Old Christopher BrownPenmon History from 1831


On the 17th. August 1831, a terrible shipwreck occurred on the Dutchman Bank, a notorious sandbank at the northern entrance to the Menai Straits, when the wooden hulled paddle - steamer Rothsay Castle was wrecked in very heavy seas. Only 23 people survived out of over 140 who had been on  board the steamer. A pilot boat was launched from Penmon and after heroic efforts, saved 6 people in two journeys. Two men, William Lewis - Walker and Ralph Williamson, greatly distinguished themselves during these rescues and they were each awarded two Silver medals for gallantry.

As a direct result of this tragedy, the Anglesey Lifesaving Association opened a lifeboat station at Penmon in 1832, the boat being 26ft. x 6 ft. and rowing 6 oars. She was built by Harton, of Limehouse, to a design by George Palmer and as with all the lifeboats belonging to the Anglesey Association, she was painted externally in 3 white and 4 black horizontal stripes, which were intended to make the boats more easily seen at night.

On the 10th. November 1832 this lifeboat helped to save a brig which got into difficulties in Red Wharf Bay. Then on the 3rd. March 1835 during a violent storm, she put pilots on board 8 vessels and saved the crew of 10 from the barque William after their ship had been run into by another vessel.  Later that same year, on the 22nd. October, the lifeboat helped to save the Faversham smack " Providence " and two brigs that were seen to be in difficulties.

Two men were landed from the Pike of Barmouth, on the 12th. December 1836 by the Penmon lifeboat, which also gave help to the Waterford registered ship" Liverpool "on the 15th. February 1838. In very heavy seas on the 15th. April that year, the ship " Scotia" of Liverpool, ran aground on  the Dutchman Bank and the lifeboatmen battled their way out to her and  rescued 17 men. Also in 1838 on the 29th. November the lifeboat brought ashore the crew of the Janet of Amlwch, after they had got ashore on Puffin Island, when their ship was in difficulties.

A similar service was performed on the 19th. February 1843 when the crews of several vessels sought refuge on the island after their ships had been overtaken by a violent storm.

As we have already seen in the chapter on Moelfre, this first Penmon Lifeboat was transferred to that station in 1848 and a new 26ft. x 6ft. 6 oared lifeboat was built by Costain of Liverpool for Penmon. In that same year, the lifeboat - house at Penmon was completely rebuilt at the expense of Sir Richard Bulkeley, on whose ground it was situated. The house stood on a cliff, near the Penmon Lighthouse, which had been built in 1838 and it had doors at both ends, so that the lifeboat could be launched either to the north or south as necessary.

During a very severe storm on the 29th. March 1850 at least 36 vessels were driven shore in the vicinity of Penmon and the lifeboat - men spent many hours helping the various ships that were in trouble.
In June, 1857 the R.N.L.I. which had by then taken over this station, sent a new boat to Penmon. She was built by Forrest of Limehouse at the cost of £126 and was a 28ft. x 6'3"  6 oared self - righter. The first service launch by this un - named boat, took place on the 15th. March 1859 when she went out to the schooner Native Lass of Liverpool, which eventually got out of trouble un - aided.

The first effective service by this lifeboat came on the 27th. February 1860 when she stood - by the flat Dart of Bangor, which was in danger in a north - westerly gale.

When the Beaumaris registered flat Cymraes was seen to be disabled in heavy seas on the 25th. January 1861 the Penmon lifeboat - men quickly launched their boat and rescued the crew of 2 men. Just over a fortnight later, on the 10th. February as dawn broke on a very stormy morning, the lifeboat - men saw the masts of a vessel sticking out of the turbulent waters on the Dutchman Bank. Four men could be seen clinging desperately to the rigging, where they had taken refuge nearly 12 hours earlier. The lifeboat was soon on her way and rescued the 4 survivors who came from the schooner Village Maid of Fleetwood.

The lifeboat was launched late on the evening of the 14th. August 1861 and stood - by the smack Pink of Chester throughout the night, after the vessel had been seen to be anchored in a dangerous position near Puffin Island, in very heavy seas.

