THE world's oldest surviving lifeboat returned home yesterday after undergoing essential conservation work.

It is only the second time the Zetland lifeboat has left her museum home on Redcar seafront since it opened in 1907.

And there is no record of the 217-year-old having had any maintenance work at all in the 150 years she has been in the care of the people of Redcar.

Zetland, which saved over 500 lives during her years of service, was moved from the museum in November to be transported to a warehouse at AV Dawson on the River Tees at South Bank.

The space was loaned to registered charity The Friends of Zetland Lifeboat by the logistics company.

Redcar boat builder Tony Young carried out the repairs, while retaining as much of the original wood and character of the boat as possible.

The Northern Echo:

Free-to-enter Zetland Lifeboat Museum is run entirely by volunteers and makes money from donations and by selling items in its shop.

The lifeboat was saved from the scrapyard following retirement in the 1860s when the people of Redcar formed a human chain around her to prevent the carpenter breaking her up.

And the same love was shown yesterday by townspeople as the Zetland returned home.

Museum volunteer Martyn Johnson said: "She came on the low loader under a tarpaulin and there were about 200 or 300 people there watching. They took the tarpaulin off in one big sweep and the crowd burst into spontaneous applause."

The Zetland was built in 1802 in South Shields and purchased by the people of Redcar.

The Northern Echo:

She went on to see 62 years of service, saving more than 500 lives before she was retired in 1864. The Zetland was brought out of retirement to effect one last rescue in 1880 when the brig ‘Luna’ breached Redcar pier – all seven members of the vessel’s crew were saved.

The Zetland has laid in its current boathouse at the museum since 1907.

The last time she left the museum was when she was the centrepiece of the ninth International Lifeboat Conference in Leith, Scotland.

The boat was mainly sound but needed some work on some parts of wood which were beginning to show rot.