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Heritage RNLI coin collector unveiled

VOLUNTEERS from Bexhill Museum have researched the history of a unique little town landmark and ensured its conservation.

Time had shrouded the original purpose of a metre-high cast iron pedestal near the war memorial on Marina.

Now Paul Wright and Dave Hatherell have revealed that it is one of only a handful of RNLI coin collecting boxes remaining in the country.

During the 1930s a number of cast-iron pedestal collecting boxes were placed around the country, usually at costal locations with lifeboats, to help RNLI fund-raising.

On August 3, 1935 the Bexhill Observer published a short report informing its readers of the appearance of ‘a small iron pedestal’ close to the Beach Inspector’s Office at the Colonnade.

Paul Wright says: “This followed several years of endeavor by the local branch of the RNLI to persuade the Council to sanction its positioning. Painted in ‘unobtrusive colours’ it was hoped the box would help to collect vital funds for the RNLI although Bexhill has never had its own lifeboat or associated lifeboat station.

“At present no photograph showing the collecting box on this site has been found. Major alterations to the Colonnade following the Second World War saw the collecting box move to its current position on East Parade close to the War Memorial. It is not known when the collecting box was decommissioned by the RNLI although a photograph taken in 1963 and held by Bexhill Museum probably shows it still in use.

“The collecting box is constructed of cast iron, with a square base and approximately one metre in height. The side facing north has a door with keyhole for emptying the contents. The side facing south has at its base a difficult-to-read oval foundry-maker’s plaque.

“The box has angled corners and above is a moulded octagonal cap with a central dome on an octagonal plinth. There is a redundant coin-slot for donations in the top of the dome. There is also evidence of where an oval sign was attached to the dome behind the coin slot to explain the purpose of the box to passers-by.

“By 2017 the pedestal had received little care except coats of dark green paint as part of the Council’s routine maintenance of its seafront structures. A small group of local residents as well as Bexhill Museum and Rother District Council representatives decided to both research the history of the coin collector and restore it to its former glory.”

The other old RNLI collecting boxes are at Aldeburgh in Suffolk; Bamburgh, Northumberland; Barry Dock, South Wales; Clovelly, Devon; Cromer, Norfolk and Weston Super Mare. The last, at Porthgwarra near Penzance in Cornwall, has Grade II Listed status granted because of its rarity, architectural and historical interest and as a good example of quality foundry craftsmanship to a handsome design.

Whipping the RNLI flag off to unveil the restored pedestal before a seafront gathering on Monday, July 10th, Paul Wright said it had gone unnoticed for years by passers-by – except for dogs!

The RNLI was represented by branch chairman David Gardner, secretary Jeanne Bini, treasurer Malcolm Viner and fund-raiser Ellie Wood and Rother District Council by Cllr Doug Oliver.

Paul Wright thanked Brewers for sponsoring the paint and Rother museums curator Julian Porter for his help in research.

*A rubbing of the makers’ plate has revealed that the pedestal was the work of Preston and Bishop, Victory Foundry, Clement Road, Birmingham.

Find out more about the project and the other RNLI coin collectors here:

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