Model of historic Hoylake RNLI lifeboat built to mark 200 years of lifesaving

The 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been commemorated by a North West model maker, who has built a remarkable model of a historic Wirral lifeboat.

Kevin Gleave, who is also a dedicated RNLI fundraiser, was inspired to create a model of Hoylake RNLI’s Hannah Fawsett Bennett and used the stories and images on display at Hoylake Lifeboat Station to guide the design.

The Hannah Fawsett Bennett was a 38ft Liverpool class non-self-righting lifeboat, stationed at Hoylake for 25 years from 1906 to 1931. Powered by sail or a crew of local RNLI volunteers on oars, the Hannah Fawsett Bennett is recorded as having saved 20 lives during her service on the Wirral coast.

The lifeboat was launched from a carriage, which was hauled to the water’s edge across the soft sand of Hoylake beach by a team of horses.

Kevin began construction of his model in October 2023 and used archive photographs to develop the design over seven months. It has a fibreglass hull with a wooden deck and carriage, as well as a full set of oars, masts and sails.

The past met the present at Hoylake Lifeboat Station on 27 March when Kevin displayed his model of the Hannah Fawsett Bennett next to the station’s state of the art all-weather Shannon class lifeboat Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood.

In tribute to the horses that would have helped launch the historic lifeboat, Kevin’s specially designed carriage was rigged up to a pair of Leonberger dogs, Amber and Loki. It is hoped that the model can be used as both a static exhibit and a live display to be hauled by a team of giant breed dogs in harnesses, representing the important role played by horses in the RNLI’s history.

There to witness the display was Dave Dodd MBE, Hoylake RNLI Coxswain from 1997 to 1998 and station volunteer for over 50 years. Dave’s grandfather, Thomas Dodd, was Hoylake RNLI Coxswain from 1894 to 1916 and was awarded the RNLI’s silver medal for gallantry for a rescue in 1902. Dave’s uncle, Arthur Dodd, took over as Coxswain in 1916, carrying out the role until 1919. Both Coxswains commanded the Hannah Fawsett Bennett during their service, making the display of the replica Hoylake Lifeboat particularly special.

Later Coxswains of the Hannah Fawsett Bennett were John Sherlock (1919-1929) and Herbert Jones (1929-1946). In modern times, Dave’s son Andy Dodd also served at Hoylake RNLI Coxswain from 2016 to 2021.

Kevin Gleave said, “It was great to see the replica model of the old Hannah Fawsett Bennett meeting the new Edmund Hawthorn Micklewood at the station as a poignant reminder of the heritage of Hoylake.

“We were very lucky to meet Dave Dodd, who is a living link to the wonderful history of this remarkable boat and a fountain of knowledge about all aspects of this remarkable period in RNLI history.

“Dave, along with the rest of the Hoylake RNLI team including current Coxswain Howie Owen, made us very welcome throughout our visit. We really felt the spirit of service and enthusiasm for the RNLI through their warmth.”

Dave Dodd said, “It was a wonderful gesture by Kevin to build a model lifeboat inspired by the Hannah Fawsett Bennett. All of us at Hoylake RNLI are grateful for his tribute to our lifesaving history. We hope that the model educates people about our station’s past and helps raise funds so we can continue saving lives in the future.”

Image: The replica ‘Hannah Fawsett Bennett’ has a fibreglass hull, wooden deck and carriage and features a full set of oars, masts and sails. Credit: Kevin Gleave

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