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BRISTOL CHANNEL, United Kingdom
P & A Campbell
The Bristol Channel was to develop into one of the major areas for Paddle Steamer operation in the UK after the decision of Peter and Alec Campbell, sons of the well-known Firth of Clyde steamboat owner Captain Bob Campbell, to sell their business to the newly-formed Caledonian Steam Packet Company and, from 1889, base their operations at Bristol. The inevitable domination of the Clyde services by three competing railway companies and the under-development of steamer operations on the Bristol Channel made the move a sensible decision. In 1887, Campbell's paddler Waverley had been chartered for use on the channel and in the following year, Captain Alec brought the vessel south once again on his own account. Captain Bob died in April 1888 and the scene was set for P & A Campbell's "White Funnel" fleet to dominate coastal cruising and ferry operations for the next 80 years.




Above : Ravenswood (left) in her original two-funneled guise in a photo from the mid-1890s believed to be taken by Alexander Hutson and kindly supplied by Jeremy Hutson. Alongside and heading towards the vacated berth at Ilfracombe pier is PS Lorna Doone, which for a short time was one of a number of paddlers which provided "independent" competition to the Campbells on the Bristol Channel. She was sold for further service on the south coast in 1898



Ravenswood was built new for the 1891 and the Campbells went back regularly for new tonneage from yards in their native Scotland.
The fleet also expanded through the taking over of the best vessels from competing fleets owned by companies which failed to establish themselves in the competition for the excursion trade. The most threatening of the competitors was the Barry Railway Company which operated out of the South Wales port from 1905 to 1910, against which the Campbell's had to resort to legal arguments to restrict their operations, very much as the private owners had attempted to restrict direct railway ownership of steamers on the Clyde.

In common with other operators, the 1950s saw a significant decline in the excursion trade which, allied to increasing operation costs, led to the remaining fleet members being gradually disposed of, and many vessels were laid up during the decade in the hope of improved economic conditions. A receiver was eventually appointed in 1959, and on December 31st of that year, the Campbell business passed to George Nott Industries, part of the Townsend Ferries group that was to become a significant force in the cross-channel car-ferry trade.

The Campbell operation entered the 1960 season with two operational paddlers and one laid up. The business would never return to being a going concern. it has been suggested that the Townsend company bought the Campbell business in order to offset tax losses against its thriving English Channel business. Whatever the reason, it did allow the continuation of Paddle Steamers on the Bristol Channel.

The paddle steamer era appeared to have ended when the last two members of Campbell's fleet, Cardiff Queen and Bristol Queen were withdrawn in 1966 and 1967 respectively and Campbells continued a service with a variety of second-hand motor vessels until early 1981 when it was announced that operations would finally cease.

Campbell also had a substantial presence on the South Coast of England, including the excursion trade to northern French ports, and in the 1960s, ran the motor vessel St Trillo on the North Wales coast.

Click here for more details of Campbell's Sussex and South Coast Operations
P & A Campbell - Paddle Steamers on the Bristol Channel (and South Coast)

Vessel Name

Builders

Date

Length

Breadth

GRT

Disposed

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waverley

H McIntyre

1885

205

21.2

258

1921

 

Ravenswood

S McKnight

1891

215

24.1

391

1955

 

Westward Ho

S McKnight

1894

225

26.1

438

1946

 

Cambria

H McIntyre

1895

225

26.1

420

1946

 

Britannia

S McKnight

1896

230

26.6

459

1956

 

Lady Margaret

A McMillan

1895

210

25

369

1905

From Edwards, Robertson in 1895

Glen Rosa

Caird & Co

1877

206.1

20

223

1921

Purchased 1897

Albion

J & G Thomson

1893

200

25

363

1921

Purchased 1899

Bonnie Doon

T B Seath

1876

218

20

272

1913

Purchased 1899

Scotia

H McIntyre

1880

211.2

21.8

260

1903

Purchased 1899

Princess May

Barclay, Curle

1893

160

21.6

260

1902

ex BWSC purchased in 1901

Brighton Queen

J & G Thomson

1897

240.5

28.1

603

1915

ex BWSC purchased in 1901

Lady Ismay

Ailsa

1911

220

26.1

495

1915

 

Barry/Waverley

J Brown

1907

225.6

26.6

471

1941

ex Barry Rly Co. purchased in 1911

Devonia

J Brown

1905

245

29

641

1940

ex Barry Rly Co. purchased in 1911

Tintern

J Scott

1899

210.1

25.1

393

1913

ex Barry Rly Co. purchased in 1911

Glen Avon

Ailsa

1912

220

27.1

509

1944

 

