Hippo and the Family Lean

Hippo, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex

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I’d like to share an anecdote from my travels — the time I met Hippo Hipsey, the Burnham-on-Crouch lifeboat mechanic.

Before I visited the station, Hippo wrote to ask if I’d make his portrait. It turned out that he had very specific reasons, not least to record the ‘family lean’.

Hippo explained to me further:

“The ‘lean’ business is just that my grandfather, George Letchford, was such a marvellous man in everything he did – a fire-fighter in London during the blitz and saved a drowning boy in a canal lock to mention a few of his exploits.

“He was a bit of a gentle giant with a good sense of humour. One of his traits was to always lean (not only that but he was always seen with a roll up in his mouth but, fortunately, I never tried that habit).

“I’m rather proud that a few people (Mum mainly) have said that I follow after him, the main evidence being that if I can lean then why stand? Sit down if you don’t have to stand and if all else fails, lay down. Either that or I’m just lazy!”

A rather lovely story, I thought.

As Hippo leaned on the station’s RNLI flag pole, he seemed so happy as we recorded his family trait on 10×12″ glass.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Hippo Hipsey, Monday 2nd March 2015 (10×12″ Ambrotype)

You’ll see that Hippo had his legendary bicycle beside him too. Everybody in Burnham-on-Crouch knows Hippo and his bicycle — he travels everywhere on it.

Of course, the signage on the side reads:

“Hippo’s Heavy Haulage Contractors: Logistical Transport Solutions”


I’m gradually releasing recent photographs from the Project as limited edition prints.

You can now browse the images made at Burnham-on-Crouch on the new page dedicated to the Essex coastline.

This photograph of Hippo is available too, although Print No.1 of the edition is already taken, as you might imagine…


I’d like to thank all those who’ve supported the Project to this point — it’s truly moving to see so many of you recognising the value in the photographs I’m making.

Remember, although the RNLI are supporting me logistically, I’m currently raising the funding under my own steam — in essence, my own form of crowdfunding.

Print sales, pre-orders and contributions keep The Lifeboat Station Project on the road:

Support the Project

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
At the end of the day, a special treat on a glorious dusky evening. Hippo is just in front of me to the right…

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