When the smack Frodsham of Liverpool hoisted a distress signal on the 24th. July 1862 the Penmon Lifeboat was launched into a rough sea, which was being whipped up by a full west -south west gale. Some of the lifeboat men boarded the smack and helped the crew to take the vessel to safety at Llandudno.

Three men were saved from the smack Pearl and two from the smack Speedwell both of Caernarfon on the 11 December 1864 after the lifeboat - men had sighted distress signals being flown by both vessels.

What proved to be the last service by this lifeboat, come on the 23rd. March 1868. She was launched when the brig Jabez of Scarborough stranded on the Dutchman Bank in heavy seas and a north westerly gale. After a tremendous struggle the lifeboat got alongside and rescued 5 of the brig's crew, her Master refusing to leave. As the lifeboat pulled clear of the vessel, she was hit by an enormous wave and was capsized. She quickly righted herself and the lifeboat -  men and the crew from the brig, scrambled back on board. Another 3 men were then picked up by the lifeboat from the brig's own boat and all were landed at  Penmon.

Christopher BrownLater, the Master of the Jabez was drowned as he tried to get ashore on his own in a small dinghy. The Penmon lifeboatmen immediately asked the institution for a new lifeboat and were given a 30ft. x 7'7", 10 oared self - righter. Built at a cost of £251. she was provided out of funds collected through the Settle Branch of the R.N.L.I. One man, Christopher Brown, played a major part in raising this money and on the 14th. April 1868, Easter Tuesday, at a ceremony in Settle, the boat was named the Christopher Brown (above).

On the 13th. October 1870 this lifeboat was launched from Penmon, in heavy seas and, with the aid of a tug, helped to save the schooner Seven Sisters of Lancaster, which had a crew of 8, their boat being taken to a safe anchorage at Bangor.

When the boat Fairey Queen of Llandudno, was seen to be drifting out to sea about 8 miles off Penmon, in heavy seas and a south - easterly gale on the 10th. August 1872, the  Christopher Brown was launched and towed her to safety.

Six people from the barque Queen of The Fleet were landed from Puffin Island by the lifeboat on the 3rd. October 1872 after their vessel had run aground in heavy seas.

At 3.00 pm. on the 31st. December 1875 the Christopher Brown was launched to the aid of the smack Crane of Beaumaris, which was anchored in a dangerous position in a full south - westerly gale. In heavy seas, some of the lifeboat - men went on board, helped to weigh the anchor and took her to a safer anchorage.

During a northerly gale on the 25th. January 1878 the disabled steamer Pioneer of Dublin broke away from the tugs that were towing her into the Menai Straits and she was driven ashore on Puffin Island. On hearing of the stranding, the Honorary Secretary of the lifeboat station, Mr. W.M.Preston, ran 4 miles into the full fury of the gale to get the lifeboat ready, going out in her himself as Coxswain, because a number of the regular lifeboat - men were away at the time.  The steam - tug " Royal Saxon " took the lifeboat in tow, but the heavy seas made it impossible to get alongside the steamer. The lifeboat was therefore towed round to the lee - side of the island, where 10 members of the Pioneer's crew were found, having got ashore themselves. They were taken aboard the lifeboat, which transferred them to the tug and they were landed at Beaumaris. For this valuable work that day, Mr. Preston was awarded the Thanks on Vellum by the R.N.L.I.

This proved to be the last service by this lifeboat and in March 1880 she was replaced by a new boat. Built by Woolfe and Son  at a cost of £363. she was a 34ft x 8 ft.  10 oared self - righter and was also named the " Christopher Brown " A new boathouse and slipway were built for her at a cost of £700.

The first effective service by this boat came in the early hours of the 23rd. August 1882, when the dandy  Hope of St. Ives parted her anchor cable and went aground on the Dutchman Bank. After standing- by her for some time, 5 of the lifeboat - men boarded the vessel and helped to take her to an anchorage in Friar's Roads, all the men having to work hard at the pumps the whole time.

