Kingswear Castle – Restoration Diary

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

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The Story of the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Restoration 1973 to 1983

December 2nd 1972 was a momentous day in the history of Paddle Steamer Preservation Society – the decision was made to go for an all out effort to preserve Kingswear Castle.

At the extraordinary meeting of the Society some 50 members received a detailed report of developments over the last few years. This was given with the aid of slides by Mr NP Knight, the Society’s vice president and KC’s manager. The Central Committee’s proposal that the Society should negotiate a sale of KC was not passed. Members were delighted beyond measure at this belated show of determination. Let there be no mistake – this breathing space is the last chance. Hitherto PSPS has failed lamentably. We have to prove ourselves because of your committee is not prepared to allow KC to deteriorate beyond repair. Help, everyone, to put the Society on the map of preservation. Let this be a successful campaign which PSPS may look back upon with pride in the years ahead

PSPS Chairman

Priceless Asset

Our task was well within the bounds of possibility. If we had rejected the challenge he would have offered in all probability, to have taken the ship to Australia (in two halves) and reassembled with a view to restoration. You do not know what a priceless asset you have in Kingswear Castle.

Mr Turner

Worthwhile restoration

The outlook seemed The outlook seemed bleak as we had been unable either to attract substantial financial backing or to interest members in actually getting down to practical work on the steamer. As a result KC was deteriorating further and further, and it seemed that the best thing to do might be to sell her to someone who could undertake some sort of restoration, even if only static. Those unable to attend expressed their views in a questionnaire and an overwhelming majority of replies had been in favour of the recommendation to sell. But now Lawrie Beal had volunteered to organise working parties. Perhaps it was the slides more than anything else which determined the mood of the meeting. They brought home just how much would have to be done, but also how worthwhile restoration would be. There were words of warning. We had already spent £3.500 on KC and much more than that would be needed, not only for initial work, but also for maintenance. Even if the money was there it would need not only months but years of hard work, a concerted and prolonged effort from members really prepared to sacrifice time and energy. Despite such warnings, when the vote was taken, thirty members voted to reject the recommendation to sell and while only twenty accepted it.

PSPS Secretary


The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle is owned by the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust on behalf of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. There is a similar arrangement with the Paddle Steamer Waverley. KC is now back on the Dart under the enthusiastic supervision of the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.

The story of KC’s return to the Dart can be traced back to her purchase by the PSPS in 1965. Billed as Britain’s Most Successful Steamship Preservation Society, PSPS was formed in 1959 by Professor Alan Robinson with the objective of preserving the experience of sailing aboard paddle steamers.

KC’s size made her a possible practical proposition for what was in 1965 quite a small Society consisting mainly of enthusiasts. At a time when the preservation movement was at an embryonic stage and a few steam railways had just started operations on a very limited scale, the thought of an amateur group owning a steamship was considered by some to be foolhardy. But by the 1960s the steamer excursion trade throughout the country was in deep financial trouble, as a result of changing holiday patterns and the increased ownership of cars, combined with higher operating costs and the problems of ageing ships. One steamer after another was withdrawn, as operators tried to cut their losses and get out of steamships while they could. The River Dart Steamboat Company was no exception and KC was offered to PSPS on very generous terms.

About this Project

This section records the initial period, 1973 to 1983, of the restoration of the paddle steamer Kingswear Castle. This succeeded in bringing the ship, discarded in 1965, to full working order. It paved the way for return to revenue earning service and access to funds that enabled maintenance, improvements and major replacements such as boiler, decking and hull plating. Records of these later events can be found on Kingswear Castle Trust website here.

The early work recorded here was carried out by volunteer members of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Unlike the 21st century, there were no mobile phones, and no digital photography or social media in the 1970s. Communications were carried out by home telephone calls and mail. Reports and comments were published in the PSPS journal “Paddle Wheels”. These, together with the log books and personal recollections have been used in an attempt to bring to life material that exists in the archives and make it more accessible. It is intended to bring back some of the atmosphere surrounding the ten years that it eventually took to complete the work.


Photographs have been sourced from Paddle Wheels, the PSPS Collection, and individual collections. In some cases it has not been possible to trace the source and in other cases not possible to trace the owner. Additional information regarding photographs is welcome and changes to the site will be made as necessary.


Many people contributed to this restoration on a voluntary basis, and it is not possible to name them all. Some of them appear in the story and part of the objective of this site is to acknowledge the contribution of all.