Beauchamp Lifeboat Memorial, Caister-on-Sea


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
East and West Caister Village Cemetery, Ormesby Road, Caister, NR30 5JZ


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Statutory Address:
East and West Caister Village Cemetery, Ormesby Road, Caister, NR30 5JZ

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

Great Yarmouth (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Memorial to the crew of the Beauchamp Lifeboat, unveiled in 1903.

Reasons for Designation

The memorial to the crew of the Beauchamp Lifeboat unveiled in 1903 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * for the sculptural quality of the memorial, the broken mast, anchor, laurel wreaths and lifebuoy of which act as a visual reminder of the tragic loss of life at sea.

Historic interest: * as an eloquent and moving tribute to the bravery of the crew who perished in 1901, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of the local community.

Group value: * for its strong group value with the nearby Church of Holy Trinity (listed at Grade II*) which contains a memorial window commemorating the crew of the Beauchamp Lifeboat.


The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) was founded in 1824 by Sir William Hillary. The first lifeboat was sited at Caister by the Norfolk Shipwrecked Mariners Association in 1845 and was crewed by the beachmen of the Caister Beach Company (formed in 1794). The RNLI took over the operation of the Caister Station in 1857, operating two lifeboats and using the beachmen as the crew. The Caister Lifeboat Station has been run independently of the RNLI since 1969 and is one of only three independent lifeboat stations in the country. The Beauchamp was brought into service in 1892 to replace the Lifeboat Godsend. Sir Reginald Proctor Beauchamp Bt, donated a sum of money to build the new lifeboat in memory of his father Sir Thomas Beauchamp and Sir Thomas’ two late sons.

On the night of 13 November 1901 the Beauchamp was launched, during a particularly treacherous storm, in response to distress signals coming from the direction of Barber Sands. The sea was so rough and the winds so strong that it took two and three quarter hours before the crew were able to get the Beauchamp afloat. The Beauchamp had such an excellent track record and had been launched 81 times during the nine years it was in service that the lifeboatmen had every confidence in her suitability for the mission. However, the severity of the storm was exceptional and the lifeboat capsized trapping her crew beneath her. James Haylett Snr, who witnessed the disaster, was able to rescue his son-in-law Charles Knights and grandson Walter Haylett along with crew member John Hubbard. However the nine remaining men trapped under the boat lost their lives. Among those to lose their lives were four other men from the Haylett family. The inquest into the tragedy was opened the following day. When asked by the coroner why the mission was not aborted due to the severe conditions, James Haylett replied “They would never give up the ship. If they had to keep at it ‘til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her. Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that.” These words were translated by the press into “Caister men never turn back”. The phrase Never Turn Back quickly became the motto of the Caister Lifeboat crew and eventually was adopted as a motto throughout the RNLI.

In 1902 plans were begun for a memorial to the nine crew members who had perished along with the Beauchamp. The memorial, built of carrara marble, was unveiled on 4 July 1903 by Colonel Diver, Mayor of Great Yarmouth. It was erected in the Cemetery on Ormesby Road, Caister by J Whithead & Son of London.

The Never Turn Back public house, built in 1957, was named in memory of the disaster and was opened by Patrick Howarth, Publicity Secretary of the RNLI. The Never Turn Back was added to the National Heritage List for England (the List) at Grade II, List Entry Number 1454945 in 2018.


Memorial to the crew of the Beauchamp Lifeboat, unveiled in 1903.

MATERIALS: crafted from Carrara Marble.

PLAN: square in plan and located within an enclosure marked by a low marble kerb and surrounded by railings dating from the late C20. The memorial is located in the north-west corner of the East and West Caister Village Cemetery on Ormesby Road.

The memorial’s base stands on a square slab above which the marble is hewn to represent waves with rocks above. Set into the front of the base is a panel carved to show a lifeboat inscribed with the words: HERE UNDER LIE/ THE BODIES OF NINE MEN OF CAISTER/ WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE LIFEBOAT BEAUCHAMP/ ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 14TH 1901/ WHILST GALLANTLY RESPONDING TO/ SIGNALS OF DISTRESS./ THIS MONUMENT/ HAS BEEN ERECTED TO THEIR MEMORY/ BY A LARGE NUMBER OF THEIR FELLOW COUNTRYMEN/ WHO HONOURED THEIR BRAVERY AND PRESERVED THOSE/ DEPENDENT UPON THEM FROM WANT. Above the rocks is a lifebuoy inscribed: CAISTER LIFE BOAT, an anchor, broken oar, ropes, rudder, laurel wreaths, chains and a folded sail. The column rising from the rocks, among the nautical paraphernalia is designed to resemble a broken ship’s mast. Placed around the edge of the kerb are nine marble blocks, each inscribed with the name of one of the men, as follows: Aaron Walter Haylett Coxswain aged 49 years, James Henry Haylett late Coxswain aged 56 years, William Frederick Brown Second Coxswain aged 49 years, William Wilson aged 56 years, Henry James Knights Aged 18 years, John William Smith Aged 43 years, Charles John Brown Aged 31 years, Charles Bonney George Aged 53 years, George Ernest King Aged 21 years.


Books and journals
Cannell, John (Author), Bond, Christine (Editor), The Men Who Never Turned Back, (2000)
Caister Lifeboat, accessed 3 January 2020 from
Never Turn Back, Caister on Sea, accessed 9 January 2020 from
Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk & Suffolk, accessed 3 January 2020 from
RNLI, accessed 9 January 2020 from
The Peerage, accessed 9 January 2020 from


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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