15th August was the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, the end of the war in the Far East. The following day 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.
In accordance with government instructions and in line with other museums and galleries (including Sheringham Museum and all those run by Norfolk Museums Service) the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre and the Peter Coke Shell Gallery remained closed during the lockdown period.
Although some museums and galleries are beginning, as of early July, to cautiously open, we have concluded that this is not yet possible for the Fishermen’s Heritage Centre and the Shell Gallery, largely because of space constraints and the age and vulnerability of many of the volunteers who keep them running in more normal times. We realise that this will be a disappointment to potential visitors so to whet your appetites here are two films on YouTube to give some background information before you are able see our displays in person.
- Enjoy a virtual tour of Sheringham (about 16 minutes). Enter Walk with Me, Sheringham into a search engine.
- For a history of the fishing industry in North Norfolk, sample the excellent film produced by Poppyland Publishing. Enter Crabs and Shannocks – The Longshore Fishermen of North Norfolk into a search engine and choose the July 2020 version (1 hour 7 minutes).
We will keep the situation under review but at present it seems that the earliest we will be able to reopen will be Easter next year (2021).
All other activities, including the Coffee Morning Talks and the Annual Art Exhibition are also cancelled.
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 below. 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 Heritage Centre