Long standing PSPS member John S Richardson (pictured above with Capt Leonard Horsham aboard the Medway Queen) has sailed aboard paddle steamers for most of his life. This month he recalls three of his favourites.
My earliest paddle steamer memory is of sailing from Southend Pier when I was about 5 or 6 years old aboard the Queen of the South) (pictured above). In the 1920s my family had moved from London on doctor’s advice because of my mother’s poor health, and she was advised to take the sea air whenever she could. The year was 1929 or 1930 and my mother and father took me on this cruise up the Medway to Strood.
We had a family photo of my mother and myself taken by my father at the end of Strood Pier with the paddle box of Queen of the South behind us. The ship was originally a Belle steamer and one of the smallest in that fleet. Sadly the photo was mislaid or thrown away when my mother died but it confirms the date, as Queen of the South finished with the New Medway Steam Packet Co in 1932.
Medway Queen (pictured above) was one of my favourites because as a boy before the War my Father was a friend of her Master Capt Bob Hayman who was a great character and allowed me up on the bridge and sometimes would let me take the wheel on the way to Herne Bay until the bosun took over. Sadly Bob Hayman died just after the war. The new Captain was Len Horsham whom I had often watched before the war from the end of Southend Pier when he was Master of City of Rochester.
This is a more up to date picture of Medway Queen after the war and before she had that unsightly contraption on her funnel (fitted in 1954) to carry the navigation lamp as she had no main mast. I thought she looked her best pre war with the cowl on the funnel. I quickly became friendly with Capt Horsham on Medway Queen on telling him of my friendship with Bob Hayman. I often did light runs with him back from charters etc and generally enjoyed his company and the ship became a kind of second home for me.
This is an unusual photograph given to me by a member of World Ship Society many years ago. Normally the Essex Queen (pictured right) sailed from Chatham half an hour earlier than Medway Queen to go to Margate or Clacton, so why was she still on Southend Pier when the Medway Queen arrived; perhaps a charter or a mechanical problem? There must have been another ship on the extension berth on Southend pier which caused the Medway Queen to berth alongside Essex Queen for disembarking and embarking passengers. The Essex Queen was another ex “Belle” steamer Walton Belle that Capt Shippick had bought in the 1920s to strengthen his NMSPC fleet.
From Southend we used to sail either on the Medway Queen or Essex Queen (pictured above off Ramsgate) to Herne Bay or Margate, as these two ships gave one plenty of time ashore in the Kentish resorts. Sometimes from Herne Bay we caught a bus to Canterbury, or to Margate where we went for walks along the seafront or after lunch in Bobby’s Restaurant in the High Street listened to the band at the Oval Bandstand in Cliftonville. Both these ships gave us 5 hours ashore, whereas General Steam Navigation Co ships only 2 hours or so, also Queen Line were cheaper. In the 20s and 30s money was very tight.
Continued in Part 2 here.
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.