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Thames Estuary, River Medway, Kent, Essex and East Anglia Coast, England, U.K.
Victoria Steamboat Association / Palace Steamers Ltd
Established in February 1888 to take over the assets of the failed River Thames Steamboat Company (including its fleet of smaller paddle steamers for services in London and upstream on the river to Hampton Court Palace) as a loose association of business interests operating its vessels as separate subsidiaries, most likely in an attempt to avoid the financial problems of its predecessors. Palace Steamers Ltd was the best known of these subsidiaries.

The Association set about modernising the fleet and scrapped a number of older vessels. Their first move was to purchase the paddler Lord of the Isles followed by the smaller new-build The Mermaid for up-river services.  Although 12 years old, Lord of the Isles, which had been operated on the prestige Glasgow - Inveraray route in Scotland, was extremely well appointed, with spacious fore and aft saloons on the main deck. It set new standards for the Thames and set the Association and its competitor on the Clacton route into an intense frenzy of vessel purchasing.

In an arrangement with the Govan-based Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd and the establishment of a subsidiary company, Palace Steamers Ltd, the Association introduced the enormous PS Koh-in-Noor in 1892 and a sister ship, PS Royal Sovereign a year later. In 1894 PS La Marguerite, the largest coastal excursion paddler ever operated in the UK and a great favourite on the Kent coast and cross-channel routes to France, joined the fleet.

The cost of these vessels and their enormous appetite for coal, especially in the case of La Marguerite, led inevitably to financial problems and the three newer vessels which had been supplied under mortgage reverted to their builders after the 1894 season. The three large ships were operated by Fairfields as New Palace Steamers Ltd, whilst the Association struggled on with a limited service undertaken by its remaining older vessels until they were sold at the end of 1896.

The Association was left with a small fleet of smaller vessels used on up-river services in London including Cardinal Wolsey and the Mermaid, which were, in 1897, vested in the Thames Steamboat Company (1897) Ltd 

Above : The Mermaid was built locally in 1891 by Samuda Bros. at Poplar and ran on river services in and around London until 1916 when it was sold for use on the River Ouse in Yorkshire. Smaller river vessels were the only ships purchased as new-builds except for the three palatial estuary paddlers from Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering which were quickly returned to the builders due to the cost of operating them.
The Mermaid was 160 ft long with a GRT of 194. It was fitted with an oscillating engine 30 and 30 in x 33 in

Vessels taken over from the River Thames Steamboat Co
Scrapped on takeover

Queen of the Thames
Duke of Connaught
Duke of Cambridge
Duke of Teck
Albert Edward
Vale of Clwyd

Retained until 1896. Some found further use. Cleopatra was used on the River Tay until 1931 after a short spell on the Ouse in Yorkshire.
The Mermaid spent her final year (1923) on the west coast of Ireland at Limerick

Duke of Edinburgh
Glen Rosa

Retained until 1898

Queen of the Orwell  (Fairy Queen from 1890)

Smaller vessels for up-river services


River Queen
Prince Arthur
Prince of Wales
Princess Mary

New Build
Retained smaller vessels for up-river services

H M Stanley (later Portia)
The Shah  (later Penelope)

Bismarck (later Phyllis)
Empress Frederick

Cardinal Wolsey
The Mermaid

Returned to Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering and vested in New Palace Steamers Ltd in 1894

Royal Sovereign
La Marguerite

Vessels Purchased
Resold in 1896

Lord of the Isles

Return to
New Palace Steamers
Thames Steamboat Company (1897) Ltd
River Thames Historical