My home port for all of my life, the construction of Ramsgate Harbour began in 1749 and was completed in about 1850. The two most influential architects of the Harbour were father and son John Shaw and John Shaw Jr, who designed the clockhouse, the obelisk, the lighthouse and the Jacob’s Ladder steps.
The Harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the United Kingdom awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. This was bestowed by King George IV after he was taken by the hospitality shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour to depart and return with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821.
Ramsgate Lifeboat Station, A lifeboat station was first established at Ramsgate Harbour in 1802 by the trustees of the harbour, pre dating the formation of any national lifeboat organisation by more than 20 years. The original was built by lifeboat pioneer Henry Greathead, in the same year that he was recognised by parliament for the lifeboat being “deemed a fit subject for national munificence”.
After a lapse in service between 1824 and 1851 a station was re-established by the trustees, with the lifeboat named in honour of the lifeboat sponsor, the Duke of Northumberland. The new and prized boat had been built in accordance with the plans of a model that had been the prize-winner in the 1851 national competition for the best design for such a craft.
In 1859 Jerimiah Walker (having previously distinguished himself by his humane, zealous and successful efforts in rescuing the Master and the crew of the Northern Belle), as a seaman of the lugger Petrel assisted in the rescue of the crew of the Spanish vessel Julia, which had become stranded off Ramsgate. For this assistance he was awarded a medal struck on the authority of Queen Isabella II of Spain, thus Walker is believed to be one of the few men to have received two separate medals issued by different Heads of State.
On New Year’s Day 1861 an event at sea of considerable loss of life occurred with the wreck of the Guttenburg. Then, as now, the most hazardous area around the Kent coastline for any navigator was the Goodwin Sands.
In 1865, the lifeboat was taken over by the Board of Trade and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and was taken over completely by the RNLI, who run the service to this day. The current lifeboat station, on the harbour wall between the inner and outer pools of the main harbour opened in 1998 and services both an onshore lifeboat, the ‘Bob Turnbull’ and offshore lifeboat, the ‘RNLB Esme Anderson’.