Autumn 1989

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Autumn 1989

Clevedon Pier re-opened – The re-opening on 27th May was a red-letter day in the calendar of coastal cruising and, indeed in the history of this attractive seaside town. Against the odds the pier was re-born; the grey, stone tollhouse echoed once more with the cheerful voices of families off for a steamer trip. With ladies in flowing crinolines, flounces and well anchored hats, while menfolk sported toppers and the odd stovepipe – Brunel would have been impressed; wonderment that we should be walking on his iron rails used to support the pier’s slender structure. Waverley, with a surging swash of brown foam, acknowledged the waves of the multitude with her whistle, and swept out into the channel.

Southend Pier’s centenary – On 8th July 1889 the new Iron Pier was opened to the public. The original, built in 1830 was still in use up to 1890. A major fire broke out on its deck destroying not only part of the old pier but some of the materials for building the new one being constructed alongside. Townsfolk turned out to watch a similar scene to that of 1976 when the pier head was ablaze. No less than 26 visits a day were made to the pier by the pleasure ships during the most popular years. The pier played an important role in the war. In 1939 it was taken over by Thames Naval Command and renamed HMS Leigh, becoming the control centre for all Thames shipping. The famous electric railway was closed in 1978, but in 1986 Southend council installed a new railway. With pier transport operating again there is increased patronage from the boats that still call. Waverley, Balmoral and Kingswear Castle make regular visits. The pier museum will assist tourists to learn more about the most famous pier in the world.

Southend Pier as depicted in the GSN booklet “What’s What in Shipping”. More here.

Pilgrimage to Medway Queen – On 10th June Kingswear Castle made a pilgrimage up Damhead Creek to visit Medway Queen with a good complement of passengers. Coming to the long jetty which marks the entrance, KC made a smart left turn and we all stood craning for a glimpse of Medway Queen’s funnel as the vessel worked her way cautiously round the bends. Even at high tide there was none-too-much room. Eventually we were no more than a hundred yards from the mudberth of the Dunkirk veteran. A launch was engaged to pull KC round on the spot. We all stood and gazed, and sympathised with the amount of work to be done, particularly those whose association with KC extends back to the early days. One thing is good to see! After so many years, disappointments and misfortunes, this famous ship is taking her first steps towards salvation. A visit and also a pilgrimage, as KC’s two whistles called encouragement across the mud.

Prospects for a record season – The almost uninterrupted superb weather in the early part of the season has brought the crowds flocking aboard our steamers. New records could be in the offing if the impetus is maintained. By the end of July Waverley had carried more than 100,000, and Balmoral, past the 70,000 mark in the same period, was within 20% her total revenue for 1988. On the Medway and Thames there is a similar story for KC.

Balmoral at Yarmouth Pier – The scheduled visit to Yarmouth on 4th September of the Waverley and Balmoral to celebrate the latter’s 40th anniversary brings memories of previous visits of the motor ship to the Isle of Wight Pier. On 26th September 1960 Balmoral performed the annual end of season charter for coach and tour operators, berthing at Yarmouth Pier where passengers went ashore.

And 50 years ago… Medway Queen will not be broken up; Isles of Scilly trip in fine weather; Both Portsmouth paddlers running well. Read more…