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Hood, Henry



Henry Chilton Hood 1834-1913

Coxswain of Seaton Carew Lifeboats 1867-1898

(compiled by Maureen Anderson)

William Hood was born in Seaton Carew in about 1791 and had a large family including sons Robert b.1823, William b. c1826, Henry b.1834 and Charles b.c1836. William had become coxswain of the first Seaton lifeboat Tees when it was donated by Thomas Backhouse in 1823. During William’s time as coxswain on this first lifeboat he and his crew saved upwards of 188 lives. In January of 1851 he was presented with a bible and prayer book, a silver tobacco tin and money which had been collected by subscription from the people of Seaton Carew in approval of his conduct as Commander of the lifeboat. In October of 1851 he was awarded a Silver Medal by the Royal Society for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck for going out to 32 wrecks and saving 120 lives. He died on 6 June 1855 aged 65. His eldest son Robert's position as coxswain of the lifeboat was confirmed on 1 October 1855 and held that position until 1867. In 1857 the Seaton lifeboat was taken over by the R.N.L.I. with a new boat Charlotte donated to Seaton. In 1863 Robert Hood was awarded the Silver Medal for his long and gallant service. The first Charlotte gave service until 1867 when another Charlotte replaced her. Then in 1873 came Job Hindley followed in 1888 by John Lawson and in 1908 Francis Whitbourn. The station was closed in 1922.

In 1851 Henry was aged 17 and a mariner’s apprentice. In 1857 he was married to Mary Allison Brownbridge and by 1861 they were living at 5 Pilot Street, Stranton, West Hartlepool. His occupation was listed as a Hartlepool pilot. In August of 1867 Robert Hood wished to retire as coxswain and an application was put forward to the Hartlepool Pilotage Board for Henry Hood to leave Hartlepool and move to Seaton Carew to become coxswain of their lifeboat. To do this he had to first obtain an ‘In and Out Branch’ as Pilot for the Tees which licence would have to be granted by Trinity House. This was duly granted in September 1867. By 1871 the family was living in Ashburn Street, Seaton Carew. In 1890 they were living at 15 Commercial Street, Middleton in the Parish of Stranton and in1891 they were living at Corner’s Garden and by 1901 Front Street.

Because of some mix-up with tug boats, on 11 March 1883 instead of running into Hartlepool Bay, the Norwegian schooner Atlas with her crew of five men went aground on the Longscar Rocks which jut out to sea from Seaton Carew. The signals of distress were seen and no time was lost in getting horses and men to equip the lifeboat. It was 9.45pm and dark when eight horses and 15 men managed to launch and push the life boat out to sea. Keeping to the lee of the rocks as much as possible the 13 crew of the lifeboat searched for the stricken schooner but could not see her because of the terrible sea running and sleet and hail forming a thick, freezing veil.

The lifeboat could not be taken nearer the rocks as she would haven smashed like a matchstick so a decision was taken by John Franklin and Henry Hood to do a search of the reef on foot as it was low tide. They groped their way along until on the north-east point nearest Hartlepool they saw the vessel with the seas breaking completely over her. They retraced their steps to the lifeboat and called for a heaving line which was thrown to them. At this point Matthew Franklin joined them in the water. Reaching a point near the ship they threw the heaving line which was caught by the captain but it also struck him below the knee. The mate had jumped overboard and he and the captain were barely conscious. Eventually step by step, hand over hand all five were taken aboard the lifeboat with Henry being dragged in last with severe leg cramps. They were back on shore by 12.30am and soon after the schooner had completely broken up.

John and Matthew Franklin and Henry Hood were all awarded Silver Medals for their bravery during this rescue. Henry also had the Albert Medal of the second class conferred upon him by Queen Victoria.

Henry eventually retired in August 1898 after 31 years as coxswain. He and his crew had been instrumental in saving 89 lives. On his retirement he was awarded the Silver Second Service Clasp Medal, a framed Certificate of Service from the R.N.L.I. and from the crew of the lifeboat and friends of Seaton Carew a silver watch, gold chain and £30.

In about 2010 the medals and silver watch were passed to the Hartlepool Museum by members of the Crawford family who had found them in their loft. It transpired that they were descendants of Henry and his family but had not known anything of the family history. Henry had left the items in his will to his niece Elizabeth Crawford, the daughter of his brother, John.

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