Fringe Box



Day The Lifeboat Was Launched In Guildford

Published on: 28 Feb, 2012
Updated on: 28 Feb, 2012


By David Rose

Thousands of people flocked to Guildford town centre on September 21, 1904, to see an unusual sight – a lifeboat being paraded through the town and then launched on the River Wey at Millmead.

I recently acquired a copy of the official programme for the event, which reveals that it was a very big day indeed, with two large processions through the town in which many local people and organisations took part.

A number of photographs of the event exist. Fellow local historian Stan Newman included some in his book Guildford Life Past and Present (Beedon Books 2008), and discovered some information about the day in the archives at the Guildford Institute.

Here are some of those photos along with a few pages from the programme, that admirably tell the story of a day that would have remained long in the memory of those who were there.

The event was a fund-raiser, probably for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) – but the programme doesn’t actually say, except mentioning “the authorised collectors will wear a distinctive badge”.

Presumably the printers of the programme couldn’t get hold of an image of the lifeboat, so a photo of the then mayor appeared on the cover instead!

The lifeboat after it had arrived at Guildford railway station.

The lifeboat arrived at Guildford railway station from Dover with its crew. A team of horses then drew it through the town to the delight of the hoards of people who turned out to see it.

All Guildford’s ‘movers and shakers’ back in 1904 were involved in the event.
The lifeboat being paraded up the High Street during the afternoon procession.
The programme noted the Guildford Temperance Brass Band was to lead the afternoon procession.

The lifeboat was later taken to Millmead where it was launched on the river. The public could then take a short trip in the lifeboat paying 6d (two and a half pence) a time. Two men rowed the boat up and down the river.


The lifeboat is launched into the river at Millmead. St Nicolas Church can just been seen on the far right.
After the launch of the lifeboat there were also life-saving displays on the river.
One of the lifeboat trips passes Moon’s timber yard – now Debenhams store.

The events continued into the evening with a torchlight procession that departed from the cattle market (then in Woodbridge Road) at 8pm.

The programme reveals all the various groups, societies and bands who took part.

Details for the evening torchlight procession.
The titles and the names of some of the characters featured in the procession would today be regarded as somewhat distasteful!

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