On Tuesday 23rd June 1925 three P & A Campbell paddle steamers, Ravenswood, Devonia and Brighton Belle were scheduled to make calls at Eastbourne Pier with the first departure at 10am and the last return by sea at 9pm.
First away was the Ravenswood due off at 10am and 12.15pm for round trips to Hastings (11.10am and 2.20pm). She then ran an “Afternoon Cruise Round Sovereign Lightship” leaving at 3.20pm back 4.40pm before setting off at 4.45pm for another round trip to Hastings (5.50pm). After that there was a “Cheap Evening Cruise to View Shipping off Beachy Head and the Lighthouse” at 7.30pm, after passengers had had their suppers ashore, due back at 9pm.
Meanwhile Devonia had come up from Brighton (9.30am) to leave Eastbourne at 11.10am for Hastings (12.15pm) and Boulogne (2.30pm). She was scheduled to be away from Boulogne at 5.30pm and run direct to Brighton where she was due in at 9.45pm with her Eastbourne and Hastings passengers returning home by train.
Brighton Belle made a brief appearance at Eastbourne in the afternoon having come up from Brighton and setting off back again for a single trip at 5.20pm.
That week between Sunday 21st and Saturday 27th June there were just three day trips offered to Boulogne on the Sunday, Tuesday and Friday plus a day trip to Folkestone on the Wednesday. Otherwise the mainstay of the Eastbourne roster that week was round trips between Eastbourne and Hastings with small extensions elsewhere in the vicinity to Seaford Bay, round the lightship, to the Newhaven Breakwater and so on. That was high volume work with Ravenswood packing in at least eight departures a day from the two piers.
That’s potentially a lot of passengers. That’s potentially a lot of revenue when the sun shone, when the wind was friendly and when the boarding houses and hotels of Eastbourne and Hastings (and Brighton just down the road), were full and when the promenades and beaches were filled to capacity with eager punters yearning to make their holidays, or days out, complete with a short trip on the briny maybe imbibing a refreshing drink or two in the “bar below” while they were at it.
And the pricing structure of the fares reflected this. With the return ticket price for the twelve or more hour round trip to Boulogne coming in at more than six times that for the morning return round trip between Eastbourne and Hastings the day trips across the Channel to exotic France were ever the preserve of the better off and those temporarily flush with spare cash in their wallets, purses or back pockets for whatever reason. The shorter trips were aiming at high volume passenger numbers at affordable prices to suit the pockets of those of more modest means as well as packing in others who could have afforded the longer day trips if they wanted but preferred a short taster trip in the morning or afternoon instead.
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 23rd June 2021.