Before the 1951 season Cosens & Co bought the Portsmouth to Ryde railway paddle steamer Shanklin as a replacement for their veteran twin funnelled Monarch of 1888 which had been withdrawn in 1949. Re-named Monarch the new acquisition is pictured above alongside at Weymouth in the early 1950s right outside what is now the Harbour Master’s office. On the left, the building with white lettering on black paint is the head office of Cosens at 10, Custom House Quay.
Here the Monarch is in the same berth on a different day with the Victoria and the Embassy left to right. In between is a stranger to the port, the ex-Mersey ferry J Farley, which was about to undergo refurbishment by Cosens for a new static career made fast to a buoy in Portland Harbour and used by the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment for experiments. Her appearance dates this picture as the autumn of 1952.
So far as I am aware, the Monarch never made any public sailings from Weymouth, her entire ten year operational career with Cosens being spent on the Bournemouth station. At the tail ends of each season and as an evening relief boat in the peak weeks she operated to the Isle of Wight but her usual fare was backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards and backwards and forwards again between Bournemouth and Swanage day in, day out.
The Monarch’s summer season was not usually very long. For example, in 1960 she started on 31st May and made her last sailing, an evening cruise from Bournemouth to Poole, on Thursday 8th September, a period of only about fourteen weeks. So it was at Weymouth that she spent most of the other thirty eight weeks of each year. Thirty eight weeks in which she earned no revenue. In the picture above of the Weymouth Backwater, taken on 29th February 1960, you can just see her bow on the left.
You can also see quite a lot of water with a car seemingly driving down the harbour. This sort of flooding used to be a pretty regular feature in Weymouth Harbour’s long history.
As business declined in the 1950s so did the size of the Cosens fleet and, after the 1960 season, the Monarch was withdrawn and sold for scrap to Haulbowline Industries in Cork. Although she was towed out through the Weymouth Town Bridge on 31st January 1961 and made ready for her last voyage, bad weather and then difficulties booking the tug again delayed her departure until 1st March
Work started on her demolition shortly after her arrival in Ireland and by early April 1961, when this picture was taken, the Monarch had lost her sponsons, paddle wheels and funnel. Her boiler is sitting on the shore behind her and the crane is lifting off a bit more of her port side with the doorways into the sponson cabins clearly visible in mid air.
Built in 1924, the Monarch was just thirty six years old when scrapped, not a great age for an excursion paddle steamer. Had she survived a little bit longer she might have been saved and would have been an excellent candidate for preservation. Unlike many paddle steamers, she had not been upgraded or modernised after the Second World War and so retained the ambiance of an old fashioned ship from an earlier time to the end, even though, by that stage, she was the youngest paddle steamer in the Cosens fleet.
Although the Monarch is now long gone, a little bit of her remains. Whilst browsing through the catalogue for an auction of nautical bits and pieces at Christie’s of London some years ago, what should I see but one of her magnificent paddle box crests as one of the lots. Now it is here at Chatham.
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.