The menu for a trip aboard Cosens’ paddle steamer Majestic in 1914. This was an auspicious year for European paddlers with work proceeding on the construction of no less than four new steamers in Switzerland (Savoie, Simplon (not completed until 1920), Lotschberg and Stadt Rapperswill) to accommodate the expanding tourist market and thereby clearly demonstrating that the most meticulous forward planning can easily be overtaken by “events”, a foreboding of which is indicated by the purpose of this cruise.
The Cold Luncheon menu makes the important point that the vegetables, at least, will be “Hot”. At 3 shillings per head it was not a cheap meal as, scaled up for inflation, this is equivalent to around £30 per head in today’s money. Whether the Black Coffee was a luxury or simply reflected the difficulty of keeping milk fresh aboard the steamers is uncertain.
Although Cosens continued to operate paddle steamers until 1966, their Majestic of 1901 was the last steamer they ordered new. She was larger, faster and more commodious than any other vessel in their fleet and her acquisition was in response to the competition from P&A Campbells’ vast Cambria and the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Co’s (later Red Funnel Steamers) paddle steamer Balmoral, the immediate predecessor of our own twin screw motor ship of the same name. Majestic ran on all Cosens’ long distance routes including from Bournemouth across the Channel to Alderney and Cherbourg but, sadly, she was lost on service during the First World War. She was one of the earliest South Coast steamers to have a triple expansion engine and, puzzlingly for Cosens, had her bridge abaft the funnel. The son of her first master, Capt Rawle, also became a Cosens captain remaining with the firm until his retirement from Embassy in 1959.
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.