Holyhead Maritime Museum

Holyhead Maritime Museum

Early Lifeboats

Early Lifeboats - Holyhead


The Holyhead Maritime Museum is a maritime museum located in Holyhead, North Wales. Housed in what is claimed to be the oldest Lifeboat station in Wales (built c. 1858), it contains a number of collections. The lifeboat station opened in 1858 and the first lifeboat was unnamed, launching 18 times, saving 128 persons. Replaced by the Prince of Wales, she launched 38 times and rescued 128 persons. In 1875, Member of Parliament Joshua Fielden and his brothers donated the Thomas Fielden, named after their father, which necessitated extending the house. In 1890, a second large boat was obtained, for which the house was extended to enable beach based landing from a horse-drawn carriage. After local maritime exhibitions were held in 1982 and 1983 elsewhere, a trustees group was formed on 24 September 1984. The trustees obtained a nine-year lease on the redundant St Elbods church from the Church in Wales, with the museum opened officially by the Duke of Westminster in March 1986. On expiration of the lease, and after failing to agree a lease within a new development, Stena Line offered the museum a peppercorn rent on the renovated Lifeboat house at Newry Beach. Deciding to improve the building through the construction of new visitor facilities, after a successful bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a renegotiation of the lease to 99 years, the museum reopened on its current site in 1998.


Over 30,000 years ago the Woolly Mammoth roamed the land that was eventually to become Anglesey. In 1864, whilst working on the Holyhead Harbour for the London and North Western Railway, a group of workmen came across what was subsequently identifed as the teeth and jawbone of one of these strange elephant like animals. Stored in the Natural History Museum they were returned for permanent exhibition at the Maritime Museum in 2006. In 2011 the Captain Jesse Hughes Youth Club of Holyhead completed a unique collage made from numerous coins depicting the Woolly Mammoths in their natural environment. The Maritime Museum is privilaged to be able to display this special artwork.


Holyhead's position in the Irish Sea and its connection with Ireland has been of significant importance for many centuries. Throughout the early days of sail and through the later transition to steam and motor vessels Holyhead has always operated a busy port and harbour. Prior to the Victorian period Holyhead would have operated numerous sailing vessels and paddle driven Packet Boats carrying passengers and mail to and from Ireland. The boom time came to Holyhead with the arrival of the railway in 1848 when larger, screw driven ships started to appear. Towards the end of the 19th Century far more technically advanced ships were built for the Irish crossing and competition between the operating companies resulted in a faster more comfortable service. The inner harbour was developed in the early 1800's and then again in 1880 with a building of a new Railway Station, Hotel and Dock enabling passengers to transfer directly from ship to train. To provide a harbour of refuge from the sometimes very inhospitual Irish Sea, the giant Breakwater was completed in 1873. The museum contains many highly detailed ship builder's models of the sleek screw driven vessels of the late 19th and early 20th Century. Comparisons can be made with the more technically advanced and radically shaped vessels operating out of Holyhead today. There is also much memorabilia on show including ship and crew photographs, uniforms and ensignia, flags, ship equipment, maritime artifacts, ship repair tools (Marine Yard) - all helping to tell the story of Holyhead ships and seamen during both war and peace.


The sea and coast around Anglesey has long been recognised by seamen as highly hazardous. The rough seas and sudden storms of the Irish Sea have sometimes caused ships of all sizes to get into difficulties. During the days of sail shipwrecks were more frequent and in 1828 the first lifeboat, powered by oar and sail, was established at Holyhead. The first steam lifeboat arrived in 1890 and in February 1908 the lifeboat Duke of Northumberland went out in a full 80 mph gale to render assistance to the Liverpool steamer SS Harold. She was found anchored close to the rocky shore between North and South Stack. After two hours of skillful maneuvering the Coxswain, William Owen, managed to get close enough to haul seven of the crew on board by ropes. A large wave then pushed the lifeboat close enough for the remaining two crew members to jump aboard the lifeboat. The lifeboat herself was in great danger of being flung against the steamer and destroyed. For this brave rescue Coxswain Owen was awarded the gold medal and the other ten crew members the silver medal. Crew members of the Holyhead Lifeboats have been awarded 49 of the RNLI's medals for gallantry - 4 gold, 32 silver and 13 bronze.


The museum today tells the maritime history of Holyhead and Anglesey, from earliest days to the modern ferries to Ireland. It features an interactive combination of historical artifacts, models and sensory exhibitions. All of its part-time volunteers have extensive maritime and local knowledge. It is fully Accessible to wheelchairs and the museum has its own cafe, the Harbour Front Bistro. Assistance dogs are welcome. The Holyhead at War exhibition is located in an air raid shelter located alongside the Maritime Museum. Toilet Facilities are available with wheelchair access and mother and baby changing facilities (Please note there is no alarm system in the disabled toilet).


Location : Newry Beach, Holyhead, Anglesey. LL65 1YD

Transport : Holyhead (National Rail) then bus or 12 minutes . Bus Routes : 22 and 22A stop close by.

Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday + Bank Holidays 10:00 to 16:00

Tickets : Adults £5.00;  Children ( - 16) Free;  Concessions £4.00

Tel : 01248 725700