Early Cross-English Channel post steamers

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    There seem to have been two short-lived private ventures in cross-Channel steam-powered post vessels around 1822. The first from Brighton to Dieppe, the second to Calais. Perhaps there are newspaper announcements about them?
    Charles Dawson


    It is reasonable to assume that any crossing to Calais from UK would have sailed from Dover, as Folkestone’s jetty was only built at a later date. As an ex-resident Dover area and one-time Master in ferries out of Dover, may I suggest the following as points of contact:
    Dover Museum – http://www.dover.gov.uk/museum – an excellent local museum with strong maritime content and very helpful curators.
    Dover Harbour Board – http://www.doverport.co.uk – for telephone and postal contact details. Suggest you may like to direct correspondence/enquiries etc to Captain Roy Bird, an ex-colleague of mine.
    George Hammmond PLC – http://www.georgehammond.plc.uk – this company are engaged in stevedoring, pilotage, shipping and vice-consular activities at Dover and have been trading since 1767.
    James Martin


    David Napier was the great inspiration behind the use of steamboats in services which took the vessels beyond coastal waters or estuaries on what could be called sea voyages.
    The first steamboat to undertake such a voyage was the wood P.S. ROB ROY built in 1818 for David Napier by Archibald MacLachlan & William Denny, Dumbarton, 80’11” x 15’8” x 9’, 88 tons, with a 32 HP engine by David Napier. She commenced the first regular sea-going [paddle-steamer] service, between Greenock and Belfast via Campbeltown, on 18 June 1818.
    The wooden P.S. ROBERT BRUCE was built in 1819 by John Scott & Sons, Greenock, 94’ x 18’7” x 11’, 91 tons, with a 60 HP engine by David Napier. She ran the first service from Greenock to Liverpool via Douglas, Isle of Man in 1819. She caught fire in 1820 and was run ashore and scrapped.
    ROB ROY was rebuilt in 1819 by unknown builders and made her first crossing Dover-Calais on 11 June 1821 (Kentish Chronicle). She was rebuilt again by W.Lockie, Glasgow in 1821. Her register was closed in June 1822, showing that she had been sold to foreign owners, in France, and renamed HENRI QUATRE, later DUC d’ORLEANS for the Calais-Dover run.
    The wooden P.S. SUPERB was launched on 29 April 1820 by J.Scott & Sons, Greenock, 113’6” x 21’5” x 11’1”, 160 tons, with a 72 HP engine by David Napier. She made her first Greenock-Liverpool trip on 27 June 1820. She was sold in September 1826 to owners at Naples and renamed FERDINAND DE PIEMA.
    Wooden P.S. RAPID was built by R & A Carswell, Greenock in 1820, 94’6” x 17’4” x 9’9”, 83 tons for the Clyde Shipping Co, Glasgow for their Glasgow – Liverpool service and Glasgow-Belfast in 1821. David Napier purchased her in 1822, re-engined her in 1824, and sent her to London north about. He sold her in 1824 for a London-Rotterdam service. She was sold to GSNC in 1825 for the Cross-Channel service. There is an illustration in Advent of Steam p. 131.
    ECLIPSE wooden p.s., first steamer built by R.Steele & Co, Greenock 1821 for D.Napier, Glasgow. 104’ x 16’9” x 9’10”, 88 tons, 60HP engines by David Napier. Her Glasgow-Belfast service started July 1821; shortly after RAPID disappeared from the Belfast station, having been sold to David Napier. 1823 first service Clyde-Dublin.
    Sold to GSNC June 1825, stronger engines 150 HP, London-Herne Bay-Margate, then Newhaven-Brighton-Dieppe.
    In 1822 the St. George S.P. Co. began to compete on the Liverpool – Douglas – Greenock route with their ST. GEORGE, wood p.s. 133’9” x 22’4”, 183 tons, launched 23 April 1822 by Dawson & Pearson, Liverpool. She was driven ashore in Douglas Bay on 20 November 1830 and lost.
    SWIFT, wooden smack built 1803 by Booles & Good, Bridport. Original owners unknown. Sold to new owners in Leith, where she seems to have been lengthened and engined in 1821 by Gutzmer, Leith. (P.R. 1822, p.201). In August 1822 re-registered as a steam yacht 106’4” x 23’ x 10’7”, 138 tons, 80 HP, on Brighton*-Dieppe service. She was sold to Turkey in 1828 and became the Sultan’s steam yacht, later the first steamship in the Turkish navy.
    * After the opening of the Chain Pier at Brighton on 25 November 1823, passengers were no longer embarked over the open beach, carried on men’s backs through the waves, but from the pierhead.
    SPRITE, 231 tons p.s. built by Mr. Hardy on the River Dee, Cheshire in 1822 and used on a Dover-Calais post service.
    1. Liverpool Nautical Research Society: Bulletin Vol.25, Liverpool 1981.
    2 Boat Trains and Channel Packets, R. Bucknall, London 1957, p 13.

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