Westward Ho made her first trip of the season from Plymouth on Wednesday 22nd June 1932 sailing on an excursion to Prawle Point with 98 passengers aboard.
She had arrived at Plymouth from Bristol the previous day at 10.45am and was set to spend the summer based at Plymouth and Torquay offering coastal excursions along the Devon and Cornish Coasts in an area bounded by Land’s End in the west and Weymouth in the east including calls at Dartmouth, Fowey, Falmouth, occasionally Weymouth and once only at Looe.
This area has never had any real track record of successful long coastal excursions run by large paddle steamers with the mainstay of such paddle steamer operations as there were having been concentrated in small river steamers at Plymouth and Dartmouth and with the small coastal paddlers Duke of Devonshire and her sister Duchess of Devonshire from Exmouth and Torquay which had the ability to serve very local markets by putting their bows onto the Devon beaches to load and unload passengers.
By 1932 the Duchess had been laid up leaving only the Duke to carry on the service now in competition with Campbells’ Westward Ho which was much bigger, much faster and much better appointed than the diminutive Duke. Altogether Westward Ho was a paddle steamer in an altogether different class.
Poor passenger loadings for Westward Ho continued throughout the season. Potential passengers in this area just never seemed to be attracted to, or perhaps could afford, long coastal cruises often to destinations which could be reached more speedily, cheaply and with less risk of being seasick by train. For make no mistake, the coast from Start Point westwards has no shelter from the prevailing SW wind rolling in from the Atlantic. It can be distinctly lumpy even in moderate breezes. And it involves headings which put the steamers broadside on, or nearly broadside on, to the prevailing SW winds which made them roll.
For 1933 P & A Campbell bought the Duke of Devonshire to stifle the competition but did not run her. Westward Ho’s 1933 season based in Devon was again not successful. Analysis of the returns showed that more passengers boarded at Torquay than Plymouth but that the ship averaged just 215 passengers a day where her Class III Board of Trade Passenger Certificate permitted her to carry up to 830. She did not return in subsequent years.
From 1934 Westward Ho continued her services elsewhere on other routes for P & A Campbell on the Bristol Channel and for part of the 1934 season on the Sussex Coast. During the Second World War she became a minesweeper from which duties she was returned in such poor a condition as to be beyond refurbishment and so was scrapped at Newport in 1946.
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 June 2021.