H M Coastguard – a history

HM Coastguard has a history dating back more than 200 years. In the 18th century many goods were transported by ship around the coasts of the UK because there was no effective road network overland. But the hazardous conditions meant that many lives were lost, often within sight of the coast.

Several life saving organisations were established to combat the problem but the Exchequer was more concerned with another problem. The shipping system was open to abuse and there was ample opportunity for smuggling. Duty was imposed on many imported goods such as brandy, silk, tea and tobacco.So the tax office set up a customs house in each port with staff who could search cargoes and collect import dues.

Nevertheless, smuggling was still rife. By 1743 it was estimated that half of the tea drunk in Britain was brought into the country illegally. In 1809 the Board of Customs set up a Preventative Water Guard to combat the problem.

They patrolled the coast in small boats looking out for smugglers. In 1816 their organisation was taken over by the Treasury and had 151 stations in 31 districts. Staff were all experienced naval sailors or fishermen.

By the 1820s officers were expected to monitor wrecks to ensure that cargoes were safe from looting. In 1821 a committee of inquiry looked at the customs service and the Preventative Water Guard was renamed the Coast Guard but its primary function was still as a customs force.

Soon after, however, the Admiralty began issuing new uniforms and safety gear as well as training the force in safety drill. In 1856 the Coast Guard Act was passed and defined the force’s primary function as being safety, rather than tax collection.

In 1808 Captain Manby experimented with firing mortars to carry rescue lines to ships. The first practical rescue was of the Elizabeth, which was 150 yards offshore.

The first RNLI gold medal for gallantry was issued in 1824 to Charles Freemantle of Lymington Coastguard who swam with a line to rescue the crew of the Carl Jean off Christchurch.

Timeline 1900 – 1914

Timeline index

Marquess of Queensbury (boxing rules) dies

Creation of the Labour Party

Relief of Mafeking

Paris International Exhibition – Metro system opens

Campaign for pure beer

Coca-Cola arrives in the UK

Oscar Wilde dies

Planck proposes quantum theory

Arthur Evans starts work at

Blood types A, B & C discovered

Sigmund Freud publishes “The Interpretation of Dreams”

Queen Victoria dies


Toulouse-Lautrec dies

Boxing legalised

Walt Disney born (d.1966)


Nobel Prizes first awarded

Willhelm Roentgen wins Nobel Physics prize for discovery of X-rays

Gillette launches first disposable razor

1st diesel motor car goes on show in UK

1st Transatlantic wireless message sent by Guglielmo Marconi

Masefield’s “Salt-Water Ballads

End of Boer War

Ban on women bar staff in Glasgow overturned by appeal court

New York State bans flirting in public

Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”

HG Wells’s “The First Men on the Moon”

Conan-Doyle revives Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Emile Zola dies

London smallpox outbreak brings calls for national vaccination programme

1st special effects movie “A Trip to the Moon” produced by George Melies

Barbituric acid (sleeping pills) patented

Tour de France cycle race launched

Paul Gaugin dies

James McNeill Whistler dies

Barbara Hepworth (sculptor) born (d.1975)

George Orwell born (d. 1950)

Wilber and Orville Wright make first powered flight

Richard Gatling dies

Kew Bridge opens over River Thames

London’s first electric trams

Marie Curie wins Nobel Prize

Henry Morton Stanley dies

Salvador Dali born (d.1989)

1st attempt at talking pictures

Metropolitan Underground line electrified in London

Automobile Association founded

Dr Thomas John Barnardo dies

Jules Verne dies

Einstein’s Miracle year including Special Theory of Relativity

First successful cornea transplant takes place in Olomouc (Czech

Mt Vesuvius erupts

San Francisco earthquake

Paul Cezanne dies

Henrik Ibsen dies

Position of magnetic north established

Pierre Curie dies in road accident

Sonar invented

1st picture transmitted by telegraph

Finland elects worlds first women MPs

Rudyard Kipling gets Nobel Prize for literature

Herge born (Creator of Tintin. d.1983)

