On Tuesday 10th October 1922 there were 13 round trips by paddle steamer scheduled to run between Portsmouth and Ryde.
First away from Portsmouth with the run put on specially to carry the mail was at an eye watering 2.40am for the half hour crossing to Ryde. This steamer then lay alongside Ryde Pier until making her first departure of the day from the Isle of Wight at 6.45am back to Portsmouth.
Although the route needed five paddle steamers on peak days, and particularly summer Saturdays, to carry the loads, in October only two were required in service with a third held in reserve alongside the coal barge at Portsmouth in case of necessity with the other two out of commission for their annual refit and survey at any one time.
The one that had made the night crossing for the mail then ran further departures from Portsmouth at 7.35am, 9.25am, 11.40am, 1.50pm, 3.55pm and 6.10pm calling on her way at Southsea on the 11.40am, 1.50pm and 3.55pm runs.
The second steamer made her first departure from Portsmouth at 7.05am with subsequent sailings at 10am, 12.15pm, 3.15pm,4.50pm and 7.15pm. She then waited at Ryde until 9.25pm for the last run of the day back to Portsmouth. The 10am, 4.50pm and 7.15pm also picked up at Southsea.
So with the exception of the middle of the night mail run the first departure from Portsmouth to Ryde was at 7.05am and the last at 7.15pm in the evening although on Thursday nights there was a late boat leaving Portsmouth at 11.30pm.
The first boat out from Ryde was at 6.45am and the last out was at 9.25pm again except Thursday evening/Friday early morning when there was a departure at 12.05am.
By 1922 these boats, with the exception of the Duchess of Norfolk which by then had only 11 years of service, were nearing the ends of their design lives having clocked up between twenty three and thirty three years each of service for the railways.
Four of them were withdrawn between 1928 and 1933 and replaced with new tonnage with Duchess of Kent cheating the scrapyard until 1937 in a new career as Jubilee Queen running on the Mersey and from Blackpool.
Last of the five to go was Duchess of Norfolk which was replaced by Ryde in 1937. She was bought by Cosens, renamed Embassy, and enjoyed a lengthy second career running excursions from Weymouth and Bournemouth up to 1966 by which time she was fifty five years old.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 10th October 2020.