There was a buzz of excitement at Shoreham Port on Wednesday 13th September as Waverley arrived for her inaugural cruise from the Port. Around 650 passengers joined the ship for the sold-out excursion as crowds gathered on the nearby Kingston Beach and Shoreham Fort to see the vessel arrive and depart.
Shoreham Port’s Harbour Master, Julian Seaman said “We are excited to have welcomed the iconic Paddle Steamer Waverley to Shoreham Port for the first time today. It is fantastic that the excursion was so popular with local people; it is a testament to the enduring appeal of the vessel and the support of those who are passionate about preserving our maritime heritage.” He went on to thank all the team at Waverley Excursions and his Port colleagues who had worked so hard to ensure the morning ran smoothly.
Waverley was turned in the harbour with the assistance of Shoreham’s two pilot cutters before setting of on her cruise to Ryde (13.00), on through the Solent to the Needles and then giving an hour and a half ashore at Yarmouth (15.45 – 17.15) before returning to Ryde and Southampton from where passengers were returned to Shoreham by coach.
In the early days of paddle steamer excursions on the Sussex Coast from the middle to the late 19th century some of the smaller vessels offering trips from Brighton and Eastbourne used Shoreham as an overnight berth. However as the steamers grew bigger, and most particularly after P & A Campbell arrived to dominate the excursion scene at the start of the 20th century, Newhaven became the preferred overnight berth instead and Shoreham dropped out of the paddle steamer limelight..
P & A Campbell continued to run their excursion paddle steamers on the Sussex Coast, including across to France, right up to 1956 with trips from Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Newhaven and Worthing but Shoreham was not a part of their basic operating itinerary.
However there was one famous paddle steamer which became a houseboat at Shoreham in 1932. After failed attempts to run her as Showboat on the River Thames in 1931 and 1932 PS Alexandra fetched up on the River Adur for a short while .
A report in the local paper said “The Show Boat Alexandra ,which has been stationed on the River Adur at Shoreham for the last year, left for the Thames by the mid-day tide yesterday being consigned to a firm of ship breakers at Grays in Essex. Considerable public interest was manifest in her departure, her destination being Messrs Thomas Ward ship breakers of London. The London tug Venturous came for her, the harbour tug being at present in dry-dock. On Wednesday an attempt to get her through the footbridge proved futile, there being very little room to spare for a boat of her beam. Another attempt was made that day. Again, a large concourse of people witnessed the operation and this time she safely negotiated the bridge although scraping the south side of the bridge opening and damaging a gate. Apparently however on the face of it the damage to the structure is small. Passengers waiting to cross the bridge who had their gaze concentrated through the gate however jumped back quickly in alarm. The tug then proceeded on her way down the river, out of the harbour and up Channel without further incident.”
On 20th May 1958 Balmoral made a visit to Shoreham on charter for the opening of the new “Prince Philip” lock. With the Duke of Edinburgh joining Balmoral’s master on the bridge, and with much waving to the cheering crowds, the ribbon across the lock for the opening ceremony was cut not in the usual way with a pair of scissors but by the Balmoral slowly sailing through it and snapping it.
For Waverley’s Thames schedule starting Friday 22nd September click here.
For Waverley’s last trips of the season on the Clyde click here.
To find out more about the last P & A Campbell paddle steamer sailings on the Sussex Coast click here.
For more details of the PS Alexandra’s career click here.
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.