South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade

Address: Watch House, South Pier, South Shields, NE33 2JZ

The North East coast of England, and in particular the seafaring communities around the mouth of the River Tyne, has a proud and incredible record of lifesaving.

Today, only three Volunteer Life Brigades remain in the whole of Britain, Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, the first to be formed in 1865, followed swiftly by South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade in 1866 and Sunderland Volunteer Life Brigade followed some ten years later.

We are extremely proud of the achievements of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade, which was the first to save life from a shipwreck using the breeches buoy.

Their Grade Two listed Watch House, located at the foot of the pier in South Shields, is a fascinating place to visit.

The Watch House is a building of immense architectural and historical interest with its Watch Tower, wooden spiral staircase and adjoining coast rescue equipment building.

It is said to be one of the oldest surviving all-wooden mid-Victorian buildings in Britain.

The building houses a unique collection of artifacts, photographs, records and equipment from its beginning in 1866 to the present day.

Significant items include a full set of original breeches buoy rescue equipment, figureheads from shipwrecks, a variety of name boards and wooden decorative carvings from ships.

Opening times

Open during special events and regular open days.