My previous trips to Bamburgh have included visits to its well known tourist attractions – it's magnificent castle, it's award winning beach, quaint village and nice places to eat. However, this week, time allowed me to visit a museum which I had always been keen to see, but for one reason or another had not got round to it. I can say it was well worth the visit.
The RNLI Grace Darling Museum is located on Radcliffe Road, a short walk from Bamburgh Castle. Admission is free (but donations to the RNLI are very welcome). Opening times are 10-5 -but do check before a visit because they can change from season to season and are reduced on a Sunday.
The Grace Darling Museum illustrates so well, the life and heroism of Grace Daring (1815-1842). Grace rescued nine people who were clinging to a rock in raging seas off the Northumberland Coast after their paddle steamer SS Forfarshire was wrecked.
Grace and her father rowed out in a small open boat, Grace steadied the boat in furious seas whilst her father assisted passengers. Her heroism earned her the first RNLI medal for gallantry awarded to a woman. Today, at nearby Seashouses Life Boat Station, the lifeboat which operates is named Grace Darling.
The museum illustrates the life of Grace, how she was born in a cottage in Bamburgh., At three weeks old went to live on Brownsmans Island where her Father was lighthouse keeper. At ten she moved with her family to Longstone Lighthouse which was further out to sea and which was built on bare rocks just one metre above the sea at high tide.
It was from Longstone Lighthouse that Grace rowed out to sea with her father to rescue the survivors of the stricken SS Forfarshire on the 7th September,1838..
As well as illustrating Grace's life, the museum fully illustrates the rescue. Her life and the rescue are illustrated through displays of Grace's possessions and her family possessions, such as letters, her clothing – dresses, her christening robe. family possessions such as family portraits, household items, jewellery. There are also items displayed from the wrecked ship such as cutlery
Perhaps the most striking item displayed is the Coble. How very different it is to the modern lifeboats of today! It is easy to imagine that a lot of bravery was required to bring about the rescue in such difficult conditions from this little boat!.
There is also a 2.5 metre model of Longstone Lighthouse where Grace lived.
The audio visual displays are excellent.
From the viewing gallery you can see where Grace is buried and also enjoy views of The Farne Islands.
I'd always been aware of the heroism of Grace Darling but visiting this museum illustrated to me her incredible courage.
This is a small museum, but it is well laid out and is suitable for those with reduced mobility. The staff are incredibly friendly, welcoming and informative – their level of commitment really impressed me.
Those interested in maritime history or lifeboats should definitely visit this museum.