After a total 201 years, life has changed at Spurn Point. The Humber Lifeboat crew and their families who reside there have had a major change in their lifestyle.
Humber is the only full-time lifeboat crew in the country, where the crew and their families actually lived at the station.
A lifeboat has been based at Spurn Point since 1810 for life-saving duties. Initially funded by the Hull Trinity House, the station is so remote that the crew had to live on Spurn. Cottages were built to house the men and their families so they could be on hand and available for rescuing any mariners in distress. In 1858 a second set of ten houses were built to house the families. These were to last until 1975. They were then demolished when a new development was built. These are there to the present day.
In 1908 the Humber Conservancy Board took over the running of the lifeboat station for a short period. Then on May 1st 1911 the R.N.L.I. took over the duty of the station and has done ever since.
Life has often been quite difficult at Spurn with the isolation that prevails. A larger community has lived there in the past. The lighthouse keepers once resided there and Spurn had its own post office and school. The Coastguards had a base there for many years. The only other people who now work at Spurn are the Humber pilots, guiding vessels in and out of the River Humber.
The only access is a single-track concrete road built by the military in 1941 down to the community at Spurn. This was fine for many years, as the Ministry of Defence who were based there maintained the road and more importantly the groins and sea defences. The M.O.D. sold Spurn Point in 1959 and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust took over.
However the relentless power of the sea has gradually eroded Spurn Point and at various points the road has washed away, and windblown sand has made the situation even worse with access impossible at times. Temporary makeshift replacements of the road have ensured that there was always access down to Spurn, but over recent years the tide has washed over on a much more frequent basis, isolating the families down there. This made life difficult for getting off the Point for shopping and to allow children who live there to get to school.
The lifeboat crew normally have worked a pattern of six days on duty and one day off (in this day and age, quite a big ask!). This was an improvement on the pattern of one month on duty, and one day off, during the earlier years.
The R.N.L.I. had for some time been looking at an alternative to improve the situation but still maintaining a lifeboat service. At one time the idea of stationing the lifeboat at Grimsby across the other side of the River Humber was talked about, but Spurn Point is still the best place for the station, as a launch can be carried out quickly with a fast response time.
Finally a decision was made to move the families off Spurn Point as the peninsula has been isolated by high tides on an increasing number of occasions over the last year. The R.N.L.I. said they could no longer guarantee the safety and comfort of the families living on the Point. In addition it would give the crew a better work-life balance. The crew will work a shift pattern of six days on duty and six days off, with two crews of five men. This has created four new additional full-time jobs. A number of relief and volunteer crew will cover any absences due to the holidays or sickness.
The Humber station has a very impressive history of bravery and gallantry, with a total of 35 medals awarded; - 1 MBE, 1 George Medal, 3 Gold Medals, 13 Silver Medals, 17 Bronze Medals, 11 Thanks of the Institute Inscribed on Vellum and 5 Framed Letters of Thanks.
The crew have looked upon the changes with mixed feelings. Whilst it will be a big improvement in their working pattern with more leisure time off for themselves, it will be a big upheaval for them, as a way of working and as a way of life. As they have been quoted as saying, it was like living a 19th century life in the 21st century. Whatever happens, it really is the end of an era!
Mike Welton (2012)