To add to the excellent pictures of KC under steam on the River Medina taken by then schoolboy Derek Gawn on 4th May 1969 (see below) here are some more unique shots he has dug out from around the time that the Ryde arrived to join Medway Queen and KC on the River Medina at Binfield on the Isle of Wight, about half-way between Newport and Cowes, on 16th September 1970. Three paddle steamers together in the UK. Wow!
In this pic, taken by Derek’s father at 1.45pm on 16th September 1970, Ryde has just arrived off Binfield from Portsmouth under tow of Husband’s shipyard tug Assurance at the stern and Harry Spencer’s launch Domino alongside forward of the port sponson. You can just see KC ahead of Ryde on the left.
In this pic all three paddle steamers are meeting up for the first time on 16th September 1970. The driving force for this paddle steamer amalgamation was the Ridett brothers who first bought Medway Queen after she was withdrawn in 1963 to make her into a bar, restaurant and nightclub. Then in 1967 they took KC on charter hoping to do something with her. And in 1970 snapped up Ryde which was larger and more modern than Medway Queen as a replacement for her. So quite a little paddle steamer private syndicate really which put its money where its mouth was to help save paddle steamers in the 1960s.
We believe that this pic of KC by Derek Gawn off Binfield was taken a couple of years earlier in 1968 at a time when a small working party was aboard including Eileen Pritchard and Peter Lamb. Mrs Pritchard was a driving force for paddle steamer preservation in the 1960s cajoling, encouraging and sometimes stumping up her own money for the cause. Peter Lamb, as many of you will know, has played a big part in supporting paddle steamer preservation for more than half a century from the early days with the Wessex Branch onwards. And in more recent times he ran Crosons boat business at Bournemouth, bought the Flamborian, was instrumental in trying to save a Fairmile not to mention his work and support for the Coastal Cruising Association and the Poole Maritime Trust.
Here is another shot taken by Derek around 6pm on 16th September 1970 the day Ryde arrived. With high water around lunchtime providing enough water to float her in you can see just how little water there is in this part of the Medina when the tide is out.
We believe that this shot by an unkown photographer of KC was taken in 1971 shortly after her arrival at Borstal on the River Medway at a time when the marina there was undergoing significant redevelopment.
And so to the fascinating and unique pictures taken by Derek Gawn on Sunday 4th May 1969 of Kingswear Castle making one of her very rare trips under her own steam during her time on the Isle of Wight.
KC left her anchorage at East Medina Mill on the River Medina that day at 3.20pm for trials and steamed down the River Medina passing the Floating Bridge at East Cowes where Derek took this first picture.
Having ventured out briefly into the Solent KC returned into the river and is here seen passing the Royal Yacht Squadron steps from which this picture was taken.
Derek peddled furiously on to capture this shot of her at 5.10pm stopped not at her normal anchorage off East Medina Mill but in this little inlet between Folly Inn and East Medina Mill. Derek is not sure why she stopped there. Maybe she ran aground either intentionally or because she ran out of water. But whatever the reason there she remained until 8th June when she ventured forth again into the Solent steaming across to the entrance to the Beaulieu River.
Derek made notes for this day and recalls “steam was raised during the morning and early afternoon and she left East Medina Mill at 3.20pm. She certainly didn’t hang around and nor did she go far out into the Solent turning in Cowes Roads and she was back in the little inlet, aground, soon after 5.10pm. Whether I spoke to somebody involved I don’t recall, but I wrote “this was the first trial run since arriving in August 1967, pending application to the BoT for a certificate for river cruising”, so possibly that was the intention of Alan Riddett at the time. Incidentally the day after the Ryde arrived he told the local media that he planned to get a Passenger Certificate for her to allow one final cruise before she entered the millpond!
A pal and I became aware of the plan for 4th May and we chased KC on our bikes, using the floating bridge to cross from East to West Cowes and back. That is how I achieved the 4 photos in less than 2 hours. I remember it certainly involved some peddling to get to East Cowes before she arrived outward bound. To the best of my knowledge nobody else in the local enthusiast fraternity had learnt of this sailing and I certainly never saw anybody else taking photos, so these four are quite likely unique – or at least that is what I have always believed.
I believe PSPS archives record that first sailing was over two days (4 and 5 May). Personally I think that is an error. My notebook of the time makes no mention of her sailing again the next day, which would have been a Monday, and seems unlikely, especially as her position remained unchanged until 8/6/69. On this day I did see KC from PS Ryde, which was on charter to the Coastal Cruising Association. She was off the mouth of the Beaulieu River as we headed from Southampton to Yarmouth but she was too distant to photograph.
Here she is on the Arctic Road drydock at West Cowes. Derek says “I don’t have a date for this one but I suspect that it is winter 1970/71 – and from the non-ship images either side it could be January 1971.”
Her is another shot of KC’s bow in the drydock at West Cowes. Sadly all of Alan Ridett’s grand plans for obtaining a Board of Trade Passenger Certificate for KC came to nothing which is not altogether surprising given her general structural condition. John Megoran remembers:
I visited KC at Binfield in September 1967 shortly after she arrived from Dartmouth when I was 16. I came up on the train from Weymouth to Southampton, over on one of Red Funnel’s Castles, caught the bus from East Cowes, got off at the nearest bus stop and walked along the long dirt track to the marina. I first had a look round Medway Queen which looked impressive and was then still open as a bar and club before turning my attention to KC which was afloat off the shore and not really accessible. However I spotted a dinghy moored up with oars so purloined that and rowed myself out. I thought then that she looked in a pretty poor state. The wheelhouse wasn’t locked so I went in never thinking back then that it would become the centre of my life for so very many years in later times. I rowed ashore replacing the dinghy where I had found it and was not filled with optimism about her future as I walked back to catch the ferry to Southampton from East Cowes.
Many thanks to Derek Gawn for providing these unique pictures and his recollections.
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.