Famous painting rescued by sharp-eyed dealer

Charles Wallrock and the paining he has rediscovered with other items in his RNLI collection

A dramatic painting showing a famous RNLI rescue attempt has been re-discovered after research showed the setting was north Yorkshire.

Previously it had been thought the scene was of a fishing boat either in Torquay, Devon, or Italy.

In the 200th anniversary of the RNLI’s founding, renowned antique dealer Charles Wallrock spotted the Turner-esque artwork for sale.

His research has proven that it depicts an appalling disaster that unfolded on November 2nd 1861, a day when 24 lives were lost during a great storm and in mountainous seas.

It shows the Scarborough lifeboat Amelia on her maiden voyage battling to save the schooner Coupland.

The self-righting, 32ft, ten-oared rescue boat was dashed to pieces on the harbour wall and two of her crew were lost, with others seriously injured.

Hundreds watched the unfolding disaster from the slopes behind and three shore-based rescuers, including Lord Charles Beauclerk, were dragged out to sea and drowned.

The crew of Coupland survived after a line was blasted over the boat by a rocket and they were able to scramble ashore.

Eight Board of Trade medals for gallantry in ‘Saving Life at Sea’ were awarded along with six RNLI medals and monetary grants.

Charles Wallrock who runs Wick Antiques in Lymington, Hants, has included the re-discovered painting, 22x30ins, in his new book ‘Britain on the High Seas – Heroic Endeavour’, which focuses on life-saving at sea. A proportion of money raised will go to the RNLI.

He said: “This watercolour was painted just four years after the disaster it depicts and it brings home the full horror of that day when waves were enormous and homes had their rooves ripped off by the storm.

“I saw it being offered for sale as a fishing boat and it was considered by many as either an Italian scene or in Devon because it has the word ‘Torquay’ written on it.

“But it is of Scarborough and shows the famous Italianate-looking Spa, and the ancient-looking building on the hill behind was a hotel. The scene was painted by Joseph Newington Carter.

“He exhibited at the Royal Academy where his reputation was considerably enhanced when the Prince of Wales bought two of his marine landscapes.

“He died in 1871 aged 36 after his family had moved to Devon and his sister added ‘Torquay’ to his paintings posthumously, probably to emphasise the rise in the family’s fortunes and status.

“Antiques and memorabilia related to the RNLI is considered in the UK very much a niche area for collectors – and much of my collection will probably be sold abroad.

Charles Wallrock and the paining he has rediscovered with other items in his RNLI collection

“The likely reason for this lack of interest is because of our long and glorious maritime history in the world’s oceans.

“When you can collect antiques from the romantic Napoleonic era, from our global domination of the seas and two world wars in which the Royal Navy excelled, the RNLI doesn’t get much of a look in.

“Add to that the interest in collecting antiques concerned with yachting and yacht racing and the RNLI becomes even less of a focus.

“It is quite ironic because the charity encapsulates some of the finest British values of volunteering, self-sacrifice and care for others irrespective of station.

“It was founded by William Hillary because he couldn’t bear to watch any more ships wrecked and lives lost.

“Others soon offered support including William Wilberforce and the King. And for almost all of its existence it has been funded by donations – many from those who had never even seen the sea.

“Being a maritime nation our coastal communities had all witnessed lives lost at sea and they all got behind new charity.

“The importance of life – possibly derived from our Christian heritage – was fundamental to its creation.

“The bravery of those who made rescues and the gratitude of the communities that benefited add a romantic touch to the RNLI’s history.

“And while there are collectors who focus on it, there doesn’t seem to be the interest that it deserves.

“Being 200 years old means that items from its early years are scarce, but there are modern pieces that are relatively cheap, so it would suit all kinds of collector.

“My father raised money for the RNLI all his life, so have I, and my son is a volunteer and that is why I have spent years putting a high-quality collection together that features in my new book.

“The Carter painting really sums up everything noble about the RNLI and it was a scene played out around our coasts.”

Among the items in the new book is the astonishing and vast archive of Sir Harold Dudley Clayton who designed a steam-powered lifeboat for the RNLI, and has photos of 19th century lifeboats in action.

Thomas Rose Miles’ Hastings Launch, A signal of distress in the Offing, is another original painting depicting a heroic rescue.

Four medals that were presented to Cpt T. Stuart are included and two of those are from the very early days of the RNLI when its name was the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck.

There is a rare model of the original Tyne lifeboat built in 1833 and the Duke of Northumberland’s silver lifeboat by Garrard & Co, 1852, that includes two inkwells.

All the items are for sale with the Carter painting valued at £3,000.