The Fishermen’s Heritage Centre was officially opened on 13th April 2006 by Peter Cox, Town Mayor of Sheringham, in the presence of a throng of invited guests and witnessed by Sheringham residents who had come to see this long-awaited occasion. The Centre is housed in part of the historic Fishing Sheds on West Cliff. The building was renovated following a public appeal and with funding from EEDA, the European Regional Development Fund and other sources.
The Centre is dedicated to demonstrating the history of the lifeboats provided by the Upcher family of Sheringham Hall for the use of the fishermen of what was then Lower Sheringham, a small fishing hamlet.
These lifeboats are usually referred to as the private, Upcher or fishermen’s lifeboats. The first of these, called the Upcher, was a fishing boat also used as a rescue boat. The second, the Augusta, was the first purpose-built lifeboat in Sheringham. It no longer exists, but its story is a fascinating one. The last of the three, the Henry Ramey Upcher (HRU), replaced the Augusta. It was in use until 1935 and can still be seen in its original shed, which forms part of the Centre.
The HRU was named in memory of the late squire of Sheringham by his widow, Caroline on 4th September 1894 and remained in service until 1935. For most of this time the coxswain was Henry “Coley” Cooper. His predecessors were also members of the Cooper family. The HRU was responsible for 33 recorded rescues during this time, resulting in the saving of 193 lives. It is in the form of a traditional inshore fishing boat of this area, which is said to go back to the Viking longboat, with a prow at both ends. It was built as all such boats were at the time by eye rather than from a plan by celebrated local boat-builder Lewis “Buffalo” Emery, using oak for the planking and fixings of copper throughout. It is 10.59m (almost 35 feet) long and 3.43m (just over 11 feet) wide with a keel length of 8.76m (almost 29 feet). It was powered by eight oars each side. The mast and sail could rarely be used in rescue work because of weather conditions. The weight is about 3,000kg (3 tons), so a huge amount of effort was required by the crew and helpers to drag it over the shingle into the sea and to pull it back up the beach after launching.
There is also information about, and a photographic record of, some of the fishermen who crewed the private lifeboats, many of whom worked in and around the Fishing Sheds, with displays about how they won their livings from the dangerous waters of the North Sea and other aspects of their lives.
The Centre is closed during the winter months. See Opening Times page for the times the Centre is open, but please bear in mind that the Centre is entirely staffed by volunteers and when volunteers are unexpectedly not available the Centre has to close. Also, owing to its exposed position on the seafront, the Centre closes under extreme weather conditions. Admission is free, but voluntary contributions are requested to pay for the costs of maintenance of the buildings and their contents. It is best approached from the West Promenade, and is situated close to the concrete bridge over the Fishermen’s Slope. It may also be accessed from West Cliff, which is at the seaward end of Morris Street (see map).
Items connected with the lifeboat (e.g. booklets and leaflets, cards, gansey patterns, guides, maps etc.) may be purchased.
For further information or to arrange a tour, please contact Malcolm Peddar on 01263 824187.