Ferry built 1949 by Thornycroft, J I & Co Ltd, Woolston, Southampton

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National Historic Fleet

Passenger Vessel




Commercial Activity

Commercial trade





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To be confirmed

32.00