On Wednesday 16th July 1947 three paddle steamers, Embassy, Monarch, and Princess Elizabeth offered no less than eight departures from Bournemouth Pier during the day not counting the evening single runs back to their overnight berths at Poole.
They would be joined by Red Funnel’s newly rebuilt Bournemouth Queen the following Monday.
This week the pattern of sailings was for either Embassy or Princess Elizabeth to take the day trip to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight with extensions on to Cowes or Southampton or Portsmouth or round the Island with the other two rostered for the 45 minute trip each way on the ferry service between Bournemouth and Swanage.
On this day Wednesday 16th July it was Embassy which was rostered to leave Bournemouth Pier at 10.15am for Yarmouth with the option of continuing on to Southampton Docks for those who wanted to stay aboard to get a view of Cunard’s Atlantic liner Queen Mary.
Meanwhile Monarch and Princess Elizabeth were scheduled to be on the Swanage service and goodness weren’t there a lot of people taking advantage of it as the picture above of Monarch shows.
There were departures from Bournemouth Pier at 10.15am, 10.45am, 12.15pm, 2.15pm, 2.45pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm and returns from Swanage at 11.10am, 11.45am, 1.30pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm and 6pm. That gives seven departures each way. That’s an overall daily potential capacity on the route of more than 3,000 passengers.
Contrast that with the day trip to Yarmouth with its extensions onwards to Southampton Docks which could have accommodated at best around 700 passengers with many of them getting off at Yarmouth. That’s a potential passenger journey ratio of 15% for the all day trip and 85% for the Swanage service. You can see why two paddle steamers were needed to take advantage of the latter.
Until 1951 when the landing stage on the west side of the pier and the half-way ladders were re-opened congestion ruled at Bournemouth Pier. One way to control the crowds on mid-week mornings was to close the pier to promenaders until after the morning boats had sailed. Queues were formed on the promenade separately for each sailing and passengers counted through the pier turnstiles as they paid their 3d. As soon as the first boat load was through the next queue was dealt with and so on until there was no-one waiting. Happy paddle steamer days!
The weather also seems to have been in the paddle steamers’ favour this week with the press report speaking of “these hot days”.
That’s what you want for solvent excursion paddle steamer operation. Radiant sunshine. Flat Calms. And plenty of ’em.
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 16th July 2021.