One of Kingswear Castle’s two sister ships is the Compton Castle pictured recently by Ian Liston at her berth in Truro in Cornwall. Although much altered from her heyday on the Dart and with an abundance of sheds on deck, Compton Castle’s basic hull form is still, just about, recognisable.
The starboard paddle box has a new role as a pigeon roost.
Compton Castle was built in 1914 by Cox and Company of Falmouth, the builders of Kingswear Castle’s machinery. Although both Totnes Castle of 1923 and Kingswear Castle of 1924 came out with wheelhouses (which were quite unusual on paddle steamers of the time) Compton Castle originally had the traditional open bridge as shown in this picture of her off Dartmouth in her early days.
Compton Castle spent the whole of her operational life sailing Up and Down the Dart. As the eldest of the trio she was regarded as the flagship of the fleet and her captain was the commodore, sometimes flying his own special flag and being paid slightly more than his colleagues on the other two sisters.
Withdrawn after the 1962 season, Compton Castle found a new life in 1964 as a tea shop and museum at Kingsbridge up the river from Salcombe in Devon where she is pictured above. From time to time she took part in various film projects and her engines made an appearance on the popular nautical TV drama “The Onedin Line” in 1971. Much excitement was felt in 1978 when a Looe publican, Ernest Clayton, bought her and announced plans for restoration and a return to service under the command of his son. The ship was moved to Looe but progress was slow and soon ground to a halt.
After languishing on the shore at Looe with holes in her side through which you could stick your head to get a good view of her engine room, Compton Castle was towed along the coast and up the River Fal to Truro in 1982 where she was stripped of her engines, boiler and bulkheads giving her a huge internal space extending almost from the bow to the stern. The machinery (pictured above) was snapped up by Blackgang Chine Museum on the Isle of Wight where it in is a first rate and recently updated operational display.
Complete with on-deck sheds, what remains of Compton Castle is still in business today as a cafe and flower shop at Truro.
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.