On Tuesday 28th June 1927 Brighton Belle was rostered for local trips along the Sussex Coast from the piers at Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton.
Her first passenger pick that day was at Hastings (10.15am) and then Eastbourne (11.30am) for Brighton (1pm). The afternoon was rostered for local cruises from Brighton before she set of again from Brighton’s West Pier (7pm) and Palace Pier (7.15pm) for the run back round Beachy Head to Eastbourne (8.45pm) and Hastings (9.45pm).
On Sunday 26th June she started her day at Hastings (9am) came over to Eastbourne (9.50am) and then back to Hastings (11am) from where she ran a local cruise. Then she left Hastings (2.10pm) for Eastbourne (3.15pm) for a cruise round Beachy head, past Birling Gap and Seven Sisters to Newhaven Breakwater after which she returned to Eastbourne ( 5.15pm) for Hastings (6.30pm).
On Monday 27th June she started at Hastings (10.30am) for Eastbourne (11.40am) and back to Hastings (1pm). Then she was away from Hastings (2.30pm) for Eastbourne (3.20pm) for one hour ashore at Newhaven “To witness the arrival of the mail steamer”. She was away from Newhaven (5.20pm) for Eastbourne (6.20pm) and then back to Hastings (7.30pm)
On Wednesday 29th June she left Hastings (10am) for Eastbourne (11.10am) for a “Morning Cruise Towards Seaford Bay” then back to Eastbourne (12.40pm) and then on to Hastings (12.45pm) leaving (2pm) back for Eastbourne (3pm) then back to Hastings (4.10pm) and back again to Eastbourne (5.30pm). She then lay alongside until 8pm when she offered an “Evening Cruise to Mid Channel to View Shipping” back 9.15pm after which she set off back to Hastings (10.15pm).
On Thursday 30th June she was away from Hastings (10am) for Eastbourne (11.10am) for Hastings (12.20pm) for Eastbourne (1.30pm) leaving (2pm) for an “Afternoon Cruise towards Dungeness” calling at Hastings (3.30pm) on the way out and (4.45pm) on the way back to Eastbourne (5.45pm).
On Friday 1st July she was away from Eastbourne (10am) for Hastings (11.10am) for Eastbourne (12.30pm). From there she set out again (2.30pm) for a “Long Afternoon Cruise Round Royal Sovereign Lightship” via Hastings (5.15pm) and back to Eastbourne (6.15pm).
On Saturday 2nd July she was away from Eastbourne (11.40am) for Hastings (12.40pm) and then off again (2.30pm) for Eastbourne (3.30pm) for a “Cruise Towards Seaford Bay” back to Eastbourne (5pm) and Hastings (6pm).
Brighton Belle’s overnight berth was theoretically at Newhaven, where she also took on coal once a week, but that was 23 nautical miles, and two hours steaming, away from Hastings where she started and ended her schedule every day this week except the Thursday and Friday when she finished at Eastbourne instead.
That’s a long old haul at the start and finish of a day’s work so when the weather was fine she often dropped the anchor off Hastings for the night thereby saving fuel and wages and giving the crew an earlier finish and a later start the next morning than would otherwise have been the case.
Eastbourne is just 10 nautical miles from Newhaven which could have been done in less than an hour, so with Brighto Belle’s day finishing at Eastbourne rather than at Hastings on the Thursday and Friday then that suggests to me that she was intended to return to Newhaven on those two nights probably for coaling up on the Thursday evening and leaving the Friday evening free for the crew to go ashore, have a well deserved pint in the pubs or, for those who lived locally, to spend a night at home with their families.
Come the Saturday morning it was back aboard for all the crew for a departure from Newhaven by 9.30am to start the week again at Eastbourne for the 10.40am sailing to Hastings where she finished her day at 6.15pm. After that, if the weather was fine, it would be to anchor once again off Hastings every night until the next Thursday when it was back to Newhaven to take on bunkers.
This week, while Brighton Belle had been the mainstay of the one hour connection between Hastings and Eastbourne with morning, afternoon and evening cruises thrown in as well, Devonia had flown by on her fast runs to Boulogne on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and on Thursday afternoon on a cruise to Dungeness. Waverley had also passed through on Tuesday on her day trip to Folkestone and on Friday with an afternoon cruise around the Sovereign Lightship.
Brighton Belle was built in 1900 as Lady Evelyn for the Furness Railway Company for their services between Fleetwood, Morecombe and Barrow with rail connections on to the Lake District. After war service as a minesweeper she was bought by Tucker’s to become part of their Bristol Channel “Yellow Funnel Fleet” in 1920. When that company got into financial difficulties in 1922 she was bought by P & A Campbell who refitted her and gave her the name Brighton Belle for their services on the Sussex Coast where she was based from 1923 to 1936.
So ubiquitous was Brighton Belle’s presence on the Sussex Coast in that era that she even gets a mention in Graham Greene’s novel “Brighton Rock” a tale of Catholicism and gangsters in 1930s Brighton. In this story the amateur detective Ida receives an invitation from her friend Mr Corkery “It’s a fine day, Ida. Let’s go on the Brighton Belle and talk it over there. No closing hours at sea.”
From 1937 to 1939 Brighton Belle was based on the Bristol Channel spending much of her time on the Cardiff/Weston ferry service and in 1937 sported an experimental colour scheme with a grey hull.
With the outbreak of War she was called up as a minesweeper and based at Dover so was well placed to be in the forefront of the Dunkirk evacuation. She set off in company with the paddle steamers Gracie Fields, Medway Queen, Princess Elizabeth and Sandown on the evening of 27th May 1940 but the following morning on her return voyage ran over a wreck near the Goodwin Sands, damaged her hull and sank. The 800 troops aboard her at the time were transferred to Medway Queen.
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 28th June 2021.