What could this paddle steamer Ariadne be? And why isn’t this magnificent steamship listed in any of the books about European paddle steamers? Clearly she looks a fine, if slightly eccentric, vessel from this angle.
There is an old Chadburn style telegraph on the bridge wing.
But what is this? An up and down steam engine on deck. I’ve never seen one of those propelling a paddle steamer before.
Let’s look at a bit more of her. And a bit more…
…and wow! We have the Jersey Steam Clock alias the Ariadne. So that is why she is not in any books about European paddle steamers. She isn’t one, well not quite anyway.
On the hour this magnificent folly bursts into a sort of action with puffs of steam being propelled skywards from her funnels as her paddle wheels make a few rotations in the duck pond in which she resides. When she was built in the 1990s there was opposition from some local people who thought building her a waste of public money. But for me, I think she is lovely. And if you have to throw public money away, why not throw it away on a bit of paddle steamer frivolity like this?
The modern Ariadne is named after the first paddle steamer to sail to the Channel Islands, the original having tied up in St Helier Harbour in Jersey for the first time on the morning tide of June 9th 1824. She continued to provide a service linking the islands to the UK and France until 1846 and was scrapped three years later.
Paddle steamers had pretty much gone from the Channel Islands routes by the 1880s although there were still occasional visits until the First World War by South Coast excursion steamers like Cosens’ Monarch, pictured alongside the jetty at Alderney.
A paddle steamer revival came in 1919 with the purchase by the Alderney Steam Packet Company of the one time Great Western Railway tender Helper for their passenger and cargo services between Guernsey, Sark and Alderney. This excitement was short lived with the Helper making her last sailings in 1926 and being scrapped in 1929. She took with her to the breakers the distinction of being the last paddle steamer ever to sail in Channel Island waters.
Little did local residents know then that seventy years later a sort of version of a paddle steamer would once again grace their land if not seascape as the magnificent Jersey Steam Clock. Toot! Toot!
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.