Adams, William

Residence of. 199 Bells Road, Gorleston. Lifesaver

Residence of. 199 Bells Road, Gorleston. Lifesaver. 

William Adams, a famous lifesaver, is recorded as having saved 140 lives from drowning off Gorleston beach. William Adams was a father of six sons, all of whom were excellent swimmers. His father, Abel Adams, was a Trinity House pilot.


After leaving school, William Adams worked for a short time as a tin-plate worker in Gorleston. By 1882, Mr. Capps had introduced the first bathing huts on Gorleston beach and it is thought that Adams worked for him as an assistant. In 1891, William Adams started his own bathing machine business on the Gorleston beach.


Adams also gave swimming instruction. He coached some of the best swimmers of the age and also provided tuition to local schools and clubs.


In 1875, at the age of 11 years, Adams performed his first rescue, when a girl fell off the South Pier at Gorleston. He immediately dived into the sea and dragged the girl to the beach. Over the years he saved many more lives.


On one occasion when a swimmer was in danger of drowning the man’s friend set out to save him, but unfortunately he also got into difficulties. William Adams swam out and brought them, both at once, safely to shore.


Adams became known as the Hero of Gorleston Pier for saving lives and as Professor Adams for the expert swimming tuition he provided. He received many awards from the Royal Humane Society and he was recognised by the Carnegie Hero Fund. He was buried in the churchyard at St. Andrew’s Church, Gorleston. His name is commemorated in a local road, William Adams Way, which links the junction of Beccles and Southtown Roads with the Western Bypass of the town.


William Adams