Baden-Powell forms the Boy Scout movement

Edvard Grieg (Norwegian composer) dies

Pavlov’s dogs experiment
Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”

Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows”

W G Grace plays his last season

NSPCC founder Rev Benjamin Waugh dies

Jack Johnson becomes the first black world heavyweight boxer

First Model T Ford

1st person to die in a plane crash is Lt Thomas Selfridge (26)

Ernest Rutherford wins Nobel chemistry prize

Physicist Henri Becquerel dies

1st closed top double decker buses arrive in Widnes

1st old age pension paid in the UK  – 5/- a week

Bakelite first manufactured commercially

Louis Bleriot is first man to fly across the Channel

Crippen hanged

Girl Guides formed

Mount Etna erupts

Edward VII dies

Florence Nightingale dies

Mark Twain dies (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

Holman Hunt dies

Leo Tolstoy dies

Wicken Fen drainage engine built

Marie Curie isolates pure radium

The Daylight Comet
Return of Halley’s Comet

Royal Liver Building, Liverpool built

“Spirit of Ecstasy” figurine commissioned for Rolls-Royce

Work completed on saving Winchester Cathedral from the “flood”

Joseph Pulitzer (journalist and publisher) dies

Middlesborough Transporter
Bridge opens

Marie Curie receives (her second) Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Both boats sink in University Boat Race

First aeroplane parachute jump made

Royal Flying Corps (later RAF) founded

1st Keystone Cops film

Samuel Taylor Coleridge dies

Titanic sinks

Marconi invents wireless compass

Continental drift theory proposed by Alfred Wegener

Joseph Lister (antiseptic pioneer) dies

Suffragette Emily Davison dies

Robert Falcon Scott and team found dead in Antarctica

Panama Canal opens

Edison invents telephone recorder

First World War starts

Sir John Tenniel (Alice illustrator) dies

Edison patents electric miners’ safety lamp

Eyam – the plague village

In 1665 a bolt of cloth was delivered from London to the Derbyshire village of Eyam. The cloth was damp, and it was infested with plague carrying fleas.

Within days residents were dying, and the village took the courageous decision to cut itself off from the rest of the world to prevent the disease from spreading.

By November the next year 260 of the villages had died – but no-one outside the village had contracted the plague.

Only one of the victim is buried in the churchyard – the vicar’s wife. The rest were buried around the village, in their gardens and away from the centre, in a bid to stop the disease from spreading.

The nursery rhyme Ring a Ring a Roses is believed to have been inspired by the plague. It describes the symptoms – red blisters and sneezing – and the posies of flowers that people carried to ward off the illness.  The perfume of flowers was believed to protect you from infection – just one of the strange ideas of the time.

Others included walnuts steeped in wine; barberries (fruit of the berberis) dried, powdered, then mixed with vinegar; or stripping the feathers from the tail of a pigeon and rubbing the bare skin on the red sores. The pigeon died in the process!

Timeline 1850-1899

Timeline index

architectual drawing
Salt’s Mill elevation
Wm Wordsworth dies

Tennyson becomes Poet Laureate

Peterborough Railway Bridge opens

Cast iron railway bridge opened in Newcastle

Britannia Bridge opens across Menai Straits

JMW Turner dies

John James Audubon dies

Saltaire construction begun

Great Exhibition

Isaac Singer produces the first sewing machine

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Great Western Royal Hotel opens in Paddington