Two men were rescued from the Beaumaris  yawl Juno on the 7th. December 1884 which was anchored in a dangerous position in a west,south,west, gale.  Another 3 men were rescued after the ketch Hope of St. Ives ran aground on Puffin Island in heavy seas and a north, north,easterly gale on the 13th. October 1885

During the afternoon of the 22nd December 1886, the schooner Jubilee  of Preston ran onto the Causeway Rocks near Puffin Island and the " Christopher Brown " was launched at 3.55 pm.
With the help of the lifeboat - men the vessel was eventually refloated and left at anchor, her crew of 3 being rescued by the lifeboat. just 5 days later, the lifeboat was again in action, when the screw - flat " Albion " of Hull, stranded on the sandbank known at Irishman's  Spit.  In a N.N.W. gale, heavy seas swept clean over her and the lifeboat was launched at 9.30 am. and rescued the crew of three men.

While the Christopher Brown was away during the summer of 1889 for alterations and improvements to be carried out, a reserve lifeboat was placed on temporary duty at Penmon. She was called out once on the 20th. August, when the schooner Thomas of Liverpool, ran aground on the Dutchman Bank in a north - westerly gale. Two of the lifeboat - men boarded the vessel, which on refloating, was found to be leaking badly and so the lifeboat escorted her to safety at Beaumaris.

At 8.45 am. on the 7th. November 1890, the Christopher Brown was launched after a vessel had been seen apparently in trouble. The assistance of the lifeboatmen was ultimately not required, but as a number of other vessels could be seen heading for the Straits before the fierce north - westerly gale, Coxswain Robert Roberts decided to remain afloat, in case the service of the lifeboat might be needed. In the bitterly cold wind and heavy seas, the lifeboat - men waited and eventually, at about 10 o'clock that morning, the schooner Undaunted of Plymouth was seen to hoist a distress signal. She had run aground on the Lavan Sands and Coxswain Roberts immediately headed for the spot. Despite enormous seas, he took the lifeboat alongside and rescued the crew of 5 from the stranded vessel. As the lifeboat tried to get back to her station, she was caught in a sudden violent squall and was capsized by a tremendous wave. She quickly righted herself and everyone was able to get back on board. Coxswain Roberts decided to run before the storm and they came ashore at Aber on the other side of the Straits, everyone getting ashore safely. Robert Roberts who had held the post of Coxswain since 1861 was awarded the Silver Medal for his outstanding skill and courage during this service.  Mr. W.M.Preston, the Honorary Secretary, who had gone out in the lifeboat on this service was also awarded a Silver Medal.

The Christopher Brown took part in another outstanding service on the 9th. December 1892.
 In a north - easterly gale and very rough sea the Dublin schooner James and Mary struck the Beacon Rock and the lifeboat was launched at 6.30 am. Coxswain Roberts dropped anchor close to the vessel and veered down towards her. The lifeboat encountered enormous seas as she crossed the rocks and huge waves crashed over both vessels. But eventually, Coxswain Robert's manoeuvred the lifeboat close enough to be able to rescue the Master, his wife and three young children and the crew of three. For his bravery and excellent seamanship during this rescue, Coxswain Roberts was awarded his second Silver medal, as was Mr. Preston who had again gone out on service in the lifeboat.

Less than a fortnight later, on the 22nd. December the lifeboat was called out again, when the schooner Raven of Bangor, dragged her anchors in heavy seas. With the help of 5 of the lifeboat - men who went on board, the schooner was taken to safety in the Cross Roads.

The final service by this lifeboat took place on the 3rd. July 1895, when the schooner
Broughty Castle of Ramsey, stranded on the Causeway Rock. The lifeboat landed the crew of 3 putting out again on the next tide when the lifeboat - men laid out an anchor and succeeded in refloating the vessel.

This lifeboat was replaced in January 1896 by a 37 ft x 9'3" 12 oared self - righter, which was built by Hansen and Sons, at a cost of £514. this boat also being named the Christopher Brown. Launching conditions were greatly improved by the building of a new slipway which cost and extra £735.
Her first effective service came on the 11th October 1896 when the barque Minde of Farsund, ran aground on the Dutchman Bank. It was low - tide when the lifeboat set out at 7.30 am. and she could not get nearer than a mile from the stranded vessel. Coxswain Roberts ran the lifeboat into the sandbank and three of his crew volunteered to wade through the icy seas to the barque. It was a very dangerous journey across the sandbank, but they reached the stranded vessel safely and found that she had a crew of 11, who wanted to be taken ashore. One of the lifeboat - men struggled back to Roberts and by 9.00 am, the tide had risen sufficiently for the lifeboat to be able to reach the Minde and the 11 men were rescued.

