Britannia was the third of a trio of sisters including Westward Ho! (1894-1946) and Cambria (1895-1946), built for P & A Campbell as their services expanded on the back of the late nineteenth century excursion paddle steamer boom. They were larger, more commodious and altogether more modern than anything which had come before and set the bar high for the standard to which other operators should aspire.
Although Britannia sailed on the south coast from Southampton on a handful of occasions over the years for Spithead reviews and the like, and took the occasional super-long excursion to the Scilly Isles before the First World War, for most of her career until the Second World War she was primarily associated with Campbell’s flagship route from Bristol down the Devon coast to Ilfracombe and on to Lundy Island.
Returned to service after the Second World War, boiler trouble in 1946 led to her being out for a year before a new oil-fired boiler was installed in a rebuild from which she emerged sporting two funnels. In this guise Britannia sailed south and ran the Sussex Coast services in 1948 and 1949 before returning to the Bristol Channel for the remainder of her career based mostly at Cardiff although she was the Swansea steamer in 1953.
By 1956 Campbell’s growing financial difficulties were beginning to bite deeper. Their bankers demanded cuts. Staff needed to be laid off. Britannia had to go. She made her last trip on 27 September 1956 on the Cardiff/Weston ferry and on 7 December left Penarth Dock for the breaker’s yard at Newport.
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.