The paddle steamer Wingfield Castle (pictured above leaving Hull) was built in 1934 by William Gray & Co of Hartlepool for the railway passenger and car ferry service on the river Humber between Hull and New Holland which she maintained with her identical sister Tattershall Castle and her quasi-sister Lincoln Castle (in the background of the picture above). These paddlers were early examples of ro-ro ferries as the cars could drive straight aboard onto the the main deck aft from pontoons at the piers.
The Wingfield Castle was the second of the three to be withdrawn, with the construction of a Humber Bridge in the offing, making her last run on the ferry service in May 1974. After that she languished here and there (including on buoys off Strood on the Medway where she is pictured above) amidst some legal difficulties as plans came and went for her including the possibility of her becoming a restaurant and bar at Brighton Marina and then later at Swansea.
Nothing came of all these grandiose schemes and, in 1986, she returned to the place where she was built, Hartlepool, for conversion into a museum ship as part of the developments in the docks there which included a small maritime museum and the Trincomalee. Hartlepool had already established a reputation for ship restoration having just completed a magnificent job on re-building the Warrior, now open to the public at Portsmouth.
I visited the Wingfield Castle a decade or so later and took these pictures having first enjoyed a nice cup of tea and a cream bun in the newly refurbished former first class saloon.
The engine was open to view. Both the Winfield Castle and Tattershall Castle (but not the Lincoln Castle) had an unusual engine arrangement, unlike anything I have ever seen on any other UK paddler, with most of the machinery covered over. Also there was no bulkhead between the engine and boiler room so the engineer could see the boiler water level gauge glasses himself from his control platform, so long as his eyesight was any good.
A fixed manikin stood eternally frozen in time with his shovel approaching one of the three boiler furnaces.
All three paddlers had a large open promenade deck with a magnificent skylight to the first class saloon below.
A similar shot taken aboard the Lincoln Castle in the late 1960s.
They also had the feel of ships from another age with their traditional deck furniture including a hand operated rotary bilge pump with its red wheel.
The bridges were enormous for the size of the ships extending the full width to the outboard sides of the sponsons.
A lovely traditional wheelhouse.
A view from the bridge wing forward.
Wingfield Castle is still open to the public today.
Have a look at their website 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.