The William and Kate Johnston Preservation Society (WKJPS), set up to restore the lifeboat William and Kate Johnston to its former glory, is celebrating the vessel returning home to The Wirral.  The boat is now based at MST Group’s yard in Bromborough where it will undergo major restoration work.

Built in 1923, the William and Kate Johnston, a Barnett-class lifeboat, was one of only four of its kind operating in the UK & Ireland.  Serving New Brighton RNLI from 1923 until 1950, she saved 248 lives over 96 launches.  She was designed as a prototype lifeboat by James R. Barnett, the consulting naval architect to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  At the time of her launch, she was believed to be the largest lifeboat in the world, capable of carrying 130 casualties.

Abandoned in Gosport Marina, the lifeboat faced demolition before National Historic Ships UK intervened in June 2023 to find new owners.  By reaching out to our network, the press, and the wider public on social media, NHS-UK were able to find new custodians for the lifeboat and save her from being scrapped.  We had nearly 30 expressions of interest, and were pleased to be able to facilitate her returning home to New Brighton, where she served for 26 years and will now be restored.

The William and Kate Johnston Preservation Society was established to restore this heritage asset, a crucial part of maritime history on the River Mersey, to its former glory and return it to the North West.  While the WKJPS raised funds and made preparations for the lifeboat's journey home, she was cared for by NHS-UK's Shipshape South East Hub Boathouse 4 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. 

In March, after a few days of tinkering, the WKJPS were able to get both engines working, meaning the lifeboat could travel under her own power across Portsmouth Harbour to Gosport's Victoria Quay.  Appropriately, WKJPS Director, Mersey River Pilot, and former New Brighton RNLI Helm, Dan, was at the helm! His calmness and years of nautical experience put everyone at ease, even if he was trying his best to appear stoic.  In Gosport, the boat was hoisted out, her hull was jetwashed to remove seaweed, and she was prepared for her long journey home by lorry. 

Once restored, William and Kate Johnston will serve as a museum piece and working vessel on the river, offering day trips and educational opportunities for community groups.

The WKJPS said: "The journey home wouldn’t have been possible without YOU, our amazing supporters.  We’re so grateful for every donation, big or small. While our fundraising pushed us far, we fell a bit short due to time constraints.  To bridge the gap, we secured a private loan.  However, your support is still crucial! Every donation helps us reach our restoration goal and bring this historic lifeboat back to life as a community treasure on the Mersey.  Can you chip in to help us complete the mission?"

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William and Kate Johnston Zone North