On Thursday 27th July 1889 Brodick Castle was scheduled to sail from Swanage (9.30am), Bournemouth (10.30am) and Boscombe (10.40am) for Totland Bay, Isle of Wight, (11.45am), Cowes (12.45pm) and Portsmouth (1,15pm).
For the return she was due away from Portsmouth (3.15pm), Cowes (4pm) and Totland Bay (5pm) for Bournemouth (6.15pm) and Swanage (7pm) where she generally lay over alongside the pier for the night.
Brodick Castle was at this stage in her career owned by the Bournemouth, Swanage and Poole Steam Packet Company which had been set up to run paddle steamers from the newly re-opened Bournemouth Pier in 1881 with the then five year old Lord Elgin which had previously run on the Firth of Forth.
The business did so well that by 1884 they were able to commission the building of a new paddle steamer appropriately named Bournemouth for the longer day trip market. Unfortunately she came to grief two years later on 27th August 1886 when she ran straight into the cliffs on the west side of Portland Bill in thick fog whilst on the return leg of a day trip from Bournemouth to Torquay.
Needing a steamer to replace her at relatively short notice for the 1887 season they bought Brodick Castle which had been built for the year round service on the Lower Clyde to Arran in 1878.
Brodick Castle and Lord Elgin ran from Bournemouth in competition with Cosens & Co which had also kept up with all this new paddle steamer building by commissioning their own Victoria in 1884 and their larger and better appointed Monarch in 1888. She was the equal of, and Cosens said was better than, Brodick Castle.
For the 1889 season both Brodick Castle and Monarch took the longer day trips from Bournemouth in competition with each other and advertised separately. However they also worked together with, for example, the opportunity being offered to go out on one steamer and back on the other for a supplement of 1/- extra (£6.50 today).
The two companies also shared the Swanage service with Lord Elgin for the Bournemouth, Swanage and Poole Steam Packet Company and Empress for Cosens operating the timetable with departures from Bournemouth at 10.30am, 11am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 3pm, 4.30pm, 5,15pm and 6.15pm and from Swanage at 8.45am, 9.30am, 11.30am, 12.15pm, 1.15pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm. That’s eight departures each way every day. That’s a lot of business. That’s a lot of revenue being generated by two paddle steamers on a simple 45 minute trip formula.
The most expensive day trip this week was from Bournemouth, Boscombe and Swanage to Torquay on Tuesday 25th July for which the first class fare was 5/6 ( £35 in today’s money). The first class return fare on the Swanage service was 2/- (£13 today)
What happened to these four paddle steamers in the end?
Brodick Castle had a career serving Bournemouth of 23 years from 1887 to 1909, latterly in the ownership of Cosens. After being withdrawn she was converted into a cattle barge for further service in Argentina but unfortunately her delivery voyage under tow only got as far as the Race off Portland Bill where she foundered and sank on Monday 31st October 1910.
Lord Elgin ran from Bournemouth for 30 years from 1881 to 1910 latterly in the ownership of Red Funnel. For 1911 they converted her into a cargo paddle steamer for the Southampton to Cowes ferry service on which she continued to run right up to 1955.
Monarch remained in the ownership of Cosens for her entire career and spent approaching 60 years running from Bournemouth until finally withdrawn and scrapped after the 1949 season.
Empress also remained in the ownership of Cosens for her entire 76 year career. Latterly based at Weymouth she was withdrawn and scrapped in 1955.
Tiny Point of detail 1: Brodick Castle’s master for her last three seasons was Captain S J Shippick. After he had his ship sold from under him he set up on his own account running the paddle steamers Studland Belle and later Audrey from Poole and Bournemouth on trips round Poole Harbour also calling at Studland.
He took Audrey to run on the Medway on Government service during the First World War and with his great entrepreneurial skills set up the New Medway Steam Packet Company after the War, built Medway Queen in 1924 and developed the company through the 1920s and 1930s into a thriving business with such success that he was able to commission the first of the large Diesel Thames Excursion vessels Queen of the Channel in 1935. With her large amount of undercover accommodation, bars and restaurant facilities she was a far cry from Captain Shippick’s first command of Brodick Castle.
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 27th July 2021.