21st June 1957:
Crested Eagle

21st June 1957:
Crested Eagle
Crested Eagle off Eastbourne, July 1957.

On charter to P & A Campbell for the season, the General Steam Navigation Co’s diesel powered Crested Eagle was scheduled to run a day trip leaving Brighton at 10am for about 2 hours ashore at Shanklin, Isle of Wight due back at 7.45pm on Friday 21st June 1957.

Brighton steamer notice for Crested Eagle, 1957, page 1.
Brighton steamer notice for Crested Eagle, page 2.

Whilst at Shanklin she was scheduled to run an hour and a half cruise “Along the Island Coast towards the Nab Tower passing Sandown, Yaverland and Culver Cliffs”.

Shanklin steamer notice for Crested Eagle, 1957.

On other days she ran from Eastbourne and Hastings

Steamer notice for Eastbourne for Crested Eagle, 1957.

1956 was a terrible time for P & A Campbell financially. For 1957 they had to make cuts to try and remain solvent. These included scrapping their veteran one time flagship Britannia, laying up their Glen Usk and retaining their Glen Gower to run in the Bristol Channel rather than basing her on the Sussex Coast as in earlier years. This left a gap in the market and to fill it after a fashion they chartered the Crested Eagle.

She had started life as the New Royal Lady in 1938 for Thomas Rouud and Sons of Scarborough. After the war she was bought by the GSN and initially run on their service from London to Gravesend and Southend as well as for PLA dock cruises. From 1952 she was based at Ramsgate for local trips and in 1956 was rostered to run between Gravesend, Southend and Clacton. As the market for excursions declined during the 1950s by 1957 she became surplus to requirements and so was available for charter to P & A Campbell for them to provide some sort of service from the Sussex resorts for 1957 in place of their paddle steamer Glen Gower.

There Crested Eagle spent her time mostly running from Eastbourne with calls at Hastings but she did come to Brighton as part of that sometimes and once a week on Fridays was rostered to run from Brighton to Shanklin. These trips were increased as the season wore on with some also scheduled for Mondays.

Overall it was not a good season. For all her virtues this Crested Eagle was smaller than, and not in the same class as, her paddle steamer predecessors. She also suffered from various mechanical issues and the weather was against her. 1957 was not a good summer and all in all in July and August she lost twenty one days due to the wind. She finished on Monday 30th September and returned to lay up in St Katherine’s Dock London from where she was sold on for further service in Malta where she continued to run until 1995. Today her hull remains at St Pauls Bay where it was sunk to form part of an artificial reef in 1999.

So 1957 was the last season P & A Campbell operated a passenger vessel from Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings and sadly it was not a paddle steamer.

Tiny Point of Detail 1: Crested Eagle started her Sussex Coast season under the command of Glen Gower’s previous master Captain Harris. However he left on 6th June and was replaced by Bristol Queen’s mate Captain Neville Cotman. He would go on to command Glen Usk and had the misfortune to be her master on Sunday 30th August 1959. With the ship running behind schedule he left Bristol too late really on the ebb tide and was swept ashore in the early evening on the notorious Horseshoe bend where Glen Usk became stuck fast on a falling tide. There she remained overnight.

After that Captain Cotman left the company and joined the British Railways Channel Island service where I first met him when he was second mate of the Caesarea in 1966 under the command of Captain Victor Newton. That summer I somehow managed to wangle myself a summer job as a deck boy aboard Caesarea and recall many long conversations about paddle steamers with him when I was taking my turn on the wheel and he was officer of the watch. I recall my younger self thinking that it must have seemed a bit of a come down for a one time master to be sailing as second mate but I don’t think that is how he saw it. As he said to me the rate of pay for second mate on the Weymouth mailboats was higher than he had been paid as a master with P & A Campbell and then there were all the other fringe benefits as well including reduced rate travel on the railways and so on. I liked Captain Cotman a lot.

Tiny Point of Detail 2: Captain Victor Newton stood by the completion of the Caesarea, built for the Weymouth/Channel Islands service, and was her first master taking her away from shipbuilder J Samuel White of Cowes in November 1961.

Captain Victor Newton with Weymouth mayor Edgar Wallis aboard Caesarea November 1961.

He was born in 1903 and went to sea as a boy with the Anglo-American Oil Company. He joined the Great Western Railway Channel Islands service in the 1930s initially as second mate and went to war as chief officer of the Roebuck. From 1941 he joined the navy as a Lt Cdr and served on larger warships both in the Atlantic and Pacific. After the war he returned to the Great Western Railway initially as chief officer of St Helier. He was promoted relief master of the Roebuck in October 1949 and relief master of the mailboat St Julien in June 1953 subsequently becoming permanent master of St Patrick and then in November 1961 Caesarea with which he stayed until he retired on 28th February 1968. He loved his job and didn’t want to retire but had no option as it was company policy that all masters had to retire at 65.

However he was not without other interests. He and his wife Molly also ran a caravan camp at Chickerell near Weymouth and it was the eventual sale of this business that enabled him and his wife to buy the grandest and largest detached house in Old Castle Road Weymouth overlooking Portland Harbour a few doors down from our more modest abode. He knew of my interest in the sea. He knew that I had worked aboard Caesarea and Sarnia and was most generous of his time in helping me. Indeed it was Captain Newton who first introduced me to the mysteries of using the sextant taking angles out across Portland Harbour from the lawn of the one time tennis court in his garden.

He died on 7th August 1977 aged 74.

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 21st June 2021.