On Friday 8th August 1952 Cosens’ Victoria was due away from Weymouth (9.30am) for Swanage (12.05pm) and Totland Bay, Isle of Wight (2pm – 4pm) and then back to Swanage (5.45pm) and Weymouth (8.30pm).
The world had sort of moved on since Victoria was built in 1884 yet here she was in 1952 still paddling along the exposed Dorset Coast just as she was built nearly seventy years earlier. This long coastal voyage had a round trip steaming time of nine hours which is a long time to spend aboard a paddle steamer with so much open deck space and limited undercover accommodation. Like KC, she had two saloons below deck one forward and one aft of the machinery space but they didn’t really provide any adequate view out through their portholes. And the bar on the main deck abaft the boiler room was tiny.
Victoria had a service speed of about 11 knots so wasn’t a fast ship to cope with adverse tides against her on such a long coastal voyage. However, Cosens were mindful of this and so built sufficient slack into her timings that she could still keep to time even if her speed was knocked back to 8 knots over the ground by the tide.
In 1949 Cosens had based four paddle steamers at Weymouth but with Red Funnel’s withdrawal from Bournemouth in 1951 Embassy and Consul were now largely based there as replacements leaving the main trips from Weymouth for 1951 and 1952 in the peak weeks in the hands of the elderly and rather antiquated Victoria and her quasi sister Empress.
As the only Weymouth based steamer now with a Board of Trade Cass III Passenger Certificate for longer coastal voyages, Victoria also ran once or twice a week from Weymouth (10am) to Swanage (12.30pm) and Bournemouth (1.10pm) with, in the early part of the seasons, an afternoon cruise from Bournemouth (2.45pm) towards Totland Bay and back to Bournemouth (5pm – 5.15pm) before setting off again for Swanage (6pm) and Weymouth (8.30pm).
However from early July Emperor of India, which had a much greater passenger capacity, was rostered for these trips leaving Victoria to make an earlier departure from Bournemouth (4pm) back to Swanage (4.45pm) and Weymouth (7.15pm) with this arrival time suiting most of the Weymouth passengers better as it gave them time to source an evening meal ashore afterwards.
On occasional Wednesdays in the peak weeks, on days when the tide was with her for at least most of the trip both ways, she left Weymouth at 9.30am for Swanage and Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, back 8.30pm.
1952 was Victoria’s last season in service. She paddled off from Weymouth for the last time in January 1953 to be scrapped in Southampton with her place from 1953 being taken by Consul.
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 8th August 2021.