Selsey: The Future’s Bright

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There are changes afoot in the RNLI network. A dynamic programme of modernising boats and boathouses all around our coastline.

It’s exciting to see as I travel from station-to-station, including regular visits to the headquarters in Poole.

The mighty Severn Class now has a 50 year working life thanks to meticulous refits. Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboats are swiftly being replaced by their larger, more powerful counterpart, the Atlantic 85.

The Shannon Class is the newest addition, representing the cutting edge of All Weather Lifeboat technology. The introduction of these highly capable craft is perhaps the most obvious sign of the RNLI’s advancement.

Have a read of this post I wrote back in September to see how a Shannon sits within a coastal town.

Simply put, it’s impressive.


As the Project gained momentum last year, I received an increasing number of messages asking if I’d be visiting Selsey.

Why? Because the RNLI’s modernisation programme has hit this southern seaside town. The inshore lifeboat station and museum have recently been demolished. The offshore lifeboat station is next, a structure that’s much-loved by locals and RNLI fans alike.

I was flattered that followers of the Project felt it would be fitting for me to photograph the 1950s station before its replacement.

A photograph of this special lifeboat station would surely look spectacular and timeless on glass with the Victorian process that I’m using.

Selsey has a very distinctive setup, you see — a boathouse at the end of a long gangway with a 47 foot Tyne Class sitting at the top of the slipway.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
RNLB Voluntary Worker nestled in the existing Selsey boathouse

It’s a classic scenario, the kind that sparks the imagination. There are few things more exciting (to me) than a 26 tonne boat careering down a slipway, making a big splash on entry into the sea.

It’s like real-life Thunderbirds and almost hard to believe that it’s allowed!

So, it’s quite easy to understand why the locals will find it hard seeing their beloved lifeboat station being dismantled.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to report that I was able to incorporate Selsey into Mission No.7. You can see the photographs below and they are now available to buy as prints on the West Sussex page.


There’s a tradition emerging on the Project, that the last plate of the day tends to be special. This certainly held true for  the view of the gangway and boathouse from the beach.

As the light dwindled, I had to judge the exposure, observing how the light shifted over the scene.

Exposure meters are of little use with Wet Plate Collodion in these situations, so I rely heavily on listening to my heart.

I listened carefully and placed the cap back on the lens after 2m45s. Perfection. A glorious glass plate of this iconic structure.

Throughout the day, I also photographed Coxswain Martin Rudwick and his crew. Of course, as the heavens opened, I made a plate of the view from the top of the slipway too — the artefacts of the process becoming more evident, telling the story of the long walk along the gangway between camera and darkroom.

All-in-all, a set of four images with which I’m very proud, wonderful new pieces in this giant coastal jigsaw.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
2m45s in the life of Selsey Offshore RNLI Lifeboat Station, 11th January 2016. Click to buy limited edition prints…
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The view from the Selsey RNLI Offshore Lifeboat Station, 11th January 2016. Click to buy limited edition prints…
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Martin Rudwick, Selsey RNLI Coxswain, 11th January 2016. Click to buy limited edition prints…
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Selsey RNLI Volunteer Crew, 11th January 2016. Click to buy limited edition prints…


50 limited edition prints from each of the Selsey plates are now available to buy.

Remember, the prints are all made by me and limited to just 50. A unique record of this historical piece of RNLI history.




The old offshore boathouse is going. However, I’m sure the residents and crew of Selsey are excited to see the arrival of their brand new Shannon Class, a new era of lifesaving at sea.

Expect scenes at Selsey similar to this when Dungeness took delivery of their new boat!


The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Working under the bow of RNLB ‘Voluntary Worker’
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Preparing to photograph the boathouse view with the heavens about to open!
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Making the 2m45s exposure
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
A familiar scene during the day as I walked between camera and darkroom.


As the Project enters its second year, your support is as vital as ever to help it succeed.

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 and donations are most welcome and help to keep The Lifeboat Station Project on the road:



I’d like to thank the crew and staff at Selsey Lifeboat Station for hosting the Project with such generosity and warmth, with special thanks to Martin the Coxswain and Phil the Mechanic.

My deepest gratitude also lies with my old pal, Hen, for volunteering his help on this first leg of Mission No.7.


  1. Jack, what can a say great article to read and such a current propestive on the thoughts of how the locals feel towards the iconic station and how it has had such an impact on people’s lives (mine included as a child sitting on the slipway or in the crew room listening to the vhf radio awaiting any news or the boat to return. Just wish I could have been on the crew like other members of my family, but my life style did not allow this ) But times are moving on and as per other stations which have gone through similar transformations it will be for the best and will improve on an excellent service that the RNLI already carry out both now and in the future. Keep up the good work

  2. I have loved anything to do with the sea since I was little. 50 years on, your post has given me goosebumps. I don’t like endings at all, but new beginnings are great. I can understand how the local people must feel. It’s the end of an era, but also the start of a more amazing one. Those lifeboats and their crews are just awesome and it’s so good to know that they’re there in times of trouble. Through your post, if I may, I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who put their lives on the line for others. They are truly special people.

    Your photographs are stunning. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing the country’s coastline one project at a time. Thank you for sharing your talents and your knowledge.

  3. I think you are documenting the RNLI at a very interesting time. The service will be very different over the next ten to twenty years.

    As the pattern of maritime use and the safety of all vessels changes, the role of the All Weather Boats will further reduce. At the same time as their performance increases (most modern boats such as the Tamar and the Shannon are capable of going faster than they are limited to and they are twice as fast as many of their predecessors), their callout number reduces. There have been closures and withdrawals already, such as Teesmouth, and Poole will not have their Tyne replaced. They will not be the last now that RNLI vessel performance has made technological leaps.

    The future will see greater distances between All Weather stations but with similar response times for offshore emergencies. There will be more Inshore Lifeboats and greater use of Lifeguard services. What will not change is the commitment and dedication of the amazing volunteers, either sea or land based, who give of their time and courage to rescue those in peril on the sea. Well done to them.

    I feel for the crews who will lose their boats or stations, but the organisation has to make the best of their resources and the money donated so readily by the public.

    Love the project, it really will be something historical for the ages. The combination of the modern, digital, social media project based around 160 year old Wet plate collodion photography is inspired.

    Best wishes.

    • Excellent observations, Mark. As you might imagine, I give a lot of thought to this topic too and wholeheartedly agree.

      Thank you very much for your kind words about the Project too.


  4. My wife Carole born in Selsey 1947 her family go back to 1666 she grew up with the Lifeboats and Station, i have known it for 41 years having moved here 1976 her Dad help build the sea wall at East Beach last Launch ever from the Station off shore is 1st April 2017 11am Saturday demolition starts on the 10th April will be a sad day .

    • Thank you for sharing this, David. Yes, I imagine it’ll be sad. I’m sure you’ll love seeing your new Shannon in action, though — it’s quite something! JL

  5. Loved looking at your photos. My husband and myself visited the station quite a few years ago. My husband was on the Cromer Lifeboat as mechanic in the 1970s. When we went on holiday we always visited other stations, on our visit to Selsey we were given two prints ,I have just found them and wondered if you would like them. My husband died a few months ago.

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