Paddle Steamer Excursions on the Humber in 1959


The three sisters Tattershall Castle (pictured),Wingfield Castle and Lincoln Castle spent their operational careers from the 1930s through to the 1970s primarily paddling backwards and forwards with passengers and cars on the half hour ferry connection between Hull and New Holland with some excursions on the Humber thrown in as well. They did not have sea-going Passenger Certificates, their Class IV licence allowing them only to sail to the Partially Smooth Waters Limit to the west of an imaginary line linking Cleethorpes Pier and Patrington Church just inside Spurn Head.


On Sundays from May 17th to September 6th and on weekdays from June 29th to September 4th in 1959, one of the three paddlers left Hull at 11am for the one and a half hour down river cruise to Grimsby landing at the Royal Dock Basin at 12.30pm giving five and a half hours ashore before re-boarding at 6pm for the return trip to Hull. My first thought on reading these steamer notices was to wonder why such a volume of people as travelled regularly on these day trips might have wanted to spend five and a half hours in Grimsby. However, my second thought was that it is only a brisk walk or a seven minute train ride from Grimsby Docks to the sunny seaside resort of Cleethorpes. What could be better than a lovely paddle steamer ride down the river in the morning for an afternoon frolicking on the beach, or topping up the alcohol levels in a seaside boozer, with a return up river in the cool of the evening home to the big city conurbation of Hull. A perfect day out.


Whilst waiting at Grimsby for the return and to fill up the afternoon the paddler then ran a two hour cruise on the estuary to view the Spurn peninsula leaving Grimsby Docks at 2.30pm. The leaflet makes clear, and in bold type for the 'not', that 'Landing facilities will NOT be afforded at Spurn' to forestall any moaners wanting to go ashore. This illustrates a fundamental of good marketing: always be honest in what you promise. Any attempt to over-gild lilies by creating expectations which cannot be delivered will always end in tears.

Meanwhile a second of the sisters took an afternoon break from her ferry duties with the 2.30pm departure from New Holland picking up a one hour excursion to view the Docks leaving Hull at 3pm before returning to the ferry service at 4pm.

On Saturdays from July 18th to September 5th one of the paddlers sailed down river light ship from her overnight berth at New Holland to Grimsby for a 10am departure to bring  passengers up for a day of shopping or other entertainments in Hull with return to suit them on the regular ferry service from Hull to New Holland and then on the thirty minute run on the train from there back to Grimsby.

It was a leisurely excursion programme and one more tuned to the large market segments who prefer their trips afloat to come in small and manageable sized bites rather than as marathon ten hour plus coastal endurance tests.


This later picture of the Lincoln Castle also reminds us that despite their considerable size these three paddle steamers did not use the windlass in the bow or a capstan in the stern to haul themselves alongside piers, pontoons and jetties. Instead they used short ropes from the sponson, just like Kingswear Castle and the Swiss paddle steamers. These were hauled in by hand and made fast with the ship then paddling slow astern on them thereby translating the power of the engine into the ropes to bring the ships gently alongside.

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