Forty years ago in September 1965 three more UK paddle steamers were withdrawn from service, the Sandown (pictured above in 1965 at Portsmouth), the Princess Elizabeth and our own Kingswear Castle. Sandown was built in 1934 for the Southern Railway excursion sailings on the South Coast and for the Portsmouth to Ryde ferry service. After the war she spent much of her summers running the seasonal connection between the Southsea piers and Ryde and filling in on the Portsmouth to Ryde service when needed, particularly on busy summer Saturdays. Like others in the fleet, Sandown lost her sea going class III Passenger Certificates after the war and subsequently sailed on passenger service exclusively inside the Solent although she still undertook at least two sea voyages each year, setting off for winter lay-up at Newhaven in the autumn and returning to Portsmouth in the spring. For her last season, Sandown sported the new and then rather exotic British Railways colour scheme of a dark blue hull and orangey/red funnel with the new double arrow logo on each side in white (pictured above). She was withdrawn on 19th September 1965 and, in the following February, left Newhaven under tow for scrapping in Antwerp leaving her sister Ryde as the only Portsmouth paddler.
Princess Elizabeth came to Weymouth in 1963 to take over the sailings abandoned by Cosens and Co and spent three summers running from the port. Here she is pictured sailing through the Weymouth Town Bridge at about half past four in the afternoon of Thursday 23rd September 1965 making her last trip under her own steam to winter lay-up in the Backwater. Highlighted on deck under the ship’s bridge are my schoolfriends, Richard Green (left) and Richard Clammer (right). We had all been encouraged by Paddle Steamer Preservation Society member number 1, the indefatigable Mrs Eileen Pritchard, and, although we were only about fourteen years old, had been recruited as correspondents for Paddle Wheels, the journal of the PSPS. Richard Green provided reports about the Princess Elizabeth. Richard Clammer, now a distinguished paddle steamer author with his latest book on Cosens & Co due out shortly, filed copy about the Embassy. And I wrote occasional pieces about other paddle steamers. With another friend Chris Miller, now a professor in Environmental Management at the University of Salford, also working aboard Princess Elizabeth as a deck hand in the summer holidays, Weymouth Grammar School fielded an unusually large team in paddle steamer circles at that time.
In the picture, Capt Stanley Woods is on the port bridge wing looking rather anxiously astern and trying hard to gain the attention of the skippers of the attending work-boats and summon them to make fast forward and aft. Never having taken a paddler through the Town Bridge before, Capt Woods planned to make the whole voyage without the tugs usually used by Cosens & Co. However, whilst passing through the bridge he noticed the tightness of the turn ahead to starboard and the abundance of small craft on each side and changed his mind. The boats were summoned and made fast.
After static use as a restaurant and bar on the Thames and as a museum ship in Paris, Princess Elizabeth survives today as a conference venue in Dunkirk where this picture was taken in April 2000.
The third paddler to be withdrawn in September 1965 is the subject of this website, our own Kingswear Castle, pictured here in Old Mill Creek at Dartmouth with her sister ship the Compton Castle alongside during an earlier winter refit.
I am pleased to say that Richard Clammer, Richard Green, Chris Miller and I, all remain in operational condition although Kingswear Castle is the only one of the three UK paddle steamers withdrawn in September 1965 still sailing today.
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.