Zetland Lifeboat Museum

and Redcar Heritage Centre

Conservation Update

March 2014

Please see this link


October 2013

Following the survey carried out by John Kearon on 15th & 16th April 2013, it was decided that further access to the inner hull was required to enable a full analysis of the vessel to be completed. Following the removal of deck boards, etc the findings were consistent with the previous exposed areas. In addition, 2 lead ballast tanks were revealed.


29 July 2013

Further to gaining exploratory access to areas of the hull not previously seen since 1823, we decided we had taken enough of the deck up to show what the problem was although by no means showing  the full extent of the timber decay.

We are aware that at this stage those visiting the Zetland would prefer to see her complete and it is our intention to delay further work until we have at least some indication that we are financially  secure to carry on further.  

We have made applications for some funding and once this is in place we will be in a better position to methodically progress with the conservation work.

Other issues are being dealt with and for the first time since 1907, the Zetland carriage has been fitted with permanent wheels. At least now the Lifeboat can be taken from the building in the case of an emergency.


16 April 2013

In the last 2 days, we have had an expert, provided by the National Historic Ships, open up some box sections.

Access was gained to one side only. It is anticipated that the findings will be consistent in other similar areas.

The findings were mixed. Several documents had indicated that air tanks were copper lined, however, no evidence was found.

Bearing in mind these sections had not been visible in over 200 years, it appears there is no significant, general areas of rot. Some edges of the deck boards had evidence of rot, however, most of the rot is out of sight. It appears that the rot was caused by a mixture of exposure to water/damp and rusting iron nails.

The next step is to wait for the report, which will identify the options for conservation.

The options will be discussed between the RNLI Zetland Museum Management Committee, RNLI Heritage and Redcar & Cleveland Council Museums Dept.

Dependent on the option, the same group will then enquire as to who is able to carry out the work to a strict criteria.

The bottom line is we will make all decisions in the best interest of the Zetland so she will last at least another 200 years.


Our work towards conserving the Zetland has been applauded by many who are involved in Maritime conservation. Without doubt she has earned her position as part of the National Historic Fleet and many are asking just how she has survived for over 200 years with so little maintenance!  Records available of the 31 Lifeboats that Henry Greathead built, shows their serviceable life to be little over 20 years. This can only be put down to the volunteers who, over the years, have made sure she has had the best of attention.


Prior to any work being started on the conservation, the Zetland is to be inspected by representatives of both the RNLI and National Historic Ships UK in April.

With such a historical vessel, we at the museum are determined that any work, however small, is documented and recorded. Our overall intention is to see that she is conserved professionally guaranteeing that she will be 'Ship Shape' for many future generations to view and enjoy.


*26th NOVEMBER 2018* - an historical time in the life of the Zetland as she was removed from the museum for the first time since 1963 for the conservation work to begin.

GCS Johnson Transport, with the help of AV Dawson employees, sympathetically transported her to a unit in Middlesbrough, kindly donated by AV Dawsons.

In line with her past history, local boat builder, Tony Young, was chosen to carry out the repairs.

Several layers of paint had to be removed, so glass blasting was used, as we were not keen on using chemicals. The blasting could only be carried out on the planks, keel and air boxes. Other parts were to soft or delicate, so paint on these areas had to be painstakingly removed by using sanders.