In the aftermath of the Second World War, paddle steamers in Britain initially did rather well, with four new ones built between 1946 and 1953 and about sixty still in service nationwide. By 1955 this tide of optimism had turned and from then on it was downhill all the way.
In almost every subsequent year, one or two paddle steamers were withdrawn and sometimes it was as many as five or six. By the late 1960s only a handful remained operational and, of these, all except one owed their continued existence to their usefulness as people-movers on the Clyde, Humber or Solent, rather than for excursions.
Some, like Freshwater, Princess Elizabeth, Consuland Jeanie Deans, enjoyed temporary new careers on services previously abandoned by their longstanding owners. A few like Medway Queen, Compton Castleand Caledoniabecame nightclubs, cafes or bars. Most ended up under the scrap-dealer's torch.
In this book author John Megoran, who returned the paddle steamer Kingswear Castle to service on the Medway and Thames in 1985, and was her captain and manager for nearly thirty years, explores all the excursion paddle steamers withdrawn from 1955, as well as examining the sort of cruises they ran and what happened to them in their twilight years.
John Megoran was born in Weymouth and grew up watching the last days of Cosens's paddle steamers in the 1960s. He returned PS Kingswear Castle to service in 1985 and subsequently ran the business on the Medway and Thames as well as sailing as the steamer's principal captain.