The RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, boasts the UK’s largest collection of historic lifeboats, which together have saved hundreds of lives off the coasts of the UK and RoI. Discover their stories, and those of their fearless crews.
From an 1897 pulling and sailing lifeboat, to the familiar Arun class and Blue Peter inflatable inshore lifeboats, visitors can explore how lifeboats have evolved over the past century. Interactive displays, archive film and audio clips bring to life the moment of a launch, coping with violent seas and how technology has helped create ever safer and faster craft.
The RNLI Historic Lifeboat CollectionThe Historic DockyardChathamKentME4 4TZ
Telephone: 01634 823800
Open every day10am–6pm (or dusk if earlier)
Weekends only 10am–4pm
December and January:
Charges apply (concession, child and family tickets available).
Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
*Visitors can board these craft
The RNLI constantly strives to improve our boats. Over the years we have developed a huge variety of classes and types of boat to fit our lifesaving needs.
As these lifeboats end their RNLI service life they sometimes pass into private ownership.
A number of historic lifeboats have been preserved by the RNLI. The majority of this collection is on display at RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection within Chatham Historic Dockyard.
We are often asked about the preservation of historic vessels. There are many independent lifeboats being looked after by individuals, groups and museums – if you are looking for information regarding this, take a look at our list of frequently asked questions.
The RNLI works closely with National Historic Ships. Many of our historic lifeboats are listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels or the Small Boat Register. The RNLI recommends that anyone aiming to preserve a historic lifeboat does so with reference to the recommendations made in National Historic Ship’s ‘Conserving Historic Vessels’, which are available on the National Historic Ships website.
The RNLI has a collection and archive dating back to 1824. If you wish to make an enquiry or visit the collection and archive please fill out our 'contact us' form.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland | RNLI (Trading) Ltd - 1073377, RNLI (Sales) Ltd - 2202240, RNLI (Enterprises) Ltd - 1784500 and RNLI College Ltd - 7705470 are all companies registered in England and Wales at West Quay Road, Poole BH15 1HZ. Images & copyright © RNLI 2014.