Certificate no 128
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Passenger Vessel
Subfunction Excursion
Location Bristol
Vessel type Ferry
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No
Web address https://www.whitefunnel.co.uk/about-mv-balmoral.aspx


Builder Thornycroft, J I & Co Ltd, Woolston, Southampton
Built in 1949
Hull material Steel
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
32.00 feet (9.76 m)
Breadth: Beam
32.00 feet (9.76 m)
6.62 feet (2.02 m)
Length: Overall
203.38 feet (62.03 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed


The cumbersomely named Southampton, Isle of Wight & South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, known more informally as the Red Funnel Line, needed to replace two paddle steamesr lost in the war and, in October 1947, ordered the motor vessel BALMORAL from John I. Thornycroft & Co. Ltd, of Woolston, Southampton. Her raked red funnel had a horizontal black top and she had two masts - the mainmast was a stub mast but was later increased to full height. The promenade deck had two saloons.

BALMORAL, whose engines were also built by Thornycroft, was launched on 27 June 1949 and started trials at the end of October. She entered year-round service on the Southampton-Cowes route in December 1949 and, from 1952 onwards, was also used for summer excursion work from Southampton. Her car deck becamse an impromptu sun deck on these occasions. One popular excursion was the Round the Island cruise, also picking up passengers from Southsea. These excursions and a range of charters took her further afield on the South Coast from Brighton to Swanage.

She was also used as a tender to ocean liners lying in Cowes Roads, ferrying passengers to Southampton. One one such occasion, BALMORAL collided with the Italian liner, FAIRSKY, in November 1961, and her starboard lifeboat was smashed and she sustained a gash in the side of the hull. The summer season of 1968 was her last with Red Funnel and she was offered for sale, having been replaced by a dedicated car ferry. In the event, she was chartered to P. & A. Campbell Ltd, Bristol, to replace a paddle steamer and she was eventually purchased by them in 1978.

From May 1969 onwards, she was employed in excursion work in the Bristol Channel area, adopting the white funnel lievery of the Campbell fleet. Cruises to and from the resorts of Ilfracombe, Weston and Minehead were complemented by passenger-ferry work to Lundy, and there was an annual four-day cruise to the Scilly Isles. She was later based at Swansea, until being withdrawn at the end of the 1979 season. In 1980, she was chartered by White Funnel Steamers, a company set up with the support of the Landmark Trust, which owned Lundy, to continue the island service, but made her last sailing on 14 October 1980.

BALMORAL was then sold to become a floating pub and restaurant at Dundee in 1982, but this venture failed. The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society purchased her in March 1985 for continued work as a cruise vessel, operated by Waverley excursions and complementing WAVERLEY. A refit equipped her with a new dining saloon aft, where the car deck had been. On 27 June 2009, exactly sixty years after her launch, she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee with a cruise from Southampton around the Isle of Wight, with calls at Cowes and Portsmouth. Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated Feb 2011.



Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp135, Edition 2, 1993 
Balmoral and the story of the Bristol Channel Steamers, Waverley Excursions, May 1988 
Lloyds Register of Ships 1994-5, Lloyd's of London, pp452, Volume A-G, 1994 
Lloyds Register of Ships 1997-8,  Lloyd's of London, pp478, Volumer A-G, 1998
Hamer, Geoffrey, Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles, G P Hamer, 1995 
Holyoak, John, Ships Monthly: Balmoral's Happy Return,  pp32-25, February 1986
Plummer, Russell, Ships Monthly: UK Excursion Guide 2000, pp42-45, August 2000

Key dates

  • 1949 Built in Southampton
  • 1949-1969 Worked as a passenger/car ferry between Southampton and the Isle of Wight for the Red Funnel Company
  • 1950 onwards Used as an excursion ship and ferry
  • 1953 Took part in the Coronation Review
  • 1958 Opened the new locks at Shoreham with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on board
  • 1961 Collision with Italian Liner FAIRSKY requiring major repairs
  • 1969 Chartered by White Funnel Fleet and used as a Bristol Channel ferry
  • 1969-1979 Used as a ferry from Bristol to Lundy and Swansea to Ilfracombe
  • 1980 Ownership transferred to P & A Campbell and chartered to White Funnel Steamers
  • 1982 Acquired by Craig Inns Ltd for use as a floating restaurant
  • 1984 Sold by the Bank of Scotland after the demise of Craig Inns and bought by the Waverley Organisation
  • 1985-1986 Extensive restoration
  • 1986-present Used as an excursion vessel
  • 1996 International voyage to Boulogne
  • 2003


  • 2012

    Laid up in Bristol

  • 2013

    Balmoral is being looked after on a care and maintenance basis by volunteers in Bristol

  • 2014

    Over £600k ( made up from £344k from the Coastal Communities Fund) and the remainder by donations to help restore her back to operating condition

  • 2015

    Operating for the first time since 2012


  • 2016-2017

    £15,898 awarded from PRISM Fund to MV Balmoral Fund towards restoration of the engines and docking telegraph systems

  • May 2016

    National Flagship Winner and awarded £500 from the Strategic Development Fund

  • January 2015

    BALMORAL has been awarded a grant of £344,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, to be phased over the next two years Source: MV Balmoral News, Jan 2015

  • 2002/2003

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £759,000 for developing the main application for restoration, conservation and development

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