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Cosens & Co
Captain Joseph Cosens, a newly established provider of coastal excursions, and newspaper proprietor Mr J Drew established Cosens & Co in 1852 to operate steamships between their home port of Weymouth and Portland. Captain Cosens and his younger brother William were experienced sailors having been engaged in the coastal trade and chartered their first vessel, the tug Highland Maid, to capitalise on the need for a good link to the new naval dockyard at Portland. As well as carryinging goods and employees, Cosens also carried numerous sightseers to the new facility, putting their new vessels Princess and later Prince on the run. With the 120-ft Prince, excursions were offered further afield along the Dorset coast and also across the channel to France.

In 1858, the two vessels of their local competitor Philip Dodson were taken over and two years later the interests of John Tizard were incorporated into the Cosens concern.

Cosens went on to dominate the excursion scene at Weymouth and the popular resort of Bournemouth, seeing off competition from the Bournemouth, Swanage & Poole Steam Packet Co and taking over their PS Brodick Castle. Cosens became a limited company in 1876, soon after the deaths of Joseph Cosens and John Tizard, and continued to expand its other interesta,of ship repair and general engineering, coal trading, ice import, manufacture and cold storage. Shipping interests also included towage and salvage for which they owned paddle tugs which could, if required, be used for passenger services.

Cosens were not able to have everything their own way and the Southampton-based Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company increasingly placed vessels at Bournemouth. In the 1930s there evolved some cooperation between the two companies and in 1946, Cosens became a subsidiary of the Southampton company. The two companies' services then operated under separate flags although not in direct competition.

Cosens steamers continued to serve the existing trade with an increasingly outdated fleet. The one post-war addition was Monarch in 1951, a former Solent ferry which was already 27 years old but became Cosens' youngest vessel (the last ship ordered new by Cosens had been the Majestic of 1901 which was lost in 1916). From 1964, the 53-year old PS Embassy was the sole fleet survivor struggling on to make her last sailing in September of 1966.

The company's other interests, including steel fabrication, continued until Cosens Engineering Ltd went into receivership in 1999.

Above : Embassy was the last Cosens steamer in service with 1966 being her final season. Despite some alterations after World War II which did not help her performance, there was no getting away from the fact that she was an old vessel. Cosens had not bought new tonnage since 1901 and Embassy, bought in 1937 was formerly the Duchess of Norfolk, built in 1911 for the Portsmouth to Ryde ferry connection. Even the last purchase for the fleet, made in 1951, was a twenty-seven year old ferry from the same Portsmouth-Ryde station. Clearly Cosens strategy was to buy cheap and make the best of their vessels whilst they could. The cost of work needed for Embassy to sail in 1967 was regarded as prohibitive.
Photo by kind courtesy of Nigel Lawrence

Vessels with dates of Cosens ownership:

Princess (1849-1853)

Cosens & Co

Prince (1852-1888)
Premier (1860-1938)
Bannockburn (1860-1869)
Empress (1879-1958)
Victoria (1884-1953)
Monarch (1888-1950)
Majestic (1901-1916)
Brodick Castle (1901-1910)
Emperor of India (1908-1957)
Alexandra (1915-1931)
Consul (1937-1963)
Embassy (1937-1967)
Monarch (1951-1961)

Wave Queen (on charter in 1852)
Audrey (on charter in 1911)
Lord Roberts (on charter in 1911)

Paddle Tug/Tenders

Highland Maid (on charter in 1848)

Tug/passenger vessels taken over from P Dodson in 1858:
Contractor (1858-1863)
Ocean Bride (1858-1865)

Commodore (1863-1890)
Queen (1883-1920)
Albert Victor (1889-1928)
ex Dundee tug Lass o'Gowrie. Built in 1883 by JT Eltringham at South Shields. Side lever engine by JP Rennoldson of South Shields. 106 ft : 128 GRT
Helper (1910-1920). 
Melcombe Regis (1913-1923)


Built in 1873 by W Allsup at Preston
131.3 ft : 173 GT
Engines : 2 x 1 cylinder 38 in x 40 in
Built for the West Cornwall Railway & Dock Co and based at Plymouth and named Sir Francis Drake, passing to the Great Western Railway Co in 11880
Renamed Helper in 1908
Sold in 1910 through a brokerage to Cosens & Co at Weymouth
Taken over by the Admiralty during World War I and used as a tug and later a minesweeper
Soon after the end of the war she was sold by Cosens to the Alderney Steam Packet Co
Was generally used in summer only on a ferry run to Sark
In May 1927 she was taken to Appledore, Devon, and exchanged for a new vessel and subsequently scrapped

Melcombe Regis
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 as Lune
Sold to Cosens in 1913 and operated as a tug tender until 1923

Cosens of Weymouth 1918-1996
By Richard Clammer
Published in 2001 by Twelveheads Press
ISBN 0-906294-47-9
The definitive history of the later years of the well-known south coast operators by a well-known steamer expert

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