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Francis Forbes Barton lifeboat returns to Thanet

A historic lifeboat on the brink of being destroyed has been saved and brought 200 miles back to its former home.

The Francis Forbes Barton, one of the oldest surviving lifeboats in the country, was sold for £1 to a group set up especially to see its safe return to Thanet.

It was lifted onto the back of a lorry and made the gruelling journey to Ramsgate from Lincolnshire where it was welcomed by the mayors of Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

Mayor of Ramsgate, Cllr Trevor Shonk, and Mayor of Broadstairs, Cllr Peter Shaw, with the Francis Forbes Barton in DealPicture: Frank Leppard
Mayor of Ramsgate, Cllr Trevor Shonk, and Mayor of Broadstairs, Cllr Peter Shaw, with the Francis Forbes Barton in DealPicture: Frank Leppard

Built in 1896, the boat served in Broadstairs from 1897 to 1912 and throughout the First World War at north Deal.

She was sold out of service in 1926 and most recently was left to languish for seven years on a piece of rented farmland in Kirton near Boston.

The boat was found after a search by the Friends of Francis Forbes Barton with the help of Thanet councillors Suzanne Brimm and George Rusiecki.

“We found her in Boston and if we hadn’t she would have been destroyed,” said Cllr Brimm.

The Francis Forbes Barton in transitPicture: Frank Leppard
The Francis Forbes Barton in transitPicture: Frank Leppard

“The owner of the farmland didn’t want her there anymore and so the lifeboat’s owners sold her to the trust for £1.

“The journey went well. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong but she arrived safely in Ramsgate.

“The main thing is we have her back and now work can start on getting funding.

“She’s a really important part of our history and everyone is relieved we’ve got her back.

“It’s good for Broadstairs, for residents, but also for the tourism here.”

The Francis Forbes Barton has been brought back to its former home in ThanetPicture: Frank Leppard
The Francis Forbes Barton has been brought back to its former home in ThanetPicture: Frank Leppard

The group is due to submit a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money towards the restoration of the boat, which is in a poor condition.

The Frances Forbes Barton Preservation and Restoration Trust will lead the project.

Michael Bon, from Ramsgate RNLI, said: “With tender loving care and hopefully the support of national and local funding, she will return to her former glory thus reflecting and remembering the brave crews who manned her all those years ago both at Broadstairs and Deal.”

The lifeboat, which returned on Friday, will remain in Ramsgate harbour while the project takes place.


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