On Monday 19th December 1949 Duchess of Cornwall arrived at Pollock Brown’s scrapyard at Northam, a suburb of Southampton, on the River Itchen.
She was built in 1896 as the Duchess of York by Barclay, Curle & Co. on the Clyde for what became Red Funnel. And, like her sister Prince of Wales built locally by the Southampton Naval Works the previous year, she was constructed of steel where earlier ships for the company had iron hulls.
Although she could and did run excursions over the years her primary function was as one of the packet ships on the Southampton to Cowes ferry service for which she could accommodate a handful of cars driven on and off across boards from pontoons at both terminals at the same height as she ship’s foredeck thereby giving level access.
In 1928 Canadian Pacific were building four new liners and asked Red Funnel if they could take the name of Duchess of York for one of them. Agreement was reached and so this Duchess of York became Duchess of Cornwall.
She had the honour of running the first excursion after the Second World War from Southampton taking passengers to Ryde in July 1945. From 1947 she became standby by steamer on the Southampton to Cowes cargo service making her last runs up and down Southampton Water in March 1949.
The arrival of the converted tank landing craft Norris Castle in 1948 showed the way that the wind was starting to blow. Why would anyone want to unload a lorry and put its cargo on a ship to be re-loaded onto another lorry at the other end when the lorry could just drive aboard and carry its cargo all the way itself?
Within a decade of the demise of Duchess of Cornwall in December 1949, Red Funnel had off loaded all their paddle steamers and instead embarked upon a process of ordering a series of purpose-built car and vehicle ferries including Carisbrooke Castle (1959), Osborne Castle (1962), Cowes Castle (1965), a new Norris Castle (1968) and Netley Castle (1974) for the Southampton to Cowes ferry run.
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 19th December 2020.