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Wells lifeboat memorial listing renews debate
over potential relocation

PUBLISHED: 15:51 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:51 20 December 2017

The Eliza Adams memorial, with the Wells harbour office in the background, which was the lifeboat station at the time of the tragedy. Picture: RAY HEWETT.

The Eliza Adams memorial, with the Wells harbour office in the background, which was the lifeboat station at the time of the tragedy. Picture: RAY HEWETT.

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News that the Eliza Adams lifeboat memorial has been chosen as one of Historic England’s top 20 attractions for 2017 has re-ignited debate about its potential move.

Thomas Kew, one of two survivors of the Eliza Adams tragedy, pictured next to the memorial. He launched the appeal to fund the memorial to the lost crew. Picture: Wells Lifeboat Station. Thomas Kew, one of two survivors of the Eliza Adams tragedy, pictured next to the memorial. He launched the appeal to fund the memorial to the lost crew. Picture: Wells Lifeboat Station.

Debate over whether to move the memorial from its current site on Beach Road, Wells to a new location at the new lifeboat house at the end of the beach polarised views in the town earlier this year, when North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) proposed building a restaurant on the site of the memorial.

Chairman of Wells Town Council and coxswain of the lifeboat station, Allen Frary said: “There was a question about the NNDC proposals put to the town.

“The community of Wells, by a big percentage, said that it should not be moved. The decision is all in the hands of the NNDC.”

Mr Frary added that he had contacted all of the descendents of the lifeboat men who lost their lives in the 1880 disaster to ask
for their views on a potential move.

The Eliza Adams and the lifeboat house before the tragedy in 1880. The Eliza Adams and the lifeboat house before the tragedy in 1880.

Mr Frary’s great grandfather, William Bell, along with Thomas Kew, was one of the two survivors.

He said: “They said they would like to seen the memorial included in the new lifeboat house area.

“However, the unanimous decision by the townspeople is that it should stay where it is.”

Another major concern over moving the memorial is finding a safe site for it.

The memorial was moved a few feet after the floods in 1978.

And Mr Frary said the likelihood of events like the recent storm surge in 2013, and the floods of 1978 and 1953 becoming more frequent was a “distinct possibility”.

Wells town councillor Ray Hewitt said: “The memorial is not in a good enough state to be moved, and being exposed to the salt air would finish it off.”

He added: “Those of us who are opposed to the memorial being moved are delighted that it has been listed.”

A spokesperson for Historic England said that while the memorial was Grade II listed, that wouldn’t prevent it from being moved if the district council met the necessary conditions.

They said: “If the district council is making the decision as to whether or not to move the memorial, they would have to go through a few more controls before a decision could be made.”

They added that the listing relates to the structure itself, and not the ground it stands on.

Councillor Judy Oliver, from NNDC, said: “When the importance of the memorial was acknowledged by its listing in the summer, we said that any proposals for the wider site would of course give due consideration to that listing.

“Since then, there have been a range of discussions about any future siting of the memorial and we believe there may be opportunity to move this important heritage asset from outside a faded set of public toilets and place it in one of two much more appropriate sites.

“The first of these possible sites is the planned new Wells RNLI station which has been in the news recently, and the second is on the quay.

“Nothing has yet been decided and people may want to contribute their own views. However, it does seem to us that these two possible sites would be much more suitable locations for such a significant piece of local history and would provide a much better context given the importance we all attach to this unique memorial to those who lost their lives serving others.”

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