Kew Waterlily House built

Augustus Pugin dies

Physicist Henri Becquerel born
Vincent Van Gogh born

Levi Strauss sells jeans to US miners

Scarborough market hall

Salt’s Mill opens at Saltaire

Smallpox vaccination made compulsory
Crimean War » 1856

Battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman

Charge of the Light Brigade

Florence Nightingale arrives at Scutari

William West dies

British Medical Association founded
Daily Telegraph founded 1855

Ellen Terry appears on stage for the 1st time

End of Crimean War

Oscar Wilde born

George Bernard Shaw born

Sigmund Freud born


2nd Opium War

Indian Mutiny

Victoria and Albert Museum opens

“The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands” published

Great Western dismantled

Brunel’s Tamar Bridge Opened

The Great Stink – London
Netherton Tunnel opens

Delph “Nine” Locks reconstructed

Donati’s Comet

John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty”

George Eliot’s “Adam Bede”

Jerome K Jerome born

Arthur Conan Doyle born


Darwin‘s “Origin of Species”

Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge opens at Saltash

I K Brunel dies

Abraham Lincoln made US president
British Association for the
Advancement of Science meets at Oxford
Henry Bessemer patents the converter to make steel from iron
Prince Albert dies

Hawley Harvey Crippen born

First horse-drawn trams in London

Daily weather forecasts

Henry David Thoreau dies

George Borrow’s “Wild Wales”

John Merrick born


Edvard Munch born » 1944

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec born

Tom King becomes the first world heavyweight boxing champion

Runcorn Railway Bridge opens

Blackpool North Pier opens

Work starts on London

Albert Memorial built

Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”

Eugene Delacroix (artist) dies

Poet John Clare dies in Northampton Asylum


Diamonds discovered in South Africa

Ford Madox Brown’s Work exhibited for the first time

Abraham Lincoln  assassinated

Isabella Beeton dies

Joseph Paxton dies

Scarborough Valley Bridge opens

Aberystwyth Pier opens

Beatrix Potter born

J W Penfold designs the red pillarbox

Great Eastern lays the first
transatlantic cable
Brighton West Pier built
Lime juice ration becomes a legal requirement in the merchant navy to fight scurvy

Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial first produced by Lauchlan Rose

First bicycle built

Nobel produces dynamite

Michael Faraday dies

Flogging in peacetime and transporation abolished

Last public execution outside Newgate Prison, London

Charles Rennie Mackintosh born (d.1928)


Imprisonment for debt abolished
Suez Canal opens

Cutty Sark launched


Periodic Table of the
Elements devised

Charles Dickens dies

1st Dr Barnado’s Home opens

Loughborough gets its first public water supply
Stanley finds Livingstone

Bank Holidays introduced

Royal Albert Hall opens

Souter Lighthouse built

Ernest Rutherford born

Charles Babbage dies

Aubrey Beardsley born

Piet Mondrian born (d. 1944)

Wm Heath Robinson born


Sir Edwin Landseer dies

Derby’s first public swimming pool

Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”

Colour photographs first developed

Horse-drawn tram system opens in Sheffield

Levi Strauss patents blue jeans
Barbed wire invented by Joseph Glidden

Caudwell’s Mill built

Hans Christian Andersen dies

Samuel Taylor Coleridge born

John Buchan born (d.1940  “39 Steps” “Prester John”)

Capt Matthew Webb swins the English Channel

Bizet’s “Carmen” first performed

Anderton Boat Lift opens

London’s sewer system

Excavation begins at
Creswell Crags

Victoria proclaimed
Empress of India
Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Tom Sawyer”Compulsory school  attendance in the UKTitus Salt dies

Custer’s Last Stand

Plimsoll Line introduced

Death of Samuel Plimsoll

Bell patents the telephone

Bissell patents the carpet sweeper

Queen Victoria becomes Empress of India
Edison invents the phonograph

Fox Talbot dies

John Masefield born

Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”

Salvation Army named

Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”

George Gilbert Scott dies

Swan demonstrates the electric lightbulb

Downham Market clock erected

Invention of the microphone

Bournville construction begun
Albert Einstein born
Forth Bridge (railway bridge) construction beginsBlackpool installs the world’s first electric arc street lighting
» 1897
George Eliot dies

