Just as on every Wednesday from 20th July to 21st September 1932, on Wednesday 14th September 1932 the almost brand new luxury Southern Railway paddle steamers Southsea and Whippingham were scheduled to run long afternoon cruises from Portsmouth, Southsea and Ryde, the one steaming around the Isle of Wight and the other sailing on to Bournemouth.
The first was away from Portsmouth at 1pm, Clarence Pier Southsea at 1.15pm, South Parade Pier at 1.30pm and Ryde at 2pm calling at Sandown and Shanklin on her way around the island with return to Sandown at 6.45pm, Shanklin at 7pm and Portsmouth at about 8.20 This option also offered an evening tour picking up at Ryde, which the steamer was in any case passing, at 5.45pm to Sandown or Shanklin either with return on the Isle of Wight railway or return to Portsmouth to take the 8.50pm “Ordinary Steamer” connection back to Ryde for arrival about 9.20pm.
The other was scheduled to leave Portsmouth at 2pm, Clarence Pier 2.15pm and South Parade Pier at 2.30pm sailing through the Solent past Cowes, Yarmouth, Hurst Point and Hengistbury Head for arrival at Bournemouth at 4.30pm to give about an hour and a half ashore before returning at 6pm with arrival back in Portsmouth about 8.30pm.
In today’s world of shopping twenty four hours a day seven days a week it is easy to forget that only twenty or so years ago almost all shops closed on Sundays. Travel back further and many shut on Wednesday afternoons which were known as “early closing day”. Wednesday afternoons were therefore the one day of the week when the market for potential passengers from both those who worked in shops and those who went shopping expanded greatly. This is one of the reasons why the Southern Railway programmed Southsea and Whippingham for these longer cruises for Wednesday afternoons so as to take advantage of this market segment.
As we saw in the post for 12th September, one of the pair ran two circuits from Portsmouth to Ventnor on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, (most but not all) Thursdays and Fridays and both were rostered for the Portsmouth/Ryde ferry service on Saturdays. As well as filling in on the ferry on other days they also sometimes took additional excursions including on Thursdays 21st & 28th July, 18th August and 1st September running extra afternoon trips to Bournemouth leaving Portsmouth, Southsea and Ryde half an hour earlier than on the “early closing” Wednesdays. There were also some excursions to see the liners in Southampton Docks.
The steamer notice describes these two paddlers as “the largest and most luxurious Steamers on the South Coast” and this was not hyperbole. The contrast must have been particularly stark when alongside Bournemouth Pier at the same time as Cosens’s decidedly antiquated looking twin funnelled Monarch.
And even more so when the Victoria or Empress were in with their pretty spartan layout and distinct lack of covered accommodation.
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 14th September 2020.