About - The Fishermens Rest 

The Birkdale Palace, SouthportWhat we now know to be The Fishermens Rest (formerly the Birkdale Palace Coach House) is the only part of the Hotel to remain. The Birkdale Palace was an extravagant Hotel that in 1939 boasted of billiards, croquet on the lawns, dancing, evening concerts, Sunday afternoon orchestral teas and tennis, to name but a few activities available. The Birkdale Palace had 1,000 rooms and around 200 bedrooms and suites. By the late 1930’s, the hotel had become a successful holiday resort hotel and conference centre, with stars like Frank Sinatra and Clark Gable staying there.

The “Fish’ has it’s own story, and the brass mermaids that secure the bar’s handrails commemorate the lives of the 14 Lifeboat men who lost their lives in 1886.

Capsizing of LifeboatsA lifeboat, the Eliza Fernley, was launched from Southport in response to distress signals from The Mexico. When the craft reached the Mexico, it was struck by heavy seas and fourteen of her sixteen crew had perished.

The two survivors, Henry Robinson and John Jackson, were trapped under the boat after it capsized and only survived by freeing themselves, swimming out and clinging onto the keel of the boat, then walking miles back to their homes and raising the alarm. One of them had tried and failed to rescue other comrades who were still trapped under the boat. Amazingly, four other men from the Southport boat initially survived the disaster but subsequently could not be saved.

Between fifteen and twenty minutes after the Southport boat launched, the neighbouring St Anne’s lifeboat - the Laura Janet - was also called out. Her crew rowed her out to five hundred yards, and then hoisted sail, proceeding to two miles off Southport. In the words of Patrick Howarth, author of Lifeboat: In Danger's hour: "What happened there has never been clearly established. Two red lights were seen at Southport, which may have been signals from the life-boat. All that is known is that at quarter past eleven the next morning the life–boat was found ashore, bottom up, with three dead bodies hanging on the thwarts with their heads downwards. Every man in the crew was lost".

Additionally, a third lifeboat, from Lytham reached the Mexico. By that time, the Mexico had settled on her beam ends, and the crew had lashed themselves to the rigging. The lifeboat, on her maiden rescue, rowed for a mile and a half through the River Ribble and then rowed to the Mexico, rescuing all twelve members of the barque's crew. In the process, the crew shattered three of her oars, and the small craft was filled numerous times with water.

The bodies of the unfortunate lifeboat men (who were fishermen by trade) were removed from the beaches and laid out in the coaching house of the nearby Birkdale Palace Hotel. The coach house was later converted to a public house, being named The Fishermen's Rest, and is reputed to be haunted by the spirits of the dead men.

The disaster is the worst in the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), with 27-lifeboat crew lost. A public fund for relief of the sixteen widows and fifty orphans was opened with the RNLI contributing £2,000, the queen and the emperor of Germany also contributing to the fund. £30,000 was raised in total.

The Fish was also a temporary morgue for 14 sailors after the Eliza Fernley Lifeboat disaster of 1886. The brass mermaids that secure the bar’s handrail, commemorate them to this day.

This information was sourced courtesy of from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkdale_Palace_Hotel 

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2 Weld Road, Birkdale, Southport, PR8 2AZ

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