Waverley at Southwold

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

Waverley at Southwold

What a welcome from Southwold on Wednesday 27th September for Waverley as she made her annual call at the Suffolk town.

Thanks to the owners of Southwold Pier for allowing Waverley to call.

Here are some images taken at the pier as passengers boarded for Waverley’s cruise at 10am to London for arrival at Tower Pier at around 8.30pm with a call at Clacton along the way at 1.30pm

For this trip Waverley was following in the wake of former Thames paddle steamers of yesteryear including the famous Belle Line fleet.

These included the Southwold Belle which was the last of seven “Belle” steamers built by Denny of Dumbarton in the decade between 1890 and 1900 for parties seeking to develop, and provide transport linking, the resorts along the east coast with London. Originating as the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company they reconstituted themselves as the Coast Development Corporation which also owned the piers at Clacton, Walton, Felixstowe, Southwold and Lowestoft.

All the Belle steamers were of a broadly similar design but differed in size and minor points of detail. Largest was the London Belle which came in at 280ft LOA with a passenger capacity on Class V for “Smooth Waters” of 2,184. Smallest was Woolwich Belle which at 200ft LOA could accommodate up to 1,155. The little differences between them all must have given ample delight to keen ship spotters with perhaps the easiest to identify being Southwold Belle which, as the last to be built, uniquely had her second class saloon on the foredeck extending the full width of the ship to provide extra covered accommodation for her passengers. These were all fine steamers built by one of Britain’s premier shipbuilders so it is not surprising that the Coast Development Corporation’s marketing claimed that they were “unsurpassed by any excursion steamers in the kingdom for comfort, speed and safety”

From 1897 they expanded their operations to include day trips from London to Margate and Ramsgate as well as their usual routes linking London with Yarmouth with calls at all the twelve or so piers along the way as shown in the steamer notice above. As you can see the timings Southwold to London with departure at 11am for arrival at London Bridge Pier, just upstream of Tower Pier, for 9pm were broadly similar to those of Waverley on 27th September.

However in the season shown there was a change of steamer at Walton for the onward connection to London up to 14th July when the “through boats” started for the main peak weeks. Another paddle steamer, probably Woolwich Belle, also made a connection at Walton for passengers travelling to and from Harwich and Ipswich.

Southwold Belle made her first voyage on 14th July 1900 on the east coast route with around 400 passengers aboard arriving in Yarmouth around 8pm from London with guns being fired as a welcome according to the local press. However, despite being the newest and most modern in the fleet, she had only a relatively short career as a Thames steamer. Competition between operators in the Edwardian era was fierce and by 1912 there was a need for a certain amount of financial retrenchment. Southwold Belle was therefore withdrawn and sold abroad first for service as a tender at Hamburg under the name Westerland and from the following year at Cherbourg where she was renamed Bon Voyage. In 1922 she is recorded as being in Genoa owned by the Societa Anonima Pragma. She was broken up in Genoa in 1925.

Several of Waverley’s Thames sailings from London are now fully booked.

Advance booking is recommended for all available sailings. Check out the timetable and:

Book online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or call 0141 243 2224 (Mon-Fri 0930-1630).

And remember also that we are still fund raising for the second phase of Kingswear Castle’s major rebuild. To find out how you can help click here: Support Us – Kingswear Castle