Bournemouth Queen sailing down Southampton Water sometime after the Second World War and before 1954 when she acquired a main mast. There is a nice puff of health giving smoke coming out from her coal fired boiler and a good throng of post war trippers soaking up the British summer sun on her deck.
Bournemouth Queen’s last day in service on Thursday 29th August 1957 started with the 10.30am sailing from Southampton to Ryde returning at 5.45pm advertised in the steamer notice above. You would not have known at the time that this was a paddle steamer trip from the copy nor that Red Funnel also had a second paddle steamer in their fleet, the Princess Elizabeth. Paddlers were not thought of as strong marketing tools in those days. It was the modern flagship and multi- task vessel, the Balmoral, built only eight years earlier to carry passengers and cars, which took all the longer day trips to Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and around the Isle of Wight. It was her profile which provided the masthead for the steamer notices.
Amazingly the shape of the Balmoral’s distinctive flat topped and heavily raked funnel is still in use today as the main advertising logo of Red Funnel for their Southampton to Cowes ferry service even though the ship left the fleet approaching forty years ago. Could this be an advertising record?
Bournemouth Queen was built in 1908 for the company’s excursion services from Bournemouth and Swanage most particularly to the Isle of Wight piers and around the Island. She was never equipped to carry cars for the ferry service between Southampton and Cowes so was not a versatile ship. Consequently she spent most of her long winters laid up at Southampton.
After the Second World War Bournemouth Queen was much rebuilt with a new bridge and a much larger funnel. She returned to run from Bournemouth in 1947 but was based at Southampton from 1951. After losing her sea going Class III passenger certificates, she spent the remainder of her career running short summer seasons of trips basically from Southampton to Ryde with extensions from there and Southsea for cruises in the Solent and Southampton Water. The picture above shows her setting off from Ryde.
Bournemouth Queen (pictured above at Southampton in September 1955 with Cosens’s Empress next door newly arrived from Weymouth for scrapping) left Southampton for the last time in tow for the breakers in Belgium on 18th December 1957. Her last master was Capt Jones.
In 1957 Red Funnel Steamers owned six vessels not counting their fleet of tugs. The steamer notice above required only two ships to run the main excursion services in the August peak weeks so it is not surprising that the Bournemouth Queen had no future. The wind of change was blowing away from excursions and the company’s Norris Castle (pictured above) was presaging the way ahead on the ever expanding ferry route between Southampton and Cowes. Two years later the Princess Elizabeth was to leave the fleet to be replaced by the first purpose built roll on/roll off car ferry, Carisbrooke Castle, basically an enhanced and speeded up version of the Norris Castle. She would be followed by the Osborne Castle replacing the Medina and the Norris Castle in 1962, the Cowes Castle replacing the Vecta in 1966, and a new Norris Castle replacing the Balmoral eleven years down the road in 1968. Then it was roll on/roll off all the way and excursions were off the agenda.
The Bournemouth Queen was not the last Red Funnel steamer to run excursions. But she was the last ship they owned which could do nothing else.
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.