On Saturday 13th April 1946 Ravenswood made the first P & A Campbell passenger sailing after the Second World War, under the command of Captain Findlay Brander, from Bristol setting off just after half past three in the afternoon for a cruise down the Avon to off Clevedon full up with the great and the good from the company and the local community as well as enthusiastic passengers eager to throw off the cares of war and return to some sort of normality. Demand outstripped capacity and a goodly number, who had turned out in the expectation of joining the trip, were left behind.
Ravenswood was also the first of the Campbell steamers to be returned to the company after her war service initially as a minesweeper and from 1942 as an anti-aircraft ship. She arrived back in Bristol on 11th April 1945 and was the first on which work started to make her ready for passenger service once again with a possible intention of bringing her out that summer. However sourcing materials was not easy as the war wound down. And none of the piers were open so it was not until April 1946 that she made her first excursion.
Having been built as long ago as 1890 Ravenswood was the oldest member of the P & A Campbell fleet so the rebuild was intended to give her a more modern look and to appear to be the equal of the proposed new paddle steamers Bristol Queen and Cardiff Queen. Gone were the radial vents, which had graced her paddle boxes in earlier years, replaced instead by circular holes cut in the steelwork to resemble portholes so that, to the casual observer viewing her broadside on at a distance, she didn’t look like a paddle steamer at all.
Chris Collard recounts that on her evening return to Cardiff from this her first cruise from Bristol the ship’s log recorded that she was dragging along the bottom on the falling tide on the bank extending NW from the East Cardiff buoy about two nautical miles east of Penarth.
However no serious damage was sustained and she made her first advertised sailing of the season from Cardiff the following weekend running an afternoon cruise on Easter Sunday 14th April across once again to Bristol and then back down the Avon on another cruise towards Clevedon.
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 13th April 2021.