London's Pleasure Steamers
For generations of Londoners, a trip to the seaside aboard a pleasure steamer such as the Royal Eagle, Golden Eagle or Royal Daffodil was the highlight of the year and these ‘Poor Man’s Liners’ were part of childhood and family life for huge numbers of people. The tradition went back to the 1820s when the first commercial paddle steamers entered service and the advent of paid holidays for the masses saw a huge rise in the numbers of pleasure steamers and passengers using them. The steamers went from London to resorts on the Kent and Essex coasts, from Gravesend to Southend, from Clacton to Ramsgate and Margate. Both piers and steamers evolved into glorious reflections of the Victorian age, but in the twentieth century things changed again as there was more competition on the river. A brief boom came in the years following the Second World War but in the mid-1960s London’s pleasure steamer heritage ground to a halt before services started again during the late 1970s. Andrew Gladwell, archivist of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, takes us on a journey on the paddle steamers that once plied the Thames from London.
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