27th March 1960:
Princess Elizabeth

27th March 1960:
Princess Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth alongside at Northam, 27th March 1960 with the Red Funnel tug Neptune.

On Sunday 27th March 1960 Princess Elizabeth was in a mud berth at Northam, a suburb of Southampton, being prepared for a new career running excursions from Torquay.

In 1958 Red Funnel ordered their first new build bow loading drive on/ drive off ferry for their Southampton/Cowes service from the local shipbuilding yard of John I Thornycroft at Woolston.

Carisbrooke Castle.

Carisbrooke Castle was launched on 27th November 1958. She made her first trip on the ferry service on 23rd May 1959 and that sealed the fate of Princess Elizabeth. No longer would she be needed as stand-by and relief boat. She made her last rostered run on the ferry with the first sailing out of Cowes on 12th September 1958. She ran her last scheduled excursion in the Solent two days later. She then spent the winter alongside the Royal Pier at Southampton as stand-by vessel. After the arrival of Carisbrooke Castle she moved to the lay up mud berth at Northam on 17th July.

In 1946 Red Funnel had bought 70% of the shares in Cosens & Co of Weymouth so Cosens was effectively run by Red Funnel after that. The previous board had resigned and the new Cosens’s board comprised the chairman, vice-chairman and general manager of Red Funnel plus Cosens’s own general manager. So effectively it was a Red Funnel Board in charge of Cosens.

The board therefore wondered if they might replace one of their Cosens’s paddle steamers Consul, Embassy or Monarch with their Princess Elizabeth now surplus to requirements. She was younger and in generally better condition than any of the Cosens’s steamers. However she had not needed a sea-going Class III MOT Passenger Certificate for her work in the Solent since 1953. Consideration was given as to what would be needed in order to get it back for sea going work from Weymouth and Bournemouth. The resulting report was not favourable. The minutes of the board meeting on 23rd May 1958 recorded ” The suggested disposal of PE to Cosens after delivery of Carisbrooke Castle impractical as MoT would require restoration of Steam 3 certificate”.

So the Lizzie was put up for sale. and found a buyer in Torbay Steamers Ltd, a company set up by Cdr Edmund Rhodes and his associate Mrs Barclay-Bishop, to revive paddle steamer sailings in Devon. Their initial thought had been to base her at Plymouth but by the spring of 1960 they had come round to the view that placing her at Torquay would be better.

Then the MOT arrived on the scene and the pair found out what Red Funnel already knew that reviving her Class III Passenger Certificate would be an expensive business including as it did the requirement to fit an additional bulkhead dividing up her lower aft saloon

When the picture at the top was taken on Sunday 27th March 1960 Princess Elizabeth had already been slipped, as you can see from her clean boot topping. Much money had already been spent on her with the remainder of her refit still in hand. Discussions with the MOT were continuing and Cdr Rhodes had started his search for a new master for her. In the end he would hire Captain John Hayward, freshly retired from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, who joined the ship on 11th April.

Princess Elizabeth leaving Thornycroft’s Southampton yard, 26th April 1960.

Then by Tuesday 26th April 1960 she was ready to run trials. But that is another story for another day.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 27th March 2021.