On Sunday 22nd October 1922 there were five round trips offered between Portsmouth and Ryde with each of the sailings inward and outward bound also calling at Southsea’s Clarence Pier..
First away from Portsmouth was at 10.15am with subsequent departures at 12.20pm, 2.10pm, 4pm and 6.55pm. First departure from Ryde was at 11.10am and the last at 9.25pm.
The Portsmouth/Ryde route required five paddle steamers in the peak weeks and particularly for summer Saturdays: Duchess of Norfolk, Duchess of Fife, Duchess of Kent, Duchess of Albany and Princess Margaret. In winter there was a need for just two on weekdays and on Sundays only one although a second was held in reserve and in steam in case of necessity.
Come November the 10.15am sailing was dropped making the first departure for Ryde from Portsmouth at 12.20pm.
The steamers ran as two class ships with first class passengers aft and second class forrard. The first class return fare in 1922 between Portsmouth and Ryde Pier Gates was 4/- (£11.45 today) and second class was 3/2 (£9.20 today). Compare that with Wightlink today for which the foot passenger day return fare between Portsmouth and Ryde Pierhead is £20.60 and £29.80 for the period return.
The voyage time in the days of the paddle steamers was half an hour so the first class return fare of the equivalent of £11.50 (in today’s money) comes in at £23 per hour steamed (in today’s money) and the second class fare of £9.20 comes in at £18.40 per hour steamed (in today’s money). The journey time on the fast cats on the route today is 22 minutes so the period return comes in at £81 per hour steamed and the day return at £56 per hour steamed. Gosh!
Contrast that with a fare of £39 for a six hour cruise on Waverley (a more expensive ship to operate than either the Portsmouth/Ryde cats today or indeed these 1920s paddle steamers) today which comes in at just £6.50 per hour steamed.
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 October 2020.