The Heroic Lynmouth Overland Boat Rescue

This story takes place in January 12th, 1899 in Lynmouth, England. A 1900 ton masted ship named "Forrest Hall" was damaged and stranded in a gale off the shores of Porlock Weir on the North Somerset, England coast. The weather had been treacherously rough for 24 hours. There was flooding in the Lynmouth area.

Around 8 pm a telegram came requesting the Lynmouth lifeboat the "Louisa" to be launched to rescue the men on board "Forrest Hall". Since it was impossible to launch the rescue boat at Lynmouth due to the heavy storm, Jack Crocombe proposed carrying the lifeboat to the Porlock Weir where it had a sheltered harbor. This meant they would have to carry the "Louisa" up Countisbury Hill, over Exmoore and down Porlock Hill. There were multiple complications with this plan. It was dark, incredibly stormy, and Porlock Weir was 13 miles away. Did I mention that the lifeboat weighed over 1o tons and the road was nothing more than a rough dirt track uphill? I'm not talking about any hill either. I've been on Porlock Countisbury Hill and it was the steepest scariest hill I've traveled on. I could not imagine scaling this hill at night, in a storm, carrying a 10 ton boat.

But luckily for the 18 men stranded in the storm, there were brave men who were willing to make this treacherous trip uphill in a storm to rescue them. Six men set out ahead of the lifeboat, armed with picks and shovels to clear a good path. The lifeboat crew consisted of 12 horses and about 100 men. They tacked the steep 1,423 feet of Countisbury Hill. The journey ended up being 15 miles long after several detours along the way.

They got twenty or so replacement horses for the downward journey. Only 20 men had the strength to make the 3 mile descent journey to the shore. The other 80 men headed back home exhausted. At one point, they had to take out a wall of a house to be able to fit the "Louisa" between two houses. At 6:30 am, almost 12 hours later, they were able to launch the lifeboat from Porlock Weir. It took the rescuers over an hour to row out to the men on "Forrest Hall" because of how weary they were and how rough the seas were.

At daylight a tugboat that had tried to rescue the "Forrest Hall" the night before, but had given up with the rope broke returned and the crew from the rescue boat "Louisa" boarded the "Forrest Hall" and helped secure it to the tug. Another tug arrived and all were able to tow the boat to Barry, Wales.

The weary rescuers arrived back in Lynmouth by sea approximately 41 hours later, arriving back on January 14th.

There were no human casualties, but four horses died from exhaustion.

This event was re-enacted by 60 men and 4 work horses in 1999 during daylight to pay tribute to the heroic rescue of their forefathers. They resorted to a little modern assistance for part of the journey.

Known Participants in the Rescue

Jack Crocombe (coxswain)

George Richards (second coxswain)

Richard Ridler (bowman)

Richard Moore (signalman)

Richard Burgess

Charles Crick

David Crocombe

William Jarvis

Bertram Pennicott

Thomas PugsleyA

George Rawle

William Richards

John Ridler

John Ward

About Porlock Hill

Please watch the home footage below that I found on YouTube that is the best I found to demonstrate how incredibly steep Porlock Hill is. When I was there in 2006, my husband took my daughter and I up this hill. I felt just like the woman in this video, although I think it was much worse for me because I'm not used to the insanely narrow roadways in England. The hedge rows and trees add to the claustrophobic narrowing of the roadway. Because the road is so winding, you can't really keep your speed up either so you really do lose traction and feel like you're going to slide back down the hill. Very scary stuff.

Driving Porlock Hill

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Comments 19 comments

brownlickie 7 years ago

great hub .It would have taken a lot of courage. regards brownlickie

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

what an great tale and you tell it so well, you know more about my homeland than I do. Loved the video as well

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Brownlickie: I know, right?! I don't know many people that would endure what they endured to save 18 strangers. Thanks for stopping by brownlickie!

Maggs: I love your homeland, you know that! I am very passionate about the places I visit. I love learning about them and connecting with them. Then I come home and read more about them. I bought the book about the Lynmouth Flood right after I got back home in 2006. That's the other hub I published tonight.

