KINGSWEAR CASTLE is the remaining operational river paddle steamer and the only operational coal-fired paddle steamer in the UK. Her layout and appearance, strongly reminiscent of Edwardian excursion vessels, demonstrate that the technology of such vessels hardly changed between 1904 and 1924. The compound diagonal steam engines by Cox of Falmouth are unusual in having the steam cylinders ahead of the paddle shaft, instead of astern of the shaft as is usual British practice.
During the Second World War, KINGSWEAR CASTLE was initially used by the Admiralty as a stores depot in Dittisham. In 1941, she was chartered by the United States Navy as a liberty ship, carrying personnel and stores at Dartmouth, still in her peactime livery. She returned to her peactime duties in 1945, and in the winter of 1961/62, a new boiler was fitted. She became the last paddle steamer on the Dart and the 1965 season was to be her last, at the end of which she was laid up in Old Mill Creek.
In the spring of 1967, she was bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) for £600 and in August of that year was towed to the River Medina, Isle of Wight, for charter to Riddetts. This charter was intended to be a stopgap until the society raised enough funds for conservation of the ship. However, in the spring of 1970, KINGSWEAR CASTLE was moved from her river mooring to a mud berth and became subject to vandalism and her condition deteriorated. PSPS terminated the charter, and in June 1971, she was towed to the Medway.
A restoration project gathered momentum, and by November 1983, she was able to steam again on trials. For the 1984 season, she did not have a full DTI certificate and could only take twelve passengers on her sailings from Strood Pier. After further work, a certificate for 250 passengers was issued in May 1985 and she started a programme of sailings from the Thunderbolt Pier, in Chatham Historic Dockyard. A plan to return the ship to the River Dart was dropped, and KINGSWEAR CASTLE has remained in service carrying passengers on afternoon, evening and charter cruises on the Medway and Thames.
Further rennovation has since involved replacing all the decks and the underwater steelwork, and in spring 2001, she received a new coal-fired boiler, built by Wellman Robey of Oldbury, near Birmingham, to a traditional design similar to its predecessor.
Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated March 2011.
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp157, Edition 2, 1993
Langley, E, M and Small, Lost Ships of the West Country, Stanford Maritime, 1988
Sullivan, Dick, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums, Coracle Books, 1978
Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steamboat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994
Plummer, Russell, Ships Monthly: UK Excursion Guide 2000, pp42-45, August 2000
Plummer, Richard, Ships Monthly: Paddle Steamer Review, August 2000
- 1924 Date of build
- 1961-2 Extensively re-plated and re-boilered
- June 1967 Purchased for £600 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society
- 28 August 1967 Towed to Medina Creek, Isle of Wight, and moored alongside MEDWAY QUEEN
- June 1971 Towed to River Medway for comprehensive restoration
- November 1983 Steaming trials carried out on completion of restoration
- 1984 Limited passenger carrying certificate issued
- May 1985 Full passenger carrying certificate issued
- 1986 Won National Steam Heritage Award
- 1994 First prize winner in Scania Transport Trust Awards
- 2001 New coal fired boiler installed with support from Heritage Lottery Fund, Manifold Trust and Paddle Steamer Preservation Society
Vessel selected for Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012
Vessel has left the River Medway from her base at Chatham Historic Dockyard, to return to her birthplace, the River Dart in Devon. Source: Kent Online, 17 Dec 2012
Vessel awarded Regional Flagship (South West) status for 2019 by National Historic Ships UK
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £79,200 for replacement of the boiler
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