Historic lifeboat Disaster Picture Restored

Historic lifeboat Disaster Picture Restored


An oil painting depicting the worst lifeboat tragedy in history has been restored just in time for a special exhibition at The Atkinson thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Wreck of the Eliza Fernley depicts a shipwreck which killed 27 local lifeboat men when an iron ship, The Mexico of Hamburg, ran into trouble on Dec 9, 1886, and was driven on to the beach at Birkdale. The picture will now take pride of place in the Sea Change exhibition, which runs from Saturday 23 August– Sunday 9 November.

In worsening weather, the lifeboats Eliza Fernley of Southport and Laura Janet of St. Anne’s put out to the rescue. Neither boats reached the vessel, although the former approached so close that according to the narrative of the two survivors, one of the lifeboat-men was about to throw a line but the boat swung broadside on to the sea and a huge mountain of water lifted it up and turned it over, burying the majority of its crew beneath it.

The nation grieved and a fund for the relief of the bereaved families raised £30,000 – a huge sum at that time – in a fortnight.

The artist was Francis Krause, born Franz Emile Herman Krause in Prussia in 1836.  He married Amelia Stock, the daughter of an artist, and went to live in Birkdale.  Krause’s descendants still live in Southport.

Stephen Whittle, museum manager at The Atkinson, says: “The painting of the Wreck of the Eliza Fernley was in very poor condition.  The tacks holding it to the stretcher had rusted and the canvas was rotting at the edges. Paint was beginning to flake and there were original drying cracks across the surface of the painting.  The canvas was unvarnished and very dirty.  The original Victorian gilt frame had been replaced, probably in the 1960s, with a plain wooden moulding.”

With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the painting was sent for conservation so that it could be included in the new exhibition.

“A new, more suitable, frame has been fitted.  The canvas has been strengthened at the edges, small tears and damages repaired and the whole canvas has been cleaned and varnished. It looks as good as new which is fantastic as it’s such a poignant and relevant piece for our exhibition,” says Stephen.

The work was carried out by Harriet Owen Hughes and the new frame made and fitted by Germaine Denn, both of whom are freelance conservators working from the Conservation Centre at National Museums Liverpool.

“Perhaps more than any other painting in the Sea Change exhibition The Wreck of the Eliza Fernley illustrates how dangerous and unpredictable the sea can be off the Sefton coast.  There were a lot of paintings, drawings and newspaper illustrations made of the events surrounding the wreck of The Mexico. This is by far the most moving and, unlike the others, which tend to focus on the courage and heroism of the lifeboat crews, we get a real sense of the impact this tragedy must have had on the small fishing community in Marshside.”

The exhibition is part of the Sefton Coastal Festival, which runs Saturday 6- Sunday 14 September, and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For more information please visit theatkinson.co.uk or call the box office on 01704 533333.





Unseen Southport

Saturday 16 August – Sunday 16 November



Sea Change: The Art of England’s North West Coast Exhibition

Saturday 23 August– Sunday 9 November



Wish You Were Here?

Saturday 23 August – Sunday 9 November



Sefton Coastal Exhibition

Saturday 6- Sunday 14 September



The Atkinson
Lord Street



Notes to Editors

For more information, interviews, images or review tickets, please contact Emma Lloyd at The Atkinson on 0151 934 2129 | emma.lloyd@sefton.gov.uk

About The Atkinson

The Atkinson is Southport’s beautiful new home for music, theatre, art, poetry, literature and history, right in the middle of Lord Street in Southport. Significant investment has been made in refurbishing the stunning 19th century buildings, to create a really welcoming multi art-form venue with a strong contemporary feel.

The Atkinson offers an exciting and varied destination for families, cultural tourists and arts enthusiasts alike, with a full day and night time offer. Wile the day away visiting the new shop, that sells gifts and contemporary crafts from regional makers and then relax in the Bakery, choosing from a selection of artisan bread sandwiches, cakes and sharing platters. You can even take little bit of The Atkinson home with you from the delicatessen. Wonder through the major exhibitions and see performances from some of the UK’s foremost musicians, actors, performers and companies, films, family activities and much more.

In October 2014 The Atkinson becomes something even more exciting for visitors, with the opening of the museum which will tell the story of Southport and Sefton as well as the area’s dramatic maritime history. It will also be the new home for the Goodison Egyptology Collection, a remarkable collection of archaeology that has not seen for over 40 years.




Posted on 18 August 2014 under General news

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