On the morning of Monday 15th October 1962 British Railways’s coal-fired paddle steamer Sandown left Portsmouth for Weymouth for refit work by Cosens & Co on her engine and boiler. After a good passage through the Western Solent, across Poole Bay, round Anvil Point and St. Albans Head, Sandown steamed into Weymouth Harbour in the late afternoon and berthed outside Cosens’s Head Office at 10, Custom House Quay.
Goodness, she did look big to my eleven year old eyes that afternoon. And of course she was compared with the Weymouth paddle steamers I knew so well, coming in at around thirty feet longer than Cosens’s own Embassy and fifty feet longer than Consul.
The following morning around 10am, and under the command of Cosens’s Captain Cyril “Chum” Holleyoak, latterly of Embassy, Sandown passed through the Town Bridge to berth in the Backwater outside Cosens’s workshops.
A Weymouth man, Capt. Holleyoak had a short career as a paddle steamer captain which arose because Capt. Defrates unexpectedly left Cosens a couple of weeks before before the season was due to start in 1961. With Cosens’s General Manager Don Brookes frantically looking to try to find a replacement at short notice, the Weymouth Harbourmaster suggested his brother, who had a master’s ticket, and so Capt. Holleyoak became captain of the Consul in May 1961. Their father had also been a master with Cosens in earlier days so they both had known the Weymouth paddle steamers all their lives.
In 1962 Captain Holleyoak moved to Embassy. In 1963 he was on the Princess Elizabeth for her first season at Weymouth and then in 1964 was back on Consul then running in competition with the Lizzie. After that he had a second career as a lecturer teaching Merchant Navy cadets at what is now the Warsash Maritime Academy.
Cosens were ever on the lookout for ship repair and refit work and, amongst much else, had regular contracts with British Railways for the overhauls of their Channel Island mail-boats and cargo ships. However, the arrival of Sandown on 15th October 1962 gave Cosens the opportunity to make use of their particular specialist expertise with paddle steamer machinery although, as it turned out, Sandown’s Denny built engine had several distinctive features, including an unusual link gear arrangement for controlling the valves, which initially took Cosens’s fitters by surprise.
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 15th October 2020.