:  The Internet's leading website for Side-Wheeled Paddle Steamers

Historical Database
Windermere, UK
Windermere is the largest lake in England and the busiest in the Lake District National Park. A magnet for tourists and especially day-trippers, the lake has been able to sustain a modest-sized fleet of large passenger vessels. The first paddle steamer was introduced in 1845 but it was only small at 80 ft in length and served the local community in a time before mass tourism and relatively easy road transport in the area. It was designed as a paddler because it was to be based at Newby Bridge, on the shallow River Leven to the south of the lake itself. Steamships were controversial at first, with the famous poet and local resident William Wordsworth being a vocal critic of the new-fangled transport mode. Screw steamers came relatively early to the lake, so the presence of paddle steamers was not long-lasting, but in terms of heritage vessels, those operating on the lake and displayed in a local museum are of major importance.

Early Steamers

Windermere Steam Yacht Company

Lady of the Lake
Lord of the Isles (1846-1850)

Windermere Iron Steamboat Company

Firefly (1849-
Dragonfly (1850-

Windermere United Yacht Company : from 1858, formed out of a merger of the two competitors above

Rothay (1867-1891)

Screw steamer Swan of 1869 effectively meant the end of new paddle steamers on Windermere.

In 1866 the Furness Railway, whose line from Barrow reached Lakeside in 1869, took a shareholding in and in 1872 completely took over the United Yacht Company 
Now railway owned, the steamers became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923 and British Railways after nationalisation in 1948. The company was later operated under the Sealink brand the became the Windermere iron Steamboat Company after Sea Containers Ltd bought Sealink in 1984. The massive conglomerate was perhaps not best suited to operating these lake vessels and local interests purchased the business in 1993 and now runs the ships under the "Windermere Lake Cruises" brand.

Return to:
Historical Database