Previous names

  • 1910 - 1935 James Leath
Certificate no 3707
Status Registered


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Lifeboat
Location Chatham Historic Dockyard
Vessel type Norfolk and Suffolk Class
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, Blackwall
Built in 1910
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Manpower
Primary engine type None
Boiler type
Boilermaker None


Length: Overall
42.00 feet (12.80 m)
Breadth: Beam
12.60 feet (3.84 m)



 Built by Thames Iron Works, Blackwell in 1910, she is a  42' Norfolk & Suffolk type pulling-sailing lifeboat served RNLI 1910-35 at Pakefield, Caister and Aldeburgh saving 20 lives. Sold out of service from RNLI in 1936.

James Leith was converted to a houseboat about 1942 for Mr & Mrs Marsden of Poole. On conversion all air cases, water ballast tanks, relieving valves and tubes, thwarts and part of her deck removed to make room for her compartmented cabin.

Purchased by the National Lifeboat Museum Bristol in November 1982. Arrived from Poole 25 November 1982 the hull and mast including sails. The hull was basically in reasonable condition with only a few minor weak spots. During 1983 the cabin was stripped off and the belting removed. The volunteer group obtained the drawings from Poole so restoration could be carried out, however, at this point the volunteer crew and the trustees fell out as to how the work should be carried out which resulted in the work being done by the trustees group and the volunteers told to mind there own business or get out. The trustee group were not concerned with the original plans they just wanted the boat to look like and old lifeboat. At some time during this period the mast was sawn up and the sails went missing. The end result is the new belting is fibreglass, the tabernacle is in the wrong position , and the floor is just sheets of plywood, the thwarts are also not in the correct position.

Arrived from Bristol to Chatham  Dockyard in 1982,  with the outside of the hull painted red from keel to waterline and blue from waterline to rubbing strake, no name or station painted on. This was done by one of our ex volunteers using cardboard cut out letters which is rather poor. All the inside is painted in grey primer only. About the year 2000 the hull from keel to waterline was given 1 coat white paint by a member of the volunteer group without the approval of the group The boat was fitted out for simulated rowing by the public but up to the end of 2004 this had never been opened. However on the opening in 2005 the public were admitted to this display. Metal guard rails enclose this area so the public cannot walk around the rest of the boat.

Key dates

  • 1910

    Built by Thames Iron Works, Blackwell

  • 1910-1919

    Served in Pakefield

  • 1919-1929

    Served in Caister

  • 1929-1930

    Part of the reserve fleet

  • 1930-1935

    Served in Aldeburgh

  • 1942

    Converted to a houseboat

  • 1982

    Purchased by the National Lifeboat Museum Bristol

  • 1982

    Boat delivered to Chatham Historic Dockyard.

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