Lifeboat model

Contributed by South Shields Museum and Art Gallery

William Wouldhave’s model of a boat to save lives, 1789. © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

The world's first lifeboat was designed and built in South Shields in 1789; this is one of the designs.This is the model that William Wouldhave of South Shields entered into a competition to find the best design for a boat to save lives. With cork inside, his lifeboat was designed to be self-righting if overturned in stormy seas. Although Wouldhave's design came second place in the competition, he is credited by many as the 'inventor of the lifeboat'. The first lifeboat, called the 'Original', of 1789, was built in South Shields by the boatbuilder Henry Greathead (who won the competition) - so, whether you think Greathead should have the title of 'inventor of the lifeboat' or that Wouldhave should be thought of as such, there can be no doubt that the lifeboat, now used the world over, was born in South Shields!

Comments are closed for this object


  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 20:52 on 25 April 2010, Mike wrote:

    I am currently researching for a proposed book on William Wouldhave, who I have been researching for over 3 years now with lots of new information and I am more and more sure 'he was the inventor' of what we now call a lifeboat.
    Anyone with any small amounts of information please contact me.

    Complain about this comment

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline




View more objects from people in Tyne.

Find out more

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.