Southsea Piers and Paddle Steamers


Clarence Pier (pictured above) in the approaches to Portsmouth Harbour was much used by both the railway and excursion paddle steamers. In this picture Red Funnel's Lorna Doone has backed off (you can see the remnants of the wash of her paddle beats in a line from her starboard bow to the pier) and has now set off ahead and is turning to port on her cruise.


The reason for Lorna Doone coming off astern was that at low water springs there is only about 1.3m or 1.4m (or about three quarters of a fathom in old money!) of water on the East Sand to the north and to the west of the pier as can be seen on this chart. With a rise and fall of around 4.7m on spring tides and 3.8m on neaps there was enough water to float paddlers over the East Sand at higher states of the tide but nearer low water there was no option but to go both in and out pier only from the south.


In this picture the tide is up a bit and the Brodick Castle is about to set off ahead but her master is getting a good canting angle round the knuckle of the pier before casting off to set a course to avoid the shallowest part of the East Sand.


Just around the corner South Parade Pier at Southsea was, and is, also distinctly on the shallow side at low tide with only 1.8m less than a cable to the west of it and only 1.3m just to the east and 1.2m to the south. With most of the paddlers drawing more than 2m, this lack of water was not helpful. In addition, only two cables to the east of the pier is the submerged barrier extending out to Horse Sand Fort necessitating quite a tight turn to starboard if coming off from the pier ahead at higher states of the tide.


Despite the difficulties South Parade Pier was regularly used by the steamers including the Lorna Doone shown in this lovely picture above.


But at lower states of the tide, the only way into and out of the pier was from the west as is shown in this picture with one of the railway paddlers backing out. For them this was never too much a problem as they all had bow rudders but for paddlers like the Emperor of India  which neither had this advantage nor the certainty of ever going in a straight line astern, leaving South Parade Pier at lower states of the tide could be a real problem.

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