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

What an incredible story of heroism! Just goes to show just how strong the human spirit of men (and women for that matter) is. Those 18 men sure were lucky to have such brothers in arms to help them! Awesome hub, Big Country.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

I agree, Dohn. I was so impressed by this story when I was standing there reading about it in Lynmouth. I wish now I had ridden the Cliff Railway. My daughter wanted us to, but I was anxious to do other things.

caymanhost profile image

caymanhost 7 years ago from Cayman Islands

Excellent read as usual KCC. They built them tough in those days alright.

I'm actually very familiar with these stories and it's lovely to revisit the place I took my wife to on her first day in England. We stayed just outside Lynmouth and Lynton for our first few days together and she too was amazed by the gradients and width of the roads. Until I saw Cayman I wondered why hills fascinated her so much :-)

You certainly got around on your visits, hubby did you proud, he was obviously a great guide to have.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Hey Caymanhost! You're right, my hubby was a good tour guide, wasn't he? I was only in England 3 days the first time and a week the second time, but I think we put a total of just over 3000 miles on the rental cars.

I still cringe thinking about Porlock Hill. He hadn't told me about this story until we go to Lynmouth AFTER being on Porlock Hill. Needless to say, I was majorly impressed with these heroic men!

How cool for you to have taken your wife in the area on her first day in England!

caymanhost profile image

caymanhost 7 years ago from Cayman Islands

Well, it's certainly a coincidence :-) We stayed in a place called the Bridge Inn just up the road. Seemed like a good stopping off point before we went home to the far southwest of Cornwwall where I was living at the time.

Fond memories....

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

We actually ended up the area to avoid one of the major highways that was backed up with caravans heading out for a bank holiday I think. So we were meandering along the coastline on backroads. It was the best! The first time I went to England I think Padstow and Lyme Regis were my favorite towns. The second time, it was Lynmouth and Chester. Gosh, I'm dying to go back! My daughter is too, she wants to go there for Christmas this year. Hubby is still enjoying the states too much!

caymanhost profile image

caymanhost 7 years ago from Cayman Islands

Padstow is a lovely little town and my folks have a soft spot for Lyme Regis too funnily enough.

As a visitor there are many beautiful places in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I saw many as a coach driver and many more as a motorcyclist with unstoppable wanderlust!

Reading your castle hubs was great fun too btw. If you ever get to the Highlands and Islands on the west coast of Scotland you'd probably love it, or Northumberland in NE England. If you go to the far southwest you'd probably enjoy St Michael's Mount too, across from the village of Marazion, although probably not strictly a castle it's an impressive place.

Anyway...sorry to jabber on! Enjoying reading all about England from a Texan perpective:-)

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

St. Michael's Mount has long been on my to-do list. Ethel Smith, one of my favorite hubbers has a great hub on it. My husband barely took us in to Scotland. I want to venture up there more. Haven't gone over to Ireland yet at all. I've been to Wales. My first night in the UK was in Wales in Newport. I don't mind you jabbering on, come back anytime! I'm about to head to bed for the night though!

alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Fascinating hub. Watched the video. OMG, how scary, especially coming down. I've driven some steep roads in Italy and Switzerland and central Africa, but this takes the cake for England.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thank you alekhouse! To me, the video doesn't even do it justice because you can't FEEL how your car feels on that steep of a hill. It has a 1:4 gradiant, which basically means for every foot you move forward, you're climbing 4 foot high. That's steep! And these guys were toting a ten ton boat on it, in the dark, in the rain!'s just an incredible feat.

Tesa Adams profile image

Tesa Adams 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

Wow, incredible story.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thanks Tesa! I agree! I was most impressed with their bravery.

google biz kit 7 years ago

Kcc really this one is the best hub i like you write so nice and evry point have a good information

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

Thank you google biz kit! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

David Reynolds/Flat-Broke Films 7 years ago

Just to inform you that my colleague Bill Homewood (USA) and myself Dave Reynolds (UK) are writing a feature film screenplay to bring the heroic 1899 Lynmouth lifeboat story to the attention of the World - it is called LOUISA - the name of the lifeboat. We have interest already from a USA producer which is fantastic!

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas Author

That is fantastic news, Dave! This is definitely a story to share with the world. I look forward to the words "coming soon to a theater near you".

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