The Jack Boddington Collection of Life Saving Medals

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Date of Auction: 6th December 2006

Sold for £1,500

Estimate: £650 - £700

Four: Stephen Renforth, who is said to have rescued 62 lives from the Tyne, the Clyde and in America

Tynemouth Extension Medal, silver, rev. inscribed, ‘Presented to Stephen Renforth on the 7th August 1895 for saving life from drowning’, with semi-circular attachment allowing the medal to be rotated, this attached to an ornamental scroll, with clasp inscribed, ‘Presented by Jos. Cowen, Aug. 2 1895’; Life Saving Medal, circular, engraved, obv. Gateshead coat-of-arms; rev. inscribed, ‘Presented to Stephen B. Renforth of Gateshead by numerous subscribers, for his Heroic Conduct in Saving Twelve Lives, July 1890, John Lucas, Mayor of Gateshead’, 44mm., silver; Life Saving Medal, ‘shield-shaped’ surmounted by a lion, engraved, obv. with the cypher ‘S.R.’; rev. inscribed, ‘Presented to S. Renford (sic) by Joseph Cowen, M.P. for saving E. Dixon from drowning , and a purse of £10.0.0, 1895’, 49 x 32mm., silver; Life Saving Medal, cross, engraved, obv. inscribed, ‘Presented to S. Renforth by the Mayor of Gateshead, Mr P. Finn’; rev. inscribed, ‘For saving the life of a boy named Fisher, 15th Aug. 1899’, 41 x 36mm., silver and gold, hallmarks for Birmingham 1903, with silver brooch bar, good very fine and better (4) £650-700


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. 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. It is believed that these three medals were issued with the unique swivel mounting; later issues being presented with a more normal suspension. 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 and a Royal Humane Society Medal with two clasps.

Sold with copied research, amongst which is his obituary in a newspaper which shows the recipient in a grainy picture with his street organ wearing several medals.