29th April 1961:
Medway Queen

29th April 1961:
Medway Queen
Medway Queen leaving Herne Bay. // Jessie Clements

On Saturday 29th April 1961 members of the London and Home Counties Branch of the PSPS visited Medway Queen on the grid at the Acorn Shipyard at Strood.

Medway Queen visit, 29th April 1961. // Guy Hundy

They were greeted by New Medway Steam Packet Company Managing Director Mr W G “Bill” Peake and Company Secretary Mr F Marshall and were presented with a mounted lifeboat nameplate from the Golden Eagle, a pre-war booklet from the company and a number of photographs.

PSPS members on board Medway Queen. // Guy Hundy

The group had a good old rummage round on Medway Queen including a close look at the bridge and ship’s wheel…

Guy Hundy in the paddle box of Medway Queen at the Acorn Shipyard 1961. // Jessie Clements

…inside the paddle boxes and around the engine and boiler rooms.

It is said that Bill Peake had a soft spot for paddle steamers having served aboard them and become a chief engineer on them on the Thames at a very young age. He therefore saw the PSPS as a useful supporter group which might help to drum up business for his ship and so made sure that all who visited Medway Queen that day went away with a steamer notice advertising her sailings for the coming summer.

Medway Queen steamer notice for 1961.

The season was due to start on Sunday 11th June and run through to about the first week in September, The basic schedule on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in 1961 was to leave Strood (9.15am) for Southend (10.55am) and Herne Bay (12.30pm). Then to make a run back from Herne Bay to Southend (2.15pm – 3.15pm) before leaving for Herne Bay once again (5pm) and then back to Southend (6.40pm) and Strood (8.40pm). It was a masterly piece of timetabling offering no less than four different trip options within the business model. Namely a day trip from Strood to Southend (over 7 hours ashore), a day trip from Strood to Herne Bay (over 4 hours ashore), a day trip from Southend to Herne Bay (over 4 hours ashore) and a long afternoon cruise from Herne Bay to Southend (1 hour ashore).

On Wednesdays and Saturdays she ran to an alternative roster leaving Strood Pier (9,15am) for Southend (10.55am) and Clacton (1.25pm). She then ran a “Sea Trip” from Clacton (2.45pm – 4.15pm) before setting off from Clacton (4.25pm) for Southend (6.40pm) and Strood (8.40pm). Fridays were generally a day off although she was available to run charters and sometimes did much to the irritation of some crew members who had been looking forward to a day off.

Aboard Crested Eagle. Left to right; Second Engineer Aubrey Holt, Chief Engineer Bill Peake, Capt Cole, Chief Officer and later Capt John Charman, and Second Officer unknown.

It was also said that if Bill Peake had not died suddenly in November 1962 then he would have done his best to keep Medway Queen in service as long as he could. But it was not to be. The new management was less tolerant of a marginal business model requiring a whole lot of effort to run for no, or very little, return so 1963 became Medway Queen’s last operational season.

However on 29th April 1961 Bill Peake was still very much in place as Managing Director of the New Medway Steam Packet Company and doing his best to drum up support and business to help sustain the operation of his ship.

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 29th April 2021.