Coastguard History at St Alban’s Head

St Aldhelm’s Head Coastguard

The Coastguard Services first base in this area was at Chapmans Pool, where the foundations of the four original cottages can still be seen. The small shed on the site was the wash room and contained a large copper boiler. The Coastguard were in fact naval personnel, whose duty required them to patrol the Coastal Path and meet their counterparts on either flank. The station was supplied by sea; the long boat, used to bring supplies ashore, was housed in a boathouse on the slipway, both of which still exist.The Coastguard, still a branch of the Navy, moved to St Aldhelm’s Head in 1895 where the four cottages and the original Lookout were built. The building at the South end of the complex (which looks like a Garage) housed the Cart, drawn by two horses or twenty members of the Coast Life Saving Apparatus (or L.S.A.). Percy Wallace BEM came to St Aldhelm’s Head Lookout as a naval rating and married a local girl, Dora Lander, and served his time there until his retirement.

Coastguard Cottages

After complaints by the families about the remoteness of the site, new cottages were built at Weston in about 1950. At that time the Station complement consisted of three Coastguards and a Station Officer who lived in the South end cottage; the building in front was the Duty Room. The LSA, later renamed The Auxiliary Coastguard Service, (ACS) was housed in the Garage type building at the North end of the new cottages and formed a ‘Watchkeeping Section in addition to its rescue duties. Several members belonged to both the Coastguards and the ACS. Watches of six hours duration were kept. Two Coastguards were always available, one on watch at the Lookout, and one on standby summoned by ‘bell’ or later, by telephone, after the cottages were moved to Weston. Because of work commitments, the Auxiliaries usually kept the 1800 2000 watch, with a Coastguard ‘on the bell’.The present lookout building was built in the 1970’s at a reputed cost of £40,000. When the Coastguard Service abandoned Visual Lookouts in 1994, the Station was returned to the Encombe Estate, as previously the cottages had been. The Lookout is leased to The National Coastwatch Institution on a rent of “one crab per annum if demanded”. Links with the Coastguard still apply today as there is an official auxiliary unit based in Worth Matravers. This is manned by local volunteers and is known as St Alban’s Auxiliary Coastguard or St Alban’s Mobile – we work closely with them.