale tiling and is dominated by a three-sided, corbelled oriel with multi-pane windows and a semi-circular arched glazing bar in the top central section, suggesting an Ipswich window. The oriel roof is partly clad in fish-scale tiles and surmounted by a weather vane (which is not original). The oriel provided a ‘lookout’ as well as light for the interior generally.

The subsidiary side elevations are pierced by four window openings with segmental brick arches. On the south-west side the second opening from the left has been extended to install a door. The windows have been blocked and are covered with security bars. It was not possible to see the rear elevation except for its roof but a historic photograph shows that it was a small, single-storey brick projection under a steeply pitched roof with a three-sided hip.

INTERIOR: the double-height space is open to the roof which has a king-post truss strengthened with iron straps. There is a flagstone floor and the brick walls are painted white, except for some of the Romanesque buttresses in between the window bays. The blocked window openings have segmental brick arches. A small mezzanine at the front (south-east) end was perhaps used to store sails and other kit. At the rear (north-west) end a wide segmental brick arch indicates the original back entrance which has since been blocked up and a small door inserted. This leads to the late C19 extension which is used as an office.


Books and journals
Frinton & Walton Heritage Trust, Postcards from Walton-on-the-Naze, (2011)
Norman, Bernard J , Walton-on-the-Naze in Old Picture Postcards, (1984)
Steer, John, Walton & Frinton Lifeboat: A Station History, 1884-2005


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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