1st Boer War

First cricket Test Match between England and Australia

Giles Gilbert Scott born

Jacob Epstein (sculptor) born (d.1959)

Start of Arts and Crafts


First street lighting in New York
Thomas Carlyle dies (Scottish essayist and historian)

Pablo Picasso born. (d.1973)

Mary Seacole dies

Ernest Bevin born (d. 1951 WWII politician introduced “Bevin Boys” miners)

Natural History Museum opens in South Kensington, London
Eric Gill (sculptor) born
Charles Darwin dies
Fitzgerald dies

Edouard Manet (painter) dies

Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”

Matthew Webb dies

Brighton West Pier extended

First skyscraper built (10 storeys) in Chicago

The Great English Earthquake
Gregor Mendel dies

Edwin A Abbott’s “Flatland”

Papplewick Pumping Station opens

Eugenius Birch dies

General Gordon dies at
Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado”
Louis Pasteur dies
Thomas Hardy’s “Mayor of
Statue of Liberty dedicated
Thomas Burrow’s apology

Clarence Birdseye, inventor of the deep-freeze process, born

Victoria’s Golden

LS Lowry born » 1976Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton builtRupert Brooke born in Rugby, Warwickshire.(d.1915)Sherlock Homes first appears in “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Bloody Sunday  (Demonstration in Trafalgar Sq for the release of Irish Nationalist William O’Brien. Dispersed by police)

Esperanto international language invented

Barnes Wallis born in Ripley, Derbyshire. Inventor of the “bouncing bomb” (d.1979)

Coal Mines Regulation Act prevents boys under 13 working below ground

De Beers Consolidated Mines established at Kimberley, South Africa

Jack the Ripper murders

Port Sunlight begun

Financial Times first

Edward Lear dies

John Boyd Dunlop patents the pneumatic tyre

Electric chair first used in New York

George Eastman introduces the Kodak box camera

Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”

Federal laws introduced in the US to protect the buffalo

Southend Pier built

Paris Exhibition – Eiffel
Tower completed

Igor Sikorsky – helicopter pioneer – born

Institution of Electrical Engineers founded

Vincent Van Gogh
commits suicide
Queen Victoria grants Crown Derby the right to add “Royal” to its nameJohn Merrick diesMassacre at Wounded Knee
First moving pictures shown in New York


Forth Bridge opens

Oscar Wilde publishes “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” 1891
Zips invented
Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock
J R R Tolkien born (d. 1973)Walt Whitman diesThomas Cook (Travel agent) diesLiverpool University’s Victoria Building completed
Bridgnorth Funicular Railway opens

John William Alcock born. (d.1919

Alcock and Brown were the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic – 1919)

Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit”

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”


Ford Madox Brown dies
New Zealand gives women the vote
Sheffield granted city staus
Wilfred Owen born in Oswestry, Shropshire (d. 1918)


Henry Ford’s first automobile produced

Tower Bridge, London completed

Blackpool Tower opens

Marconi’s first radio message

National Trust founded

H G Wells’s “The Time Machine”

T.H Huxley dies

Rontgen discovers X rays

William Morris dies

Sir John Everett Millais dies

Dante Gabriel Rossetti dies

Daily Mail newspaper founded

Kew Gardens employs women gardeners for the first time

Aberystwyth Cliff Railway
Nobel Prizes first announced >> 1901
Tate Gallery opens in London
Blackpool’s first illuminations

Discovery of the electron

Edward Burne-Jones dies
Samuel Plimsoll dies

Pierre and Marie Curie discover radium

Liverpool University opens the world’s first School of Tropical Medicine

UK’s first speeding fine
imposed in Northampton

Noel Coward born (d. 1973) Ernest Hemingway born (d. 1961)
L Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
Bassett’s Liquorice
Allsorts “invented”
Start of Boer War
Aspirin registered as a trade mark

Brighton Pier opens

Electric trams introduced in Sheffield