On Boxing Day, Friday 26th December 1902, Cosens’s paddle steamer Victoria inaugurated a new winter service offering a couple of round trips daily between Bournemouth, Boscombe and Swanage, overnighting at Poole and advertising her return to base in the late afternoons as a single trip.
Like Kingswear Castle, Victoria was not blessed with much covered accommodation and her saloons below deck had only limited views through portholes, so those taking advantage of this new service would have needed to wrap up. It was also inevitably weather dependent. Bournemouth Pier has a measure of shelter from the coast extending south to the Old Harry Rocks and beyond, but nonetheless it can still get quite rough in Poole Bay and throughout its history, sailings from Bournemouth Pier have ever been subject to weather and other circumstances permitting.
1902 was the only year this service operated as early as Christmas with the start date being put back to 1st January the following year and then to mid-February in the ensuing years. In his excellent book “South Coast Pleasure Steamers” E C B Thornton, who knew the steamers well and sailed on them regularly, recounts “it does not sound a very necessary or helpful venture. One could travel between Bournemouth Central and Swanage and in slightly warmer conditions by train, even if the L & S W Railway branch train from Wareham (where a change was usually necessary) to Swanage was somewhat deficient in heating.”
By 1909 this service in the darkest depths of decidedly dismal winter had been discontinued.
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 26th December 2020.