Prior to the Second World War it was the usual practice of Red Funnel to schedule two sailings a week, usually on Mondays and Wednesdays, in the summer from the East Coast Isle of Wight piers at Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor round the southern tip of the Island at St Catherine’s Point and on to Bournemouth for a couple of hours ashore.
These were most often taken by Lorna Doone, which was timetabled to be away from Southampton (9am) for Ryde (10.15am), Southsea (10.45am), Sandown (11.45am), Shanklin (12 noon) and Ventnor (12.20pm) for Bournemouth (2.40pm – 4.40pm) for Ventnor (6.55pm), Shanklin (7.15pm), Sandown (7.30pm), Southsea (8.35pm) and Ryde (9pm) for Southampton (10.15pm).
They were revived after the Second World War but taken by different steamers as the old Lorna Doone was considered to be in too poor condition to be rebuilt after the war and was scrapped in 1948. For 1948 it was Princess Elizabeth which ran these trips starting in Southampton.
The newly acquired Solent Queen, ex Queen of Thanet, ex HMS Melton took them over in 1949.
For 1950 they were shared between Solent Queen and the newly built Balmoral (pictured at the top) with the final such sailing of this season on 6th September being taken by Bournemouth Queen. She had been based at Bournemouth for that summer, had finished there to lay up for the winter at Southampton at the end of August but for some reason was called upon to run this cruise from Southampton on this date. I believe that this was her last call at Bournemouth.
For 1951 they were run either by Balmoral or Solent Queen’s sister Lorna Doone ex Queen of Kent, ex HMS Atherstone and in subsequent years, after the sale for scrap of Solent Queen and the second Lorna Doone, by Balmoral or occasionally Vecta. From 1955 their frequency was dropped to once a week and after 1956 they were discontinued altogether. The market for longer excursion sailings was by then in steep decline.
However another connection from the east coast Isle of Wight piers to Bournemouth was inaugurated in 1952 with a coach trip offered by Cosens from Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor, usually on Tuesdays but later on Thursdays, to meet up with either Embassy or Emperor of India at Totland Bay at 11.30am. One or other of these two paddle steamers had left Swanage at 9am and Bournemouth at 10am for the Isle of Wight dropping their passengers at Totland Bay either to spend the day there or to take a coach tour round the Island. They then picked up the coach passengers from the East Wight, plus any other intending passengers from West Wight, for the one and a half hour run across to Bournemouth for time ashore.
On other afternoons the Bournemouth steamer set off again at 2.30pm for an afternoon cruise back to the Isle of Wight giving an hour ashore at Totland Bay or Yarmouth but on the afternoons with the coach connections from the East Wight their departure from Bournemouth was initially put back to 4pm, later moved to 3.45pm. And in the 2.30pm -3.30pm slot a trip round the bay from Bournemouth was usually scheduled.
It was a neat arrangement. The leg from Swanage and Bournemouth to Totland Bay was often heavily loaded but there were usually scant pickings for the return run to Bournemouth at 11.30am. So the coach/coaches from Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor helped to boost numbers.
However this alternative route may have affected numbers on Red Funnel’s trips from the East Coast Isle of Wight Piers to Bournemouth by sea. Compare a cruise of three or more hours duration in the exposed waters to the south of the Isle of Wight and the the steamer pretty much broadside on to the prevailing SW wind causing a bit of rolly polly with a coach trip across the Island and then a one and a half hour trip on a paddle steamer in the comparatively sheltered waters between Totland Bay and Bournemouth. For those punters with a fear of being seasick this would have been a no brainer.
The direct sea connection ended after the 1956 season. The coach connections continued. And right up to her last summer in 1966 Embassy’s afternoon departure from Bournemouth back to the Isle of Wight on Thursdays was timed for 3.45pm, rather than the usual 2.30pm on other days, giving that extra bit of time ashore in Bournemouth for the passengers from the Isle of Wight.
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 23rd August 2021.