On Sunday 24th April 1960 Princess Elizabeth was raising steam alongside at the John I Thornycroft shipyard in Northam, Southampton in preparation for running trials in Southampton Water and the Solent two days later on the Tuesday.
The Lizzie had spent her last winter of 1958/59 as a Red Funnel ship as stand-by vessel for the Southampton/Cowes ferry and had been called upon to sail on 23rd February.
With the arrival of her replacement Carisbrooke Castle in May she was withdrawn and in July moved to a mud berth at Northam and was put up for sale. Against expectation she was bought by Torbay Steamers Ltd a company set up by Cdr Edmund Rhodes and his associate Mrs “Money-bags” Barclay-Bishop who intended to run her on excursions from Torquay to Dartmouth, Exmouth, Plymouth and Lyme Regis.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed they ran into hurdles with the arrival of the Board of Trade who at that time took a very strict view on the re-licencing of elderly passenger vessels changing hands. The situation was not helped by the Lizzie having lost her Class III Passenger Certificates certificates for work to seaward of the Categorised Waters Limits in 1953 which were not needed for the Red Funnel business model of using her just within the Solent. Indeed Red Funnel had toyed with the idea of using the Lizzie to replace one of Cosens’s elderly paddle steamers at Bournemouth when surplus to their requirements but had given up on the idea due to the difficulties and costs of regaining a Class III PC.
Cdr Rhodes and Mrs Barclay-Bishop knew none of this when they bought the ship and so had to dig deeper into their pockets than they had originally intended to finance all the necessary work insisted on by the BOT for the issue of Class III PCs. This included fitting an extra bulkhead dividing in two the lower aft dining saloon.
By Sunday 24th April this work had all been completed. A crew had been hired led by Captain John Hayward freshly retired as a master with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. All was set to go.
On Tuesday 26th April a group of enthusiasts from the PSPS joined the Lizzie at the Thornycroft yard and with assistance from a small tug off she went down the River Itchen on trials. A report of the trip was published in issue number 2 of Paddle Wheels in which it is recounted that the group was met by yard manager Mr N Botwright and that the Lizzie looked “extremely smart in her new coats of paint”. The report also notes that with the division of the lower dining saloon by the new bulkhead the ability to sell restaurant style food had now gone and that in future catering would be restricted instead to snacks and packed meals.
During this trial run the Lizzie called at the Southampton oil fuel barge to take on bunkers…
…before berthing alongside the Town Quay to disembark her enthusiast party.
The following week on Thursday 5th May she set off from Southampton shortly before 7pm for the overnight voyage to Torquay where she arrived at 6.40am the following morning.
This article was first published on 24th April 2021.