PICTURES OF THE MONTH - December 2019

Paddle Steamer Corfe Castle

 

In November 1937 Red Funnel's paddle steamer Mauretania ex Queen was renamed Corfe Castle.

Traditionally sea-going ships were registered in specific ports and carried the names of those ports of registry under their names on their sterns as well as on their lifebuoys. It was not generally possible for two ships to have the same name in any particular port of registry so owners with an interest in any special name were sometimes keen to preserve it and take steps to try not to let any other ship owner nick it if they were temporarily between ships of that name.

In 1935 Cunard sold their four funnelled Mauretania, built in 1906, for scrap to a yard in Rosyth and were planning a new liner, to be built for 1938, to take her name. They were concerned that with no Mauretania on the registers in the meantime then someone else might get in first and thwart them so they devised a cunning plan to ask Red Funnel of Southampton if they would temporarily rename one of their paddle steamers Mauretania thereby blocking any ill intentions from rivals.

Mauretania off the Old Harry Rocks en route from Bournemouth to Swanage

Red Funnel agreed to this and so in 1936 their Queen, built in 1902, became Mauretania. In truth it was not a fool-proof cunning plan as Cunard's Mauretania was registered in Liverpool and Red Funnel's in Southampton so this would not have directly stopped anyone else from naming their ship Mauretania and registering her in Liverpool. But it laid down a marker and would have provided some argument against another Liverpool registered Mauretania not least because both Cunard's old and new Mauretanias served the port of Southampton.

For 1938 Cunard wanted their name back so in November 1937 Red Funnel's board considered how they should proceed. Why they didn't just revert to the steamer's original name of Queen I don't know but instead other options were considered including Corfe Castle, Purbeck and Branksome, all names of places not a million miles from Bournemouth where Queen had been a mainstay of the summer Swanage service since 1933.

In the end they settled on Corfe Castle and that is how she appeared for the 1938 season only. Issues with her boiler were discovered at the end of the summer and she was scrapped the following year. So you would have had to have got in quick to have had a trip from Bournemouth on a paddle steamer named after this local castle.

New book just out: South Coast Passenger Vessels

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