Cosens & Co Limited held their Annual General Meeting at 12.15pm on Tuesday 29th March 1955 in the company’s board room in their office in Weymouth at which they presented the Directors’ Report for the year ending 31st December 1954.
At that time Cosens’s still ran five elderly paddle steamers: Emperor of India, Embassy, Monarch, Consul and Empress. The youngest was Monarch, which was then 30 years old, and the oldest was Empress, then 75 years old. They also had an engineering works and slipway facilities at Weymouth and undertook general ship repair work including for British Railway’s Channel Islands passenger and cargo steamers at Weymouth. They also had an ice making plant and cold store.
For all who thought that the sun always shone and the sea was always calm in those blissful and balmy bygone days then this Directors’ Report makes for sobering reading.
“The weather during the 1954 season was almost the worst on record. Weather experts tell us it was the wettest season since 1946, the coldest since 1920 and the least amount of sunshine since 1912. So far as the Company are concerned there were 13 blank days at Bournemouth and 49 trips had to be cancelled, whilst at Weymouth there were 8 blank days, 71 trips to Lulworth Cove had to be cancelled, and 14 days when no work could be carried out at Weymouth Beach. They were adverse factors which could not be foreseen or provided against, and of course seriously affected the Revenue from Excursion Services.
The cost of Repairs and Maintenance is still rising due mainly to the increase of Wages and Materials.
Every effort is being made to secure Contracts for our Works Department. During the past year this section was actively engaged on various Contracts, which resulted in a reasonable profit, which, however, was more than counter-balanced by the heavy loss of Revenue from the Steamers.
The manufacture of ice was discontinued in June and the accommodation available has been reconstructed and equipped for additional Cold Storage which has added appreciably to our capacity. Since decontrol of the Cold Store by the Ministry of Food in December 1954, following the end of food rationing, satisfactory arrangements have been made with Wholesale Meat Importers which should bring beneficial results for the Company.
In view of the adverse result for the year, the Directors regret being unable to recommend payment of a dividend and there will be a debit balance of £8,206 7s 11d (around £230,000 in today’s money) on Profit and Loss account to be carried forwards.
The Company’s vessels are being maintained and equipped to provide the best possible service and we can reasonably hope that with more favourable weather in 1955 better results will be obtained.”
As it turned out, Cosens’s optimism was repaid with the sun shining pretty constantly in the peak weeks of the 1955 season, as it would again in 1959. This resulted in a payment to shareholders of 5% being recommended despite the fact that the profit accrued was insufficient to eliminate the Debit Balance, which in 1953 stood at £18,181 (over half a million pounds in today’s money).
However the same high note was not reached the year after that. The summer season of 1956 saw more than its fair share of rather less than ideal paddle steamer weather with, for example, P & A Campbell’s Glen Gower on the Sussex Coast losing half of her cross Channel sailings from Eastbourne to Boulogne to the wind. 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.
This article was first published on 29th March 2021.