The Fishermans Heritage Centre
The Centre is dedicated to demonstrating the history of the lifeboats provided by the Upcher family of Sheringham Hall for the use of the fishermen of what was then Lower Sheringham, a small fishing hamlet.These lifeboats are usually referred to as the private, Upcher or fishermen’s lifeboats. The first of these, called the Upcher, was a fishing boat also used as a rescue boat. The second, the Augusta, was the first purpose-built lifeboat in Sheringham. It no longer exists, but its story is a fascinating one. The last of the three, the Henry Ramey Upcher (HRU), replaced the Augusta. It was in use until 1935 and can still be seen in its original shed, which forms part of the Centre.
The HRU was named in memory of the late squire of Sheringham by his widow, Caroline on 4th September 1894 and remained in service until 1935. For most of this time the coxswain was Henry “Coley” Cooper. His predecessors were also members of the Cooper family. The HRU was responsible for 33 recorded rescues during this time, resulting in the saving of 193 lives. It is in the form of a traditional inshore fishing boat of this area, which is said to go back to the Viking longboat, with a prow at both ends. It was built as all such boats were at the time by eye rather than from a plan by celebrated local boat-builder Lewis “Buffalo” Emery, using oak for the planking and fixings of copper throughout. It is 10.59m (almost 35 feet) long and 3.43m (just over 11 feet) wide with a keel length of 8.76m (almost 29 feet). It was powered by eight oars each side. The mast and sail could rarely be used in rescue work because of weather conditions. The weight is about 3,000kg (3 tons), so a huge amount of effort was required by the crew and helpers to drag it over the shingle into the sea and to pull it back up the beach after launching.
The Peter Coke Shell Gallery
Peter Coke, through his extensive knowledge of shells and the shell-art techniques used by earlier generations, built on these traditions and took them to levels of sophistication not previously seen. The quantity and variety of his output was amazing and (to risk being both sexist and ageist) it is incredible that work of such delicacy could be produced by a man of advanced years.
His work ranged from two-dimensional geometric arrangements, such as the Sailor Valentines on which he began, to shell pictures in the Chinese style, to shell encrusted boxes, obelisks and figures and finely detailed model garden scenes in three dimensions.
A collection of over 100 shell-art creations, all the work of Peter Coke, was generously donated by him to the Preservation Society in 2006, on condition that it is displayed in perpetuity. When he died in 2008 he bequeathed more of his work, making a grand total of almost 200 pieces. Most of these are permanently on display, with some variation from year to year.
Entry is free of charge but donations are appreciated as the Heritage Centre and Shell Gallery are run by volunteers so entry times are restricted. For further information and opening times, please see the Sheringham Society web site sheringhamsociety.com
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