1860-1902: The Porthcawl RNLI is established
Historically, locals were more focussed on saving cargo rather than saving lives at sea, however over time this attitude started to change. In 1860 the newly formed Royal National Lifeboat Institution first brought a lifeboat to Porthcawl, before this rescues had been carried out by locals making the most of limited resources.
This first boat was given the name “The Good Deliverance” and was a 30ft pulling and sailing boat, replaced in 1872 by bigger boat “The Chafyn Grove” and in 1887 by the “Speedwell”. These were stored in the old boathouse which now houses the aptly named The Boathouse Fish Bar and The Jaipur Indian Restaurant.
1902-1965: RNLI Porthcawl is disbanded
After the need for cargo coming and going from Porthcawl disappears, the town’s lifeboat station is closed and Porthcawl is served by the lifeboat crews from the larger towns of Barry Docks and the Mumbles. During WW2, the Royal Air Force set up in the Jennings Building and stayed until the early 1960s.
1965-present: RNLI Porthcawl returns
In 1965, the RNLI returned with a new inshore lifeboat as more people started to enjoy day trips to the coast, which led to more people putting themselves in dangerous situations. Porthcawl’s lifeboat covers an area of 16 miles from Afon Cynffig (Kenfig River) in the west to Nash Point, near Llantwit Major in the Vale of Glamorgan.
They started off with a 16ft D Class 2 inflatable lifeboat in 1965, before upgrading to a D Class 174 in 1970, switching to the D Class 291 “Donald Rigby Middleton” in 1983, a D Class 390 “Tiger D” in 1989, an Atlantic 75 B Class B726 called “Giles” in 1996 which they used until 2009. The two current boats are the Atlantic 85 B Class B832 “Rose of the Shires” delivered in 2009 and the D Class D714 “Jean Ryall” delivered in 2012.
Since returning the Porthcawl RNLI have only got busier and were the busiest lifeboat station in Wales in 2014. In 2015 they celebrated 50 years since the launch of their inbound stations.
Check out the Porthcawl RNLI website to find out more about the lifeboat charity past and present.
This is part of our series of posts on the History of Porthcawl, exploring the heritage and stories of our coastal town.