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South Coast of England : Portsmouth - Ryde Ferry

Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co (1827-1851)


Union (1825)
Arrow (1825)
Lord Yarborough (1826)
Earl Spencer (1833)

Portsea, Portsmouth, Gosport & Isle of Wight Steam Packet Co (1849-1851)

Amalgamated to form :

Port of Portsmouth & Ryde United Steam Packet Co (1852-1880)

Prince Consort (1859-1882)
Princess of Wales (1865-1885)
Duke of Edinburgh (1869-1884)
Princess Alice (1869-1882)

Heather Bell (1876-     )

Albert Edward (1878-    )
Alexandra (1879-1913)
Victoria (1881-1899)

Later incorporated :

Southsea & Isle of Wight Steam Ferry Co (1873-1876)

Under Railway Ownership :


London & South Western Railway / London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (1880-1922)


Prince Consort (1859-1882)
Princess of Wales (1865-1885)
Duke of Edinburgh (1869-1884)
Princess Alice (1869-1882)

Heather Bell (1876-1900)
Albert Edward (1878-    )
Alexandra (1879-1913)
Victoria (1881-1988)


New Build :

Duchess of Edinburgh (1884- 1910)
Duchess of Connaught (1884-1910)
Duchess of Albany (1889)
Princess Margaret (1893)

Duchess of Kent (1897)
Duchess of Fife (1899)
Duchess of Richmond (1910-1915)
Duchess of Norfolk (1911)


Alexandra (1880-1913)
Built in 1879 by Scott & Co of Greenock.  171 x 20.2 ft : 235 GRT : Engines Compound - 25 and 50 x 54 inch
Purchased from the Port of Portsmouth and Ryde United Steam Packet Co in 1880. Sold in 1913. various subsequent owners as Alexis, Alexandra and Show Boat. Scrapped 1934

Victoria
(1881-1899)
Double ended ferry built by Aitken & Mansell of Glasgow.  191.9 x 25.1 ft : 366 GRT : Engines Compound - 32 and 57 x 54 inch
Sold to the Southampton company (Red Funnel)

Duchess of Connaught
(1884-1910)
Double ended ferry built by Aitken & Mansell of Glasgow.  190.6 x 26.1 ft : 342 GRT : Engines Compound - 32 and 55 x 60 inch
Withdrawn and scrapped in 1910

Duchess of Edinburgh (1884-1910)
Double ended ferry built by Aitken & Mansell of Glasgow.  190.6 x 26.1 ft : 342 GRT : Engines Compound - 32 and 55 x 60 inch
Withdrawn and scrapped in 1910

Duchess of Albany (1889)

Princess Margaret (1893)

Duchess of Kent (1897)

Duchess of Fife (1899)

Duchess of Richmond (1910-1916, sank near the Dardanelles, Turkey in 1919 when under tow after hitting a mine during clearing operations)
Built by D & W Henderson of Glasgow. 190.2 x 26.1 ft : Compound - 27 and 51 x 54 inch
The wreck was discovered in 2019 to the south of Imbros Island

Duchess of Norfolk (1911)



Southern Railway (1923-1947), British Railways / British Rail (1948-1984)
On railway amalgamation, the Southern Railway took over the Portsmouth-Ryde ferry and set about modernising the fleet of paddlers, introducing seven large passenger vessels in fourteen years.
Whilst primarily providing railway connection services between Portsmouth and Ryde, occasional excursions were offered


Paddlers taken over from the joint LBSCR and LSWR Fleet in 1923

Duchess of Albany (until 1928)
Princess Margaret (until 1928)
Duchess of Fife (until 1928)
Duchess of Kent (until 1933)
Duchess of Norfolk (until 1937)

New Build - Paddle Steamers

Shanklin (1924-1951)
Merstone (1928-1950)
Portsdown (1928-1941)
Southsea (1930-1941)
Whippingham (1930-1963)
Sandown (1934-1966)
Ryde (1937-1969)


After World War II, in which two of the vessels were lost, the company planned to make good the tonnage. The original plan to order new paddlers was quickly changed , to an order for ultimately two diesel-powered vessels, which were launched in 1948 from Denny's yard at Dumbarton. A third similar vessel was delivered in in 1951 as the scheduled replacement for PS Shanklin, but the high capacity (of up to 1331) of the new vessels allowed the earlier than anticipated withdrawal of the paddler Merstone in 1948. With the market for passenger-only vessels diminishing, the traditional crossing suffered at the hands of the Portsmouth-Fishbourne car-ferry route and traditional vessels were displaced from the Ryde route by the arrival of so-called Fast Ferries in the shape of Australian hydrofoils.These new vessels were purchased by the new private operators who had bought the Sealink-branded operation from British Railways, marking the end of a long association of the route with railway ownership.

Attempts at offering cruises to other Isle of Wight ports and into Southampton water were attempted from time to time but with little success. MV Southsea, laid up in 1986 alongside her sister Brading, was immediately recommisioned in one last attempt to offer cruises, but by 1989 she was back out of service and up for sale. It was not until 2005 that she was finally sold to Danish shipbreakers after many years of lay up with preservation attempts failing. She arrived at Esjberg on March 15th of 2005.

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