South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, Tyne and Wear
Inventions, Social Reform
1600 – 1799
The world's first lifeboat was designed and built in South Shields in 1789.
This is the model that William Wouldhave of South Shields entered into a competition to find the best design for a boat capable of saving lives at sea. With cork inside, his lifeboat was designed to be self-righting if it overturned.
Although Wouldhave's design was awarded second place in the competition, he is credited by many as the 'inventor of the lifeboat'. The first lifeboat, called the Original, was built in 1789 in South Shields by the winner of the competition, boatbuilder, Henry Greathead.
So whether you think Greathead should have the title of 'inventor of the lifeboat' or Wouldhave, there can be no doubt that the lifeboat, now used the world over, was born in South Shields!
By William Wouldhave (1751-1821)
On display at South Shields Museum
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