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Historical Database
South Coast of England : Sussex Coast
Although Sussex ports, particularly Newhaven, had been developed for railway connections for services from London to France, pleasure cruising on the Sussex Coast in the south of England was relatively late to begin, not developing in earnest until the mid 1880s. Captain Lee had taken over the small steamer PS Brighton and in 1891 established the Brighton, Worthing & South Coast Steamship Company. At Hastings, the Hastings and St Leonards Steamship Company was also set up by private interests

This was the same time that large fleets were being built on the Clyde, Bristol Channel and Thames but it was not until shortly before the end of the century that a new vessel was built for each of the companies; the only vessels specifically built for the trade

Small and under-capitalised, the two companies never fully established themselves and after Bristol Channel operators P & A Campbell decided to compete on the Sussex Coast, the Brighton company sold its interests to the new entrants.

Captain Lee did re-establish a private operation which lasted as a one-vessel venture until 1913, the Hastings company survived the Campbell arrival for only three years, withdrawing from the trade after the 1904 season.

Campbell’s had sent vessels round from the Bristol Channel to the Naval Review at Spithead on the Solent in 1897 and immediately identified the area as suitable for expanding their operations. In the following years, one and sometimes two vessels operated out of Southampton, but the Solent was an area of stiff competition and when the Brighton company was bought out by P & A Campbell after the 1901 season, their operations were moved to Brighton, where they were to have a relatively free hand until their final retreat after the 1957 season.

Campbell generally had three vessels on their south coast station, including one of their larger vessels which undertook longer coastal cruises and visits to France. The large turbine steamer TS Empress Queen was ordered immediately before World War II for the French trade, but once it was released from wartime duties, government restrictions on cross-channel travel meant that it was never able to fulfil its potential, remaining only a short time on local cruises for which it was totally unsuitable.

Over the years, many private individuals attempted to enter the trade generally with chartered tonnage, one of the most prominent being Richard Collard who operated a range of vessels from his base at Newhaven between 1887 and 1911. One final attempt was made to base a paddle steamer on the Sussex coast when Mr Herbert Jennings bought the old Isle of Wight paddler PS Freshwater and operated her for one season in the early 1960s.

With several large piers, built for the popular Victorian pastime of "promenading", there remained opportunities for coastal services which have now been revived for a short period late in each summer by the Clyde-based Paddle Steamer Waverley, carrying the same name as two of the vessels that had operated for the Campbells in the first half of the 20th century.

Brighton, Worthing & South Coast Steamship Company (1891-1901) - Captain J Lee (1887-1891 and 1901 to 1913)
Hastings & St. Leonards / Hastings, St Leonards and Eastbourne Steamship Co
P & A Campbell
Richard Collard
Other operators / vessel charterers

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Historical Database