Shortly after breakfast on Thursday 22nd January 1953, Cosens’s paddle steamer Victoria left Weymouth under her own steam and under the command of Capt Moore for the six hour voyage to the Southampton scrapyard of the British Iron and Steel Corporation. It was fifty years after she had inaugurated a winter service connecting Bournemouth, Boscombe and Swanage in 1902 and almost seventy years after she had been built in Holland in 1884 for Cosens’s excursion work on the South Coast including Cross Channel sailings to Cherbourg.
Victoria retained her Class III Board of Trade Passenger Certificates right up to the end and in her last season of 1952, as well as undertaking local excursions from Weymouth to Portland Harbour, Portland Bill, the Shambles Lightship and Lulworth Cove, during the peak weeks she also ran the long day trips a couple of days a week from Weymouth to Swanage and Bournemouth and occasionally to Totland Bay on the Isle of Wight. Like Kingswear Castle, Victoria was not gifted with much under cover accommodation so her passengers would have needed to bring warm clothes particularly on the marathon long day trips to the Isle of Wight with their passage time of four hours each way.
When I was younger I used to wonder why Capt Moore was captain of Victoria, one of the smaller and older paddle steamers in the Cosens fleet, for her last summer season in 1952. After all, he was by then one of Cosens’s most senior and experienced masters who had previously commanded the much larger, faster and more commodious Consul and Embassy. Maybe he had a nostalgic hankering for an older paddler steamer which Victoria certainly delivered in spades. Maybe he preferred her more varied schedule along that part of the beautiful Dorset Coast with its generally gentler tides. Or maybe it was a matter of simpler practicality. Victoria started and finished all her days at Weymouth. Capt Moore lived in Weymouth. So he could go home to his own bed every night just like I did over the nearly three decades I spent as master of Kingswear Castle. And there is something to be said for that.
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 22nd January 2021.