Left: Model of the self-righting lifeboat designed by James Beeching in 1851. Right: Southend crew in their self-righting lifeboat circa 1889.Photo: Grahame Farr Lifeboat Archives
Left: Model of the self-righting lifeboat designed by James Beeching in 1851. Right: Southend crew in their self-righting lifeboat circa 1889.

Despite all the other immediate pressures which Lewis and his colleagues were facing in turning around the RNLI, they had the foresight to secure space at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

Soon after becoming the RNLI’s President in 1850, the Duke of Northumberland announced a competition for the best design of a self-righting lifeboat with the prize of 100 Guineas. 

There were more than 280 entries, including a number from overseas. Many of the models were displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, bringing the work of the RNLI to not only a national but also an international audience.

The winner was James Beeching and the rowing and sailing lifeboats saved lives for over 80 years.