As midsummer 2009 approached, the town of Lowestoft celebrated its history with a pageant. The event coincided with the 50th anniversary of the first cross channel flight of SR-N1, the earliest man carrying Hovercraft built by Saunders-Roe at their Isle-of-Wight factory.
To celebrate the RNLI’s long standing connections with Lowestoft, and with everyone involved working a little miracle, it was possible for No H-007 to be displayed all day in the town centre on the 11th June. On the 12th there was just enough time for a photo-stop at Somerleyton Hall while on-route to RNLI Headquarters in Poole.
The top picture shows H-007 set against the east side of Somerleyton Hall with a backdrop of the tower built especially to house a remarkable clock. This was built by Royal clock maker B L Vulliamy as a small scale version of his proposed clock for the Palace of Westminster, now famous as ‘Big Ben’, although strictly that is the name of the bell and not the world famous clock tower. Alas, Vulliamy’s proposal was not accepted and Sir Morton Peto bought the clock for Somerleyton Hall. Clearly the first ever Hovercraft was tested against a remarkable background of history. See the Roundel Memorial page for the exact spot!
In 1963 Sir Christopher Cockerell asked the Chairman of Griffon Hovercraft, Dr E W Gifford, to help set up the world’s first commercial hovercraft operating company. In 1976, Griffon Hovercraft Ltd was formed to design and manufacture smaller, simpler and more cost effective hovercraft than had hitherto been available.
They were the first to install Diesel engines in small to medium sized hovercraft and led with innovations such as ducted propellers, skirt shift control systems and significantly lower noise levels. A good example of how effective these things are when brought together can be seen in the the RNLI 450TD shown here.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the nation’s favourite charity, have found the Griffon 450TD Hovercraft are uniquely fitted to working over shallows, flat beaches, mud, grass or concrete, with seamless transition; their fleet of seven have already saved many lives.
Many other types can be found at www.griffonhovercraft.com or email: [email protected]
The Hovercraft Column Project is very pleased to have the sponsorship of Griffon Hovercraft Ltd