The Lifesaving Brigade
Newbiggin VLB formed in January 1866 and within a month had nearly 100 members. These volunteers came from all walks of life but especially from the local mining community wheras the lifeboat station was manned mainly by local fishermen.
Generations of Newbiggin families have volunteered for Newbiggin VLB. For example, in 1956 local bricklayer Jack Dawson had served as a volunteer for nearly 40 years. His father had also been a volunteer for over 40 years. Jack's brother Tom served on the team for 20 years and another brother, George, was also a team mrmber.
Although volunteers, each man was paid a retainer provided they attended all of the practice drills on Newbiggin Moor. These were held either twice or four times a year depending on the number of volunteers available. They were also paid for attending rescues.
In 1935 the retainer was 10p per quarter, 15p for attendance at each practice drill and anywhere between 12p and £1.50 for actual rescues, depending on the circumstances and the number of people rescued.

Wreck Tokens
When the VLB were called out and attended or assisted in a shipping casualty such as a shipwreck they received a wreck token for services rendered.
Payment was then made by the presentation of the token which was exchanged for the appropriate payment. Over the years the payment was modified as appropriate; this payment seems small today but was fairly substantial at the time. 25 wreck tokens were issued to each coastguard station and were stored in a canvas bag and held at the station.
The tokens were commissioned by the Board of Trade (latterly the Coastguard). An initial order for 3,000 was delivered in 1877 at a cost of £10. A subsequent order for 1,000 was delivered in August 1883. The tokens became obsolete in 1972 and were subsequently recalled.

The Rescue Equipment

The Rocket Wagon was loaded with all of the equipment detailed in the following illustration.

This ensured that there would be no delay in case of enmergency. The wagon was pulled either by horses or manpower along the shore to get as close to the shipwreck as possible. The apparatus comprised:-

1. Whip block and tally board.  2. Hawser cutter.   3. Heaving cane and line. 4. Rocket machine.   5. Fuse box.   6. Rocket. 7. Breeches buoy.   8. Cliff ladder.   9. Wagon.   10. Light.   11. Rocket line box.   12. Portfire for igniting the rocket.   13. Rocket line "faked " in box.   14. Triangle.   15. Anchor.   16. Cliff helmet.