13th July 1958:
Sailing on the Bristol Channel

13th July 1958:
Sailing on the Bristol Channel
Glen Usk’s bridge

On Sunday 13th July 1958 Bristol Queen, Cardiff Queen and Glen Usk offered multiple trip options on the Bristol Channel from Swansea, Mumbles, Ilfracombe, Porthcawl, Barry, Cardiff, Penarth, Weston, Clevedon and Bristol.

Cardiff Queen. // Keith Abraham

Cardiff Queen was scheduled for two round trips across the Bristol Channel between Swansea/Mumbles and Ilfracombe and afternoon cruises between Swansea/Mumbles and Porthcawl.

She was due away from Mumbles (but not Swansea itself) (10am) for Ilfracombe (12 noon) for Swansea (2pm), Mumbles (2.20pm) and Porthcawl (3.25pm), then back to Mumbles (4.40pm), Porthcawl (5.50pm), Ilfracombe (7.35pm) with return to Mumbles (9.30pm) with train connection back to Swansea.

P & A Campbell Steamer Notice Swansea July 1958.

This was a clever roster including no less than eight trip options:

  1. Day trip Mumbles to Ilfracombe (10am – 9.30pm) with seven hours ashore or with the option of joining a coach tour of Devon from Ilfracombe “to Hunters Inn by way of Two Potts and Berry Down allowing 2 hours to view the Inn”.
  2. Non landing trip Mumbles to Ilfracombe (10am -2.20pm)
  3. Day trip Ilfracombe to Mumbles/Swansea (11.50am – 7.35pm) giving two and a half hours ashore or with the option of joining “a coach tour of the Welsh Mountains giving panoramic views of Four Counites”
  4. Day trip Ilfracombe to Porthcawl (11.50am – 7.35pm) giving two hours ashore.
  5. Afternoon Cruise Swansea/Mumbles to Porthcawl (2pm – 4.40pm)
  6. Afternoon Cruise Porthcawl to Mumbles (3.25pm – 5.50pm)
  7. Single trip Mumbles to Porthcawl (4.40 – 5.50) or Ilfracombe (4.40pm – 7.35pm)
  8. Non Landing late Afternoon/Evening Cruise Mumbles to Ilfracombe via Porthcawl (4.40pm – 9.35pm)
  9. Single trip from Ilfracombe to Mumbles (7.45pm – 9.30pm)

The most expensive fare that day on Cardiff Queen was the day return Swansea/Mumbles to Ilfracombe which was 18/6 (£22 today). If you had wanted to turn this into a period return and come back another day then it would have shot up to 35/6 (£42 today).

The cheapest fare was the day return Swansea/Mumbles to Porthcawl which was 5/- (£6 today) which would have appealed to the market segments including local residents from the less moneyed hinterlands of both Swansea and Porthcawl.

Bristol Queen. // Keith Abraham

Bristol Queen was scheduled to run four round trips on the Cardiff/Weston ferry which included a couple of “Two Hour trips in the Channel” and an afternoon cruise in Weston Bay. She was due away from Barry (11.15am) for Weston (12 noon) and then back across the Channel to Cardiff (12.45pm) and Penarth (12.55pm) for a “2 Hour Cruise in the Channel” calling at Weston (2pm) and back to Cardiff (3pm) and Penarth (3.10pm) for Weston (4pm) and then a “Cruise in Weston Bay” returning to Weston (5.10pm) before sailing back to Cardiff (6.10pm) and on to Penarth (6.20pm) for Weston (7.15pm) once again and then back to Penarth (8pm) and Cardiff (8.15pm).

The day return fare Barry/Penarth/Cardiff to Weston was 12/6 (£15 today). This went up to 14/- (£16.50) on Saturdays and Bank Holidays but went down to 10/6 (£12.36 today) on the afternoon 3pm departure from Cardiff on this day. If you had not got off at Weston and stayed aboard for the two “Two Hour Channel Cruises” which left Cardiff at 3pm and 6.10pm you could have had the round trip for just 7/6 (£8.25 today).

P & A Campbell were astute commercial operators who knew their markets and pitched their fares according to different markets and market segments and according to how these varied both during each day and between days just like, for example, the low cost airlines vary their fares according to demand today.

Glen Usk at Bristol. // Brian Elliott

The coal-fired Glen Usk was away from Cardiff (1.45pm) and Penarth (1.55pm) for Clevedon (2.50pm) and up the Avon to Bristol (4.15pm) and then leaving for a cruise down the Avon and up the Severn to the mouth of the River Wye returning to Bristol (6.25pm) for Clevedon (7.30pm) Penarth (8.25pm) and Cardiff (8.35pm).

P & A Campbell Steamer Notice Bristol July 1958.

This day offered offered five trip options:

  1. Afternoon Cruise Cardiff/Penarth to Clevedon (1.45pm – 8.35pm) with four and a half hours ashore.
  2. Afternoon Cruise Cardiff/Penarth to Bristol (1.45pm – 8.35pm) with two hours ashore
  3. Afternoon Cruise Cardiff/Penarth (1.45pm – 8.35pm) up the River Avon and the River Severn.
  4. Afternoon Cruise from Bristol up the River Avon and the River Severn (4.15pm – 6.25pm)
  5. Single trip from Bristol (6.25pm) to Clevedon (7.30pm) , Penarth (8.25pm) or Cardiff (8.35pm)

The fare from Cardiff/Penarth to Bristol was 12/6 (£15 today) and including the cruise 15/6 (£18.25 today).

Three different paddle steamers on the Bristol Channel. Ten different pick up points. All on the same day.

Sadly it was not to last. With mounting operating and maintenance costs and a declining market, not aided by rather less than favourable summer weather, by 1958 the finances of P & A Campbell were in complete disarray.

Within less than a month from this date the company had no option but to call in the Receiver. But that is another story for another day.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 13th July 2021.