Charterhouse Returns is a project to restore and display the historic lifeboat Charterhouse, which was in service at Fishguard Harbour from 1909 to 1931. The most technically advanced lifeboat in Wales at the time, she saved many sailors’ lives. On decommissioning, she was sold into private hands.
After 60 years, the late Phil Davies led a project to bring her back for exhibition. The boat is now under restoration on the quayside in Fishguard Harbour, and plans are being prepared to find her a permanent home as an educational resource.
Charterhouse was the first motorised lifeboat in Wales when she went on station in 1909. Technologically she had a number of innovative features. She was one of the earlier styles of boat that were self-righting and motorised, with two sails and oars for 12 people to row.
One of her most daring rescues was in 1920 under coxswain John Howells. A Dutch three-masted motor schooner, the Hermina, had sought shelter at Fishguard from a fierce gale and heavy seas, but was dismasted and heading for the rocks. The Charterhouse went to the rescue, but the propeller had limited traction in the heavy waves, and the mission was in peril. Oars and skilled sailing were put to use. All were saved during the heroic rescue except the schooner’s third officer.
The lifeboat was later taken to London by train and displayed outside the Houses of Parliament. John Howells was awarded the RNLI’s highest honour, a Gold Medal, with other members of the crew also receiving medals. The presentations were made by the Prince of Wales.
The Charterhouse was decommissioned in 1931, sold off, and later kept by a family in north Wales for 60 years. After much research by Phil Davies, the old lifeboat was found, still afloat, at Bangor in North Wales. In 2009 a group of volunteers led by Phil brought the boat back to Fishguard Harbour, exactly 100 years after her initial launch.
The volunteers included a group of past pupils of Charterhouse School (known as ‘Old Carthusians’). In 1909, the lifeboat was commissioned with funds from past and present pupils of the school. In 2009, once the boat was returned to Fishguard, a re-dedication ceremony was held.
Charterhouse Returns is a registered charity (1139336). The project was awarded £7,800 by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014.
Where is Fishguard Harbour?
At one time, all sides of the Bay were very busy with cargo, passenger, and fishing boats.
These days, the main traffic is the ferry to Ireland that leaves several times a day. A relaxing way to get between London and Dublin is by train and ferry.