While on a pleasure trip from Liverpool to Beaumaris on the 23rd. April 1899, the schooner
Rowena of Glasgow, which had 10 people on board, ran onto the Causeway Rocks, near Puffin Island.  The lifeboat was launched shortly after 6 o'clock that evening, but by the time she reached the casualty, the vessel had refloated and the lifeboat towed her to Beaumaris.  However, the Captain and 3 men from the schooner had gone ashore on Puffin Island and the lifeboat returned, picked them up and landed them at Penmon.

During a south - westerly gale on the afternoon of the 16th. September 1908 the schooner
Lady Fielding of Amlwch, was seen off Penmon Quarry, making distress signals.
 The Christopher Brown was launched at 5.00 pm. and found the schooner with both her anchors down, dangerously close to the Dutchman Bank. just as the lifeboat approached, one of the anchor cables parted and the lifeboat rescued the crew of 6, the men being landed at Beaumaris at 7.00pm.

On the 26th. October 1909 the ketch William of Liverpool, was reported to be in difficulties in a full easterly gale and violent seas. The Christopher Brown was launched a few minutes after 6 o'clock that evening, with Coxswain William Pritchard at the helm. Eventually, he found the ketch anchored close in - shore in Red Wharf Bay, having lost all her sails. In the tremendous seas, it took numerous attempts before the lifeboat could get close enough  for a line to be thrown to the crew of 3 on the William. But the men refused to be hauled through the pounding seas to the lifeboat, despite desperate pleas made by the lifeboat - men.

Suddenly, the line parted and the lifeboat was swept away. In spite of repeated valiant attempts, it proved impossible for the lifeboat to get close enough again for another line to be thrown across and all that Coxswain Pritchard could do was to stand - by as close as he could and wait. Suddenly the ketch's remaining anchor cable parted and she was driven onto the sands. In violent, breaking seas, Coxswain Pritchard took the lifeboat straight into the mass of foaming white water. He found the ketch almost totally submerged, with no sign of her crew. The lifeboat was then flung ashore and her crew scrambled to safety through the heavy surf, having been at sea for 15 hours.

Coxswain William Pritchard was awarded the Silver medal for his outstanding courage during this attempted rescue and the station's Honorary Secretary, Mr. James Burton, who had accompanied the lifeboat - men on this service, also received the Silver medal from the R.N.L.I.

Less than two months later, on the 21st. December, William Pritchard took part in another fine rescue, for which he was awarded his second Silver medal. That night, the ketch " Willie " of Liverpool, was wrecked on the lifeboat  slipway at Penmon. In a full gale, Mr. Pritchard, at great personal risk, waded into the pounding surf and threw a line to the shipwrecked crew, all 4 of whom were then hauled to safety.

After standing - by the ketch James which was aground in heavy seas on the 1st. November 1910 what proved to be the last effective service by this lifeboat and indeed, by the Penmon lifeboat station took place on the 26th. September 1911. The " Christopher Brown " was launched at 1.45 pm. to the assistance of the fishing boat " Margaret and Alice" of Liverpool, which had run aground on the rocks east of Puffin Island. Some of the regular lifeboat - men were away at the time and so Coxswain Pritchard took an oar and Mrs. Burton, the wife of the Honorary Secretary, took the tiller, the Coxswain giving her instructions as they went along. In deteriorating weather, the crew of 4 were taken off the fishing boat and landed at Penmon at 4.00 pm. This is one of only 3 or 4 occasions in the history of the R.N.L.I. when a woman has gone out on service as a member of the crew of a lifeboat.Lifeboat Station Beaumaris

Following the establishment of a motor - lifeboat station at nearby Beaumaris in 1914, it was decided to close the Penmon station and the Christopher Brown was withdrawn at the end of March 1915. By then, the Penmon lifeboats had been launched 65 times on service and had saved at least 143 lives.

Historian :     J.P.Morris

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