With the arrival of 2021 we can look forward with hope to returning to a semblance of normality, although there is no certainty about when in the year that will be.
In common with similar organisations we were not able to welcome visitors during 2020 because of the Covid restrictions, but that does not mean that we were inactive. As described below, the important anniversary of the last time that the Henry Ramey Upcher lifeboat put to sea was commemorated as best we could in August and there was plenty going on behind the scenes by way of repairs, redecorations and reordering as will be seen when visitors are again able to come inside. Information on when this will be will be posted as soon as we can. The earliest in the year that we have ever opened is for the school Easter holidays, and this is unlikely to be possible in 2021.
An important decision was also reached. The name “Fishermen’s Heritage Centre” which has been used since the new expanded facility was opened in 2006 does not accurately reflect what we do. The name was chosen for historical reasons which are no longer relevant. It is essentially a lifeboat museum and before 2006 when extra exhibition space became available, was called the Henry Ramey Upcher Lifeboat Museum. It describes the “Fishermen’s Lifeboats” (i.e. those provided through the generosity of the Upcher family of Sheringham Hall and not coming under the control of the RNLI). It exhibits the last of these, the Henry Ramey Upcher, and provides information about the Upcher family and the fishermen who made up the crew. Consequently, from the beginning of 2021, the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre will change its name to the FISHERMEN’S LIFEBOAT MUSEUM.
We are also looking forward to the resumption of other normal activities as soon as conditions allow, including the “coffee morning” talks and, with any luck, the annual art exhibition which is eagerly anticipated by both exhibitors and visitors. Details of the last one, in 2019, are given below.
15th August was the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, the end of the war in the Far East. The following day back in 1945 was the last occasion on which the Henry Ramey Upcher lifeboat (HRU) put to sea. We could not let this occasion pass without marking it in some way. Owing to continuing Covid restrictions it was not possible to have the lifeboat shed open to visitors in the usual way, but on Saturday and Sunday 15th and 16th August the doors of the shed were open so that the boat could be viewed from outside and Chief Steward Malcolm Peddar and Chairman Peter Strudwick were on hand to explain to visitors the events of 75 years ago.
What was to have been a joyful celebratory trip ended in confusion and danger. Carried away by enthusiasm at the end of the conflict in the Far East, in which many servicemen from East Anglia had been engaged, the boat set sail with too many passengers and got into difficulties 1 mile offshore, being unable to tack back to Sheringham in a strong south-westerly wind and heavy swell. The motorised Sheringham RNLI lifeboat the Forester’s Centenary had to be launched to tow the HRU back. On beaching, several passengers were soaked when a large wave broke over the stern and there was some damage to the boat itself.
RNLI records from the time record “rewards” of £16 13s 6d (£16.68), presumably donations from passengers, probably added to when grateful for their rescue from a potentially dangerous situation. The 141 visitors of 2020 contributed £69.62, which likewise will be donated to the RNLI. Almost all of this was collected on the Saturday. Sunday 16th was marred by very unpleasant weather, resulting in flooding in parts of Sheringham.
The exhibition, organised by the Arts Committee, was very well attended once more. A handsome profit of around £650 was made from the sale of paintings and other fund raising. This will be donated to the appeal for the building of the proposed North Norfolk Macmillan Centre at Cromer Hospital.
This unit will greatly increase the capacity for chemotherapy treatment at Cromer, reducing the need for patients to travel to Norwich. It will also free up space in the hospital for more surgical procedures to be carried out.
One of the more famous rescues carried out by the Henry Ramey Upcher Fishermen’s Lifeboat was of the brig Ispolen in 1897.
The remains of the wreck are occasionally exposed by storms and tides to public view.
The latest exposure was on 29 October 2018 and photographs are shown here. There was a big storm in December 2013 which took away some of the timbers but it appears that since that catastrophic event even more timbers have been lost.
For a short news video from the previous year search for “Sheringham’s ancient shipwreck exposed by tides, BBC News, 2012”.
Fishermen’s Lifeboat Museum