1. The initial purpose of the Coastguard was revenue protection, but this changed during the 19th century to that of naval reserve.
2. In the 1920s life-saving responsibilities became the Coastguard’s primary role, along with coastal observation.
3. Over the last two centuries the number of stations has fluctuated, reaching a peak of over 500 in the early 20th century.
4. The more isolated stations were required to be self-sufficient and in addition to the accommodation and storage facilities there might also be a slipway, outbuildings such as carpenter’s shops, bakehouses, earth closets, wash houses and rain-water tanks.
5. As well as purpose-built premises the Coastguard used adapted or converted buildings such as Martello towers and hulks.
6. Admiralty era stations needed to be defended from attack and it is believed houses were designed to be intercommunicating and the number of entrances kept to a minimum.
7. Under the Admiralty signalling formed an important aspect of Coastguard activity and Coastguardsmen were expected to be proficient in Morse, semaphore and telegraphy.
8. Since the 1970s the traditional Coastguard station has been increasingly superseded by rescue centres; essentially operation rooms.
Britain is a maritime nation, and since Roman times has had structures set along the coastline dedicated to maintaining a watch over shore and coastal waters. In recent centuries these have been constructed for various reasons including the prevention of smuggling, locating and coordinating assistance to ships in distress or as part of defensive facilities against attack or invasion.
The architectural history of Coastguard stations has so far received little attention. It is possible to give a broad outline of the historical development of the service and the extent, characteristic elements and design of the stations but there remains much that is inadequately understood. This short guide to Coastguard Stations provides an introduction to the history and development of coastguard stations in England. It is intended to support the listing selection guide on Maritime and Naval buildings.
Free download: Introduction to Heritage Assets – Coastguard Stations
Great to see such an introduction to Coastguard history.
Sadly, today the Government are closing existing Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC’s) in a flawed plan to save a small amount of money.
The ‘Modernisation’ plan has seen Forth, Clyde and Gt. Yarmouth MRCC’s close already and will see Thames, Portland, Solent, Brixham, Swansea and Liverpool close soon.
Despite considerable opposition, these closures will see Local Knowledge, expertise and history lost.
The rash way that the process has been executed has seen a complete demoralisation of the Coastguard service with many staff leaving and could signal the end of the service having any Coastal Operations sites.
Coastal Rescue Teams which are staffed by volunteers will continue to be available and tasked by the Future Coastguard Service from new inland Ops Centres using new systems which (at the point of writing) are not tested or proven to work.
Please visit http://coastguardsos.com/
For more information & ways to help fight closures.
Fascinating – I’ve taken photos of coastguard cottages in England and Northern Ireland – thanks for giving some background information!
I completed a study of coastguard stations in Northern Ireland some years ago. If you are still interested a Ccopy of the work can be found at the Department of Communities Northern Ireland – Historic Environment Division. It address can be found at https://www.buildingconservation.com/directory/ni-environment. The work is called ‘A Gazetteer of Nineteenth Coastguard Stations in Ulster’ by Denis Mayne. If they deny all knowledge of it refer to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I live in the coastguard cottages at Portland Bill. The Bill cottages have only ‘back’ doors – facing into a central courtyard – and our recent renovations uncovered a bricked in original doorway between us and next door on the top floor. It’s not clear whether the door was originally open or made with a skin wall to break in an emergency. The wash house is still standing (and used for mending lobster pots) and the outline of the well can still be seen. When I’m trying to dry clothes and boots inside in winter I often think enviously of that wash house and drying room.
My surname is Galloway and I have always wondered how the old coastguard at Lydd Kent called galloways got its name.
All very interesting. I have completed a study of the 19th century coastguard stations in Northern Ireland (unpublished -so far!). Ireland is unique in having fully fortified coastguard stations and an article I wrote on these is available at coastguardsofyesteryear.org.
I hope this may be of interest
Iteresting information. My Gt grandfather and Gt GtGrand father were Commanders of boats in the coastguard around south west Cornwall in the 19th Century and my grandmother was born at Prussia Cove near Breage in 1876.. There must have been a coastguard station there. The family sailed for Invercargill, NZ in 1884.If anyone can help me with the boats they sailed out in I would love to have some information about their lives. Thankyou.