March 2014:
Paddle Steamer Passenger Prosecuted

March 2014:
Paddle Steamer Passenger Prosecuted

Peter Lamb has sent in an interesting press cutting of a court case involving the non-payment of a pier toll for Bournemouth Pier, shown above with Cosens’s paddle steamer Victoria berthed alongside. The report is not dated but as the misdemeanour concerned also involved Boscombe Pier, which was not opened until 1889 and which closed to steamer calls before the First World War, this gives us a rough idea of the period we are talking about.

A steamer notice for the busy first week of August in 1899 for Bournemouth, Boscombe and Swanage showing some trips originating and finishing at Boscombe with others to and from that pier involving a connection and change of steamer at Bournemouth on the outward and/or return legs of the day.

Amongst the various vessels named in the notice are…

Lord Elgin and the little Alert.

Pier tolls were ever controversial with some people, perhaps forgetting the cost of maintaining piers, thinking the very idea a monstrous imposition on top of a steamer fare. And when, as seems to have happened here, a passenger starting from and returning to Boscombe paid a pier toll not only for that but also for transferring onto another steamer at Bournemouth, maybe twice in a day, out and back, then you can understand that danders might easily have risen. And clearly sometimes they did.

The press cutting recounts:

At Bournemouth on Thursday, Mr William Simmonds, a gentleman residing in Boscombe, was summoned for non-payment of a pier toll of one penny on landing on a steamboat from the pier. The Corporation prosecuted. There is a pier at Boscombe and for convenience sake the steamboats generally call there, or employ a smaller boat on arrival at Bournemouth to return with passengers. On this occasion the passengers were landed on one side of Bournemouth Pier and the defendant refused to pay the pier toll but crossed the landing stage to the smaller boat.

He stated that he had been asked to make it a test case, whether a person simply landing on the pier and crossing should be compelled to pay. He considered that it was a case of collusion between the Corporation and the steamboat proprietors to extract money from visitors. The Chairman said that he did not care twopence about that and the defendant was fined 18/-, including costs. He demanded a receipt on paying the fine which was refused.

Whatever the moral rights and wrongs of this particular case, the Chairman of the Bench seems to have been in no doubt as to who the guilty party was, standing for no nonsense, handing out a considerable fine of two hundred and sixteen times the value of the 1p toll and refusing to countenance the idea of issuing a receipt. I wonder if Mr Simmonds, or anyone else, ever tried it on again?!

Iain McLeod has done some digging and found the date of Mr Simmond’s conviction:

Dear John

I always try to remember to look at the new page as early in the month as I can – always fascinating, and so varied. Many thanks for a monthly treat.

The British Newspaper Archive helps to date the incident in Peter’s press cutting to 25 May 1891 (Hampshire Advertiser, 13 June 1891). Mr Simmons had been on the Brodick Castle from Boscombe to Portsmouth and had to change to the Lord Elgin at Bournemouth on the return trip because the Brodick Castle was not returning to Boscombe. I must say I have some sympathy with him – the fine was 5/- and the remaining 13/- was costs!

Best wishes,


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.

John Megoran

John Megoran