Sixty years ago, 1958 was an absolutely terrible season for P & A Campbell’s Bristol Channel paddle steamer services. The company was already in deep financial trouble trying to continue to run trips on the inhospitable Bristol Channel with its massive tidal range, exposure to wind straight in from the Atlantic and the very long working days for the crews.
Things had become so bad that in 1955 the company had been forced to sell the Ravenswood (pictured above) as funds were not available for the re-plating work demanded by the Board of Trade.
In 1956 further economies had to be made and so the one time flagship of their fleet Britannia went to the breakers.
For 1957 the company’s cross Channel sailings from the Sussex Coast were abandoned and Glen Gower was brought back to the Bristol Channel to replace the Glen Usk on the Cardiff/Weston ferry.
For 1958 Glen Gower was withdrawn with the cheaper to run Glen Usk being brought back into service again to replace her but the weather turned. It was a very windy summer and the subsequent loss of revenue forced Campbells to call in the Receiver during August. It was touch and go whether the company would survive at all.
The Receiver thought that there was some merit in continuing services in 1959 but only with further economies to be made which included withdrawing the Bristol Queen, abandoning Swansea and running a two ship service only with Cardiff Queen (pictured above) taking the longer down Channel sailings and Glen Usk primarily running the Cardiff/Weston ferry.
When she came out in 1946 Bristol Queen had been the last word in sea-going excursion paddle steamers. That such a new and well appointed steamer should have been withdrawn so early in her career speaks volumes of the difficulties that operators experienced as that decade wore on.
Attempts were made to find work for Bristol Queen elsewhere but these came to nought. However discussion with Townsend Ferries at Dover bore a different sort of fruit which led to her return to service in 1961. But that is another story.