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Medway Queen

medway queen g ferguson 1960.jpg

Medway Queen seen at Southend in 1960 in a photo kindly supplied by Gillon Ferguson

Built by in 1924 Ailsa Shipbuilding Co in Troon (Rebuilt in 2013 by Abel's Shipbuilders Ltd of Bristol)
Length 179.9 ft :  316 GRT
Engines : Compund Diagonal  21 and 48 in x 48 in

Owned by the new Medway Steam Packet Company, based in Rochester on the River Medway, England
Cruised from the Medway ports into the Thames estuary and up to Clacton or Herne Bay
Bow rudder fitted in 1936
Reboilered in 1938 for oil burning
Employed during World War II as a minesweeper
Made seven crossings for the Dunkirk evacuations and seriously damaged on the final return leg
Returned to cruising after the war for the General Steam Navigation Co who had taken over the New Medway company
Laid up after the 1963 season
Saved from the breakers, opening in 1966 as a marina clubhouse on the Isle of Wight
Returned to the Medway on a floating pontoon in 1984 and berthed at Chatham
Flooding on the tide at Chatham
Refloated on 1/11/97 and towed to Damhead Creek one week later
Dismantled in 2006
2009 : new hull under construction at Abel's Shipbuilders of Bristol
25/10/13 - completed hull with refurbished engine in situ eased out of Abel's dry dock into Bristol harbour to await conditions for a tow to Gillingham
31/10/13 - towed by MV Christine through Avon gorge to Avonmouth Docks to await a suitable four-day window
15/11/13 - the tow to Gillingham behind MV Christine commenced

Now open for inspection, events and public hire and with a visitor centre (with limited opening times) at Gillingham pier

Medway Queen, survives after being laid up since 1963 and hopes continue that she may be in steam once again. The last surviving example of her type, the Medway Queen cruised the rivers Medway and Thames and the south - east coast of England and had a distinguished record at the Dunkirk evacuations of 1940, making seven successful cross-channel trips ans saving over 7000 soldiers. Withdrawn in 1963 and apparently destined for shipbreakers in Belgium, she was bought to become the club house for a yacht marina on the Isle of Wight in England. When the larger Paddle Steamer PS Ryde was brought to Binfield Marina to provide a larger clubhouse, Medway Queen fell into disuse and disrepair. Saved once again by enthusiasts, she was towed on a pontoon barge back to the River Medway in 1984 with a view to permanent preservation. Moored at Chatham at a tidal berth, the delapidated ship partially submerged on each tide and her condition deteriorated further. In 1985 the Medway Queen Preservation Society (MQPS) was formed, the ship was refloated in 1987 and towed to a new berth at Damhead Creek on the Hoo peninsula, near the mouth of the Medway. The new berth, whilst tidal provided a safe haven for the volunteer preservation efforts to proceed. Slow progress has been made since then, with one major setback, when the ship sank due to a holed plate. She is now afloat once more and the hard-working enthusiasts are back at work to save her from further deterioriation, whilst preserving a reasonable hope that, given further backing, both in manpower and money, she will survive and re-enter service.

A major boost was received in 2006 when, after several failed attempts to obtain funding from the UK's Heritage Fund, a grant of just over GBP 1.86 m was awarded. The grant, alongside MQPS' own funds and new cash raised will allow the hull to be rebuilt. The existing hull was dismantled "in situ" in August 2006 with all usable parts put into storage and structural members reused where possible. The existing funds will not support rebuilding beyond the hull and decks, but will give time for further fund raising and on-going volunteer work to proceed without the ship deteriorating beyond salvation as was the prospect with the original hull.

In 2008 a contract was awarded to Abel of Bristol to rebuild the hull in traditional riveted form after the resolution of problems arising from a conflict between the need for a "heritage" rebuild and the need to incorporate modern construction practice. There remains an issue to the extent that heritage funds were only available on condition that the hull was of a welded construction. The maritime certification authorities have still not given approval for such a ship to enter passenger service with a commercial passenger capacity.   

Above : Medway Queen at Damhead Creek on 18th September 1993 on the occasion of a visit by passengers cruising on PS Kingswear Castle. Photo by kind courtesy of Phil Barnes. Click here for more from Phil Barnes' collection

A view of Medway Queen's engines in 2001 - Photo courtesy of Len Knight

MQ Oct 11 K Whyte.jpg

The new Medway Queen under construction in Bristol in 2011
Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

Go to

Medway Queen - Official Vessel internet Site

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