Lizard lifeboat station

Year:2012

Duration:2 years

Cost:£7.5m

Country: Cornwall, UK

What did this project achieve?

Construct a lifeboat station in a narrow cove at the base of a cliff

The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall has one of the most remote and treacherous coastlines in the UK. That makes the Lizard lifeboat station – less than a mile from the most southerly part of the UK, Lizard Point - one of the most important lifeboat stations in the country.

Lifeboats have been stationed along this coast since 1859. The previous boathouse opened in 1961. This was demolished in 2010 when the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) decided the area needed a bigger lifeboat and a bigger station to house it – which opened two years later.

Set at the base of a 45m cliff, a twin-engine Tamar class lifeboat sits ready for launch in the boathouse. When called out, it slides down a slipway into deep water.

The new station design had to safeguard the environment and re-use as much existing structure as possible. As the RNLI is a charity costs had to be kept as low as possible.

Difference the new lifeboat station has made

The new station can house a bigger and faster Tamar class lifeboat. The new boat, named Rose, means faster rescues and greater safety for the crew.

How the work was done

Engineers had to deal with some major challenges while constructing the station.

The site is in a narrow cove at the base of a 45m high cliff in an area where seas can be rough. The only access is along a narrow lane, through a small village, and then down a flight of 170 steps.

Engineers had to allow for bad weather and sea conditions while scheduling work. They also had to work around currents and tides.

The team needed a stable platform for both land and marine work. The beach couldn’t be used as it was above water and dangerous during storms.

Instead, engineers used a jack-up barge for the project. A jack-up barge is a floating hull with legs that can be raised or lowered. It’s pulled to the construction site with legs raised. They’re then lowered and anchored into the sea bed to make a solid platform for construction work.

Plant and other materials came from Falmouth by sea – a 3 hour journey.

“​‌

The Lizard lifeboat has a proud 150 year history of saving lives in the dangerous seas off our most southernmost point… it’s one of Britain's best-known and most cherished RNLI stations.

Lady Holborow

Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall

Fascinating facts

Lizard Point has been a navigation marker for seafarers for thousands of years. The ancient Greek geographer Pytheas of Massalia (modern Marseilles) claimed to have visited Cornwall around 330 BC.

On 23 July 1962 a launch of the Lizard lifeboat featured in the first live satellite broadcast from the UK to North America and Europe.

The station’s original 1859 lifeboat was 30ft long (around 3m), had 6 oars and cost £135. The current twin engine Tamar class boat ‘Rose’ is 16m long and cost £2.7m.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
  • Architects: Poynton Bradbury Wynter Cole
  • Main contractor: BAM Nuttall

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