Part 3: The P & A Campbell

P & A Campbell first operated excursion paddle steamers in Scotland before moving to the Bristol Channel in the late 1880’s. One of the traditions carried on by Campbell’s once they had established themselves in Bristol, was to operate long day cruises, one of which was to Southampton.

Day cruises across the coast
Following the success of the Southampton day cruise, they started to expand their operations in the Solent area offering cruises to the west as far as Weymouth, and to Hastings in the east, but competition from other operators eventually brought them to an end. They then moved to the Sussex Coast where they also met stiff competition from the Brighton, Worthing and South Coast Steamboat Company. However after a number of years this competitor was in financial difficulties, and was happy to sell out to Campbell’s in the winter of 1901/2.

Expansions along the coastline
The first steamers to come into Campbell’s ownership resulting from this deal, were P.S. Brighton Queen and P.S. Princess May. With this established, the two brothers Peter and Alec Campbell expanded their operations considerably along the South Coast, as the Hastings, St. Leonards & Eastbourne Steamboat Co. Ltd. had by that time also come into Campbell’s ownership. As Campbell’s were also operating paddle steamers in the Bristol Channel, there were many occasions when steamers would move locations.

The effects of World War I
Up until the beginning of World War I, Campbell’s were establishing themselves in the Sussex area with P.S. Waverley of 1885 operating along the South Coast between 1911 and 1913, and P.S. Ravenswood being introduced to operate cruises during 1912. During World War I many steamers were requisitioned by the Admiralty for minesweeping duties. After the war, P & A Campbell restarted operations in the Bristol Channel and on the Sussex Coast, which were to be the most successful years for the excursion paddle steamer.

Comments about this page

  • I am interested in the paddle steamer SS Pricess May mentioned on this page. Do you have any further information? The steamer was harboured at Shoreham c1890.

    By Brian Dove (06/06/2004)

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