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Historical Database
Operators at Blackpool, England
Blakpool is the long-time premier holiday resort in the north of England based on its vast beaches on the tidal Irish Sea and its numerous traditional seaside entertainment attractions strung along the long seafront . A number of entertainment venues are on the three vast piers which stretch out into the sea, the south pier being close to Blackpool Pleasure beach with its vast array of roller coasters and other amusements. Blackpool Tower, a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris dominates the skyline. The north and south piers opened in the 1860s and were host to steamer services.

The South Blackpool Jetty Company, albeit based in Preston, introduced the locally-built paddle tug Nelson in 1875 which sailed out of Blackpool until 1883 before moving to the Bristol Channel

John Bickerstaffe and family owned the south pier and ran services with their paddle steamer Bickerstaffe built in 1879 across the sea to the Isle of Man. Bickerstaffe was the first large steamer on station and was so successful that she survived until 1928.   Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Company took over the Bickerstaffe business albeit run by the same family and Queen of the North joined Bickerstaffe in 1895. Excursions were offered around the Irish Sea coast as far as Anglesey in North Wales and to Barrow to the north with calls at the major port city of Liverpool.  Queen of the North failed to return from Admiralty service in World War I having been mined and sunk of Orford Ness whilst serving in the same minesweeper flotilla as Bickerstaffe out of Harwich on the Essex coast.

With a buoyant market in the mid 1890s, a new high quality paddle steamer was put in service by the Blackpool North Pier Steamboat Company in 1895. Greyhound, at 230 ft long was ten feet longer than the Queen, and had the pedigree of coming from the J&G Thomson yard at Clydebank who had recently completed the magnificent Glen Sannox for Clyde railway owners and had, alongside other Clyde yards, a fine reputation for excursion paddle steamers based on the strength of the market on the Firth of Clyde. A second smaller steamer Belle was also put into service that year. The three-year old vessel was bought from the
Llandudno & Carnarvon Steamboat Co

The Blackpool Company took over the North Pier company's vessels in 1905.

The First World War put a dent in the market and Greyhound struggled on until 1923 with fleet mate Belle succumbing two years earlier. Bickerstaffe herself outlasted all-comers, being withdrawn in 1928. Several attempts to revive the heyday of excursions during the 1930s but without success. Notably, the Blackpool Pleasure Steamers company brought a former Mersey ferry and the former Clyde turbine steamer Atalanta to Blackpool for this purpose.

Blackpool's piers have remained entertaiment venues rather than transport facilities.

Above : Greyhound, seen on the Clyde during trials was an attempt to upset an incumbent operator with a top class excursion steamer ordered from a Clyde yard. Looking very much like a Clyde "flier" she was much different in design to the Bickerstaffe-owned Blackpool Company boats whose Laird-built ships had the funnel abaft of the paddle shaft. *  She was the success hoped for but the new operators were unable to make sufficient money and were absorbed by their competitors after ten years. With minimal ferry traffic and only long sea excursions, in less than thirty years the market had all but evaporated and she had to be sold off.
Greyhound was unusual for an excursion steamer in that she had two relatively small sets of compound diagonal engines operating each paddle wheel independently - a set-up more familiarly used for harbour tugs

* This arrangement was not uncommon for Swiss-built paddle steamers and was later used on the 1934-built Humber ferries Tattershall Castle and Wingfield Castle.

Queen of the Bay
Built in 1874 by W Allsup & Sons of Preston
Length 142.1 ft : 189 GRT
Engines : Diagonal 30 and 30 in x 48 in
Built for the Blackpool, Lytham & Southport Steam Packet Co
Later with the Blackpool Pier Company
After return to the builders in around 1892 she was sold to the Goole & Hull SP Co and converted to a barge

Built in 1875 by W Allsup & Sons of Preston
Length 140 ft : 166 GRT
Engines :  Twin diagonal  38 x 48 in
Built for the South Blackpool Jetty Company

Sold in 1883 to interests on the Bristol Channel (samuel Little of Newport, Mon.)
Registered at Plymouth from 1887 and subsequently in Sussex (for Richard Collard) then Liverpool
Hulked and used for coal in London from 1905

Built in 1879 by Laird Bros of Birkenhead
Length 155.2 ft : 196 GRT
Engines :  Twin diagonal  38 x 48 in
Built for John Bickerstaffe and later transferred to the family-owned
Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Company
An unusual design with the funnel placed considerably abaft of the paddle shaft

Queen of the North
Built in 1895 by Laird Bros of Birkenhead
Length 221.6 ft : 590 GRT
Engines 2 x Oscillating  28.5 and 50 in x 60 in
Built for the
Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Company
An unusual design with the funnel placed considerably abaft of the paddle shaft
Paddle wheels could be independently operated or together using a sliding coupling 

Built in 1895 by J & G Thomson of Clydebank
Length 230 ft : 542 GRT
Engines : 2 x Compound diagonal  21 and 45 in x 48 in
Built for the North Pier Steamship Co
Taken over by the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co in 1905
Sold for use in Belfast in 1923 and resold to Turkey in 1925 as Buyukada, surviving until 1936  

Built in 1892 by Willoughby Bros of Plymouth
Length 143.7 ft : 147 GRT
Engines : Compound diagonal 17 and 32 in x 32 in
Built for the Llandudno & Carnarvon Steamboat Co
Purchased by the North Pier Steamship Co in 1895
Taken over by the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co in 1905


Lancashire & Yorkshire Rly / London & North Western Rly
Operated services to Morecambe & Fleetwood

The two  railway companies were among the largest in northern England. the Lancashire & Yorkshire operated stemship services out of west and east coast ports to Ireland and continental Europe. In the west, it ran services from Liverpool to Drogheda (after buying out the Drogheda Steam Packet Company in 1902) and ran other short sea routes out of Fleetwood to Belfast and Derry  in association with the London & North western Railway.

Built in 1892 by Thomas B Seath & Co of Rutherglen
Length 129 ft : 253 GRT
Engines : Compound diagonal  28 and 48 in x 54 in by Rankin & Blackmore of Greenock
Ran a passenger service from Fleetwood to Heysham and excursions to Blackpool and Morecambe
Sold to Cosens & Co of Weymouth in 1913 and renamed Melcombe Regis and used as a tug/tender

Mersey & Blackpool Steamship Company

Jubilee (1935-1937)
Built in 1897 by Day, Summers & Co at Southampton
Length 195.4 ft  399 GRT
Engines :  Compound diagonal  32 and 59 in x 60 in   225 NHP
Built as Duchess of Kent to maintain railway connections from Portsmouth to Ryde on the Isle of Wight for the LSWR / LBSCR
Purchased by the New Medway Steam Packet Company at the end of 1933 and renamed Clacton Queen
After one season on the Thames Estuary, she was sold for cruising between Liverpool and Blackpool for Mersey & Blackpool Steamship Co and named Jubilee
Scrapped in 1937

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British Paddle Steamer Index
North Wales and Lancashire