Welcome to the Worldwide Greathead family my One-Name Study - Henry (Francis) Greathead
Henry (Francis) Greathead #4352 - The story of the self-righting lifeboat
Henry (Francis) Greathead # 4352                27 January 1757 - 1818 (Buried 21 November 1818)

Henry built the first purpose-built lifeboat in 1789 which was launched on the Tyne on 30 January 1790.  By 1804 he had made thirty more and did much to propagate lifeboat use.

There seems to be quite a bit of mystery and discussion around this gentleman.

It would appear that Henry was born to John Greathead who was the Supervisor of Salt Duties at Richmond in Yorkshire.  He spent some time in the merchant and naval services between 1777 and 1783.

Far better researchers than I have spent time trying to unravel his life, so I will not presume to know.  However no Greathead website would be complete without his mention.

As early as the 1770's attempts were made to provide a means of rescue to seafarers.  A little later in 1790 a lifesaving service acquires a rescue boat which could be described as the first lifeboat.  It was the special design of Lionel Lukin.  It took a tragedy in 1789 at the mouth of the River Tyne, to realise the need for a special means of saving life from shipwreck.  A group of Newcastle businessmen offered a prize of two guineas for the best plan or model of a lifeboat.  William Wouldhave, a local parish clerk, was offered half the prize money and another man, Henry Greathead, was asked to build a lifeboat using the best features of Wouldhave's design.  Appropriately called "the Original", and she was launched in January 1790 and was in service for over 40 years saving hundreds of lives. 
A further boat, built in 1802 by Greathead, and named "Zetland", was placed at Redcar in the same year, where she had a long and honourable career. This boat had the builder's number of eleven was 31 feet by 10 foot 6 inches.  

The fishermen of Redcar raised £200 to bring the lifeboat to the fishing village of Redcar, as it was then.  She was christened the "Zetland" in honour of the Lord of the Manor, and remained in service until 1880, saving over 500 lives with the loss of only one crew member.  The lifeboat was housed in what is now Granville Terrace, and was launched from a wooden carriage pulled by horses.  She was crewed by volunteers, mainly fishermen, who were alerted by a boy beating a drum to the rhythm "Come along brave boys, come along".  It is the only surviving boat built of this type and has been preserved.  Rescued from the breaker's yard she is now preserved at Redcar. It can be viewed at the RNLI museum in Redcar along with many other details of Henry's life and work.

            Zetland lifeboat - click to enlarge  RNLI Museum in REdcar - click to enlarge

Dr David J Greathead was in the process of collecting much information on this gentleman.  Sadly David died before completing this task or handing me more than his ongoing draft
See also my article which was published in "Your Family Tree" magazine February 2004 and a superb humorous video created by Sheila She has kindly give me permission to add this link and she says "that Tyne Tees TV who commissioned it and will be fine about this too."