William Riley


Restoration was a labour of love

The following is a detailed summary of the restoration project, published on Monday July 7th 2008 by the Whitby Gazette.

Session One

THE restoration of the William Riley has been a labour of love since she was found for sale on E-bay by Dave Charlton for just £1,200.

Of Leamington and Birmingham she was built in London in 1909. She was one of a batch of light, shallow draught lifeboats built by the Thames Iron Works at Canning Town, London.

The Ruby class boat was given the number 594 and she cost 722.9.1d.which was provided by a legacy from William Riley of Leamington.

Her RNLI service began at Upgang Lifeboat station, Whitby, in June 1909.

She played a major role in the SS Rohilla disaster in October 1914. This brave and daring rescue off the treacherous rocks of Saltwick Nab brought about a major change in the attitudes of lifeboat crew.

Transferred to Whitby as number two lifeboat in November 1919 she was decommissioned in May 1931 when Whitby gained its own motor lifeboat, the Margaret Harker Smith.

Even as number two lifeboat she was launched a further thirty one times and went on to save a further ten lives.

She was sold for 35 to a Mr B Greenstreet of Walthamstow and converted into a motor cruiser in the 1960s. She was then sold again in 2001 and, after escaping from her moorings, she floundered on the banks of the River Taw in Devon.

In 2005 the William Riley was found for sale on ebay by Dave Charlton. He bought her for 1,200 and donated her back to her home in Whitby and became a trustee.

Her heritage was once again secure but , by now, she was in a sorry state having been neglected; her cabin was rotted and vandalism had caused damage to her hull.

Yet despite being almost 100-years-old, she was basically sound.

The William Riley was lifted out by KAS Hire at a cost and transported to Whitby by Jeff Robinson of Loftus free of charge.

She was then transferred to Cross Butts Farm by Coates Marine, free of charge.

In 2006 and 2007 the major restoration work continued in a barn provided free by Cross Butts Farm.The work was carried out by volunteers and aided by the generous help and donations from suppliers and skilled craftsmen.

On 13 April 2008 William Riley took to the water for her maiden voyage on the River Esk.

In May 2008 she received her seaworthy certificate and became ready for her new career.

Further activity is planned for the William Riley including sponsored rows, attendance at lifeboat station open days and possibly becoming the star of stage and screen in television and film productions.

Weighing under three tonnes she can be transported around the country on her purpose built trailer using a four wheel drive to tow her.

A priceless historical vessel, she requires a crew of thirteen, ten fit oars, a bowman for navigation, coxswain and assistant

The William Riley revival row will take place on Thursday until Sunday.

Volunteers will row the boat 60 miles from Tynemouth to Whitby calling at Sunderland, Hartlepool and Staithes.

She will be crewed by a charity organisation called the Ales Angels and other volunteers from Tynemouth, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Staithes and Whitby.

All funds raised will go to the Tynemouth, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Staithes and Whitby RNLI stations.

Session One

It is fair to say that the restoration has exceeded everyone's expectations and the boat is fulfilling its role admirably, I am pleased to have been one of the founding members of the Whitby Historic Lifeboat Trust.

Copyright © Colin Brittain 1999 - 2022