Glen Usk

Ailsa

1914

224.3

28.1

524

1963

 

Glen Gower

Ailsa

1922

235.1

28.5

553

1960

 

Lady Moyra *

J Brown

1905

245

29

519

1940

ex Tucker purchased in 1922

Brighton Belle *

J Scott

1900

200

24.1

320

1940

ex Tucker purchased in 1922

Bristol Queen

C Hill

1946

244.7

31.2

961

1968

 

Cardiff Queen

Fairfield

1947

240

30.1

765

1968

 


* Lady Moyra was renamed Brighton Queen when she was sent to the South Coast in 1933.
* Brighton Belle was bought as Lady Evelyn, but given her new name shortly afterwards as she was allocated to the Campbell's South Coast service.

Other Paddlers
Duke of Devonshire (1896) was purchased from competitors based at Torquay in 1933, but never used her and disposed of the vessel the following year as plans to operate a service on the South Devon coast were abandoned.

Sea Breeze (ex-Adela of 1877)
was chartered for the 1893 season to inaugurate the Cardiff-Weston ferry
Turbine Steamer
Empress Queen  : please see associated website Clyde Turbine Steamers for more details about turbine steamers
Motor Vessels
After many years of operating paddlers, the Campbell company resorted to the purchase of second-hand motor vessels to maintain services. Two were purchased from the "Red Funnel" fleet, operators of the Southampton - Isle of Wight service which escaped the breaker's torch when sold out of the fleet. Balmoral continues to cruise the Bristol Channel for the Waverley Steam Navigation Company on behalf of her owners, the Baddle Steamer Preservation Society. Click below for details :

MV Vecta (1939) - in the fleet as MV Westward Ho from 1965-1972
MV Balmoral (1949) - in the fleet from 1969 to 1980

Other motor vessels purchased were : Crested Eagle of 1938 (1957), St Trillo of 1936 (1963-1975), Queen of the Isles of 1964 (1968-1970) and Devonia of 1955 (1977-80)
Bibliography
Paddle Steamers of the Bristol Channel - A Pictorial Record
By Nigel Coombes
Published : 1990
Publisher: Twelveheads Press, Chy Mengleth, Twelveheads, Truro, Cornwall, TR4 8SN
ISBN : 0 906294 23 1
Numerous Black and White illustrations accompany authoritative and detailed text

White Funnel Magic
By Nigel Coombes
Published : 1995
Publisher: Twelveheads Press, Chy Mengleth, Twelveheads, Truro, Cornwall, TR4 8SN
ISBN : 0 906294 34 7
Builds on the author's 1990 book (see above) to provide more photos and insigts into the history and operation of the steamers

White Funnels - The Story of Campbell's Steamers 1946-68
By Chris Collard
Published : 1996
Publisher: Baron Birch, for Quotes Ltd
ISBN : 0 86023 570 X
Copiously illustrated but detailed review of Campbell's operations, season by season after the Second World War

Special Excursions - White Funnels Volume 2 - The Story of Campbell's Steamers 1919-1939
By Chris Collard
Published : 1999
Publisher : Wheelhouse Books, 4 Ty Mawr Close, Rumney, Cardiff CF8 8BU
ISBN : 0 953 4275 0 1
Follow up of the author's work on the post war period studies the Campbell steamers in the inter-war years

The Campbells of Kilmun
By Iain Hope
Published: 1981
Published by: Aggregate Publications, Johnstone, Renfrewshire
The key facts in the fascinating story of the Campbell operations on the Clyde and, from 1889 on the Bristol Channel and South Coast.

White Funnel Memories
By George Gunn
Published in 1997 by Gomer Press, Lllanysul, Ceredigion, Wales
ISBN 1-85902-487-4
Authoritative Campbell's story centring on the personalities involved - by the late George Gunn, one of the Campbell fleet's finest captains


Balmoral and the story of the Bristol Channel Steamers
Complied By Jon Holyoak
Published in 1988 by Waverley Excursions Ltd
The story of the Campbell's Bristol Channel operations - and the story extended with Balmoral now the "Bristol Channel Steamer" sailing for the Waverley organisation


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Bristol Channel
P & A Campbell - Sussex Operations
P & A Campbell - Southampton Operations
Clyde Turbine Steamers