Orders, Decorations and Medals (21 September 2007)

Date of Auction: 21st September 2007

Sold for £2,600

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,800

The Royal Humane Society Medal with second and third award bars to Stephen Renforth, who is said to have rescued 62 lives from the Tyne, the Clyde and in America; a truly remarkable livesaver

Royal Humane Society, small bronze medal (successful) (Stephen Renforth, 5th August 1890), 2 bars, 26th Jany. 1895, 13 June 1899, complete with bronze brooch bar, slight edge bruising, very fine £1400-1800


R.H.S. Bronze Medal awarded in 1890 (R.H.S. Case No. 25070), Renforth performed a successful rescue at Gateshead on 5 August 1890.

1st Clasp awarded in 1895 (R.H.S. Case No. 27537) ‘At great personal risk, rescued P. Burke from drowning in the Tyne, at Gateshead, on 26th January 1895’.

2nd Clasp awarded in 1899 (R.H.S. Case No. 30122) ‘On the 13th June 1899, a child fell into the Tyne at Newcastle, the depth at the time being 12 feet. Renforth, who was in bad health at the time, plunged in from the quay and, at great risk, supported it till a boat came. When the boat came it was pulled right over Renforth, cutting his head open, and he was taken from the water in an exhausted state’.

Four other medals awarded to Stephen Renforth were sold as part of the Jack Boddington Collection of Life Saving Medals, D.N.W. 6 December 2006, lot 640. The lot consisted of the Tynemouth Extension Medal and three privately issued life-saving awards (£1,500).

Stephen Renforth was born in Gateshead, Tyneside in 1852. During his life as a waterman, he gained the enviable reputation as a lifesaver and was reputed to have saved 62 lives, 46 of which were from the Tyne. It was at the age of 12 that he rescued the first of many; jumping into the Tyne and rescuing a boy who had fallen in near the Redheugh Bridge. He received the Royal Humane Society Medal in bronze in 1890 for a rescue at Gateshead and was to receive two bars to the medal for rescues at Gatehead and Newcastle in 1895 and 1899 respectively. At the first presentation of the Tynemouth Medals made on 7 August 1895 by the Mayor of Newcastle, Alderman W. Stephenson and Joseph Cowen, M.P., three medals were presented and the names of the recipients, numbered in order, were entered in the “Book of Heroes” - that of Stephen Renfoth was the second name entered. In his latter years Renforth became blind and the Newcastle Temperance Society and some friends presented him with an organ with the object of providing him a livelihood by playing in the streets. This he played on the streets of Newcastle until his death in 1910. In addition to the above, Renforth was awarded three Royal Humane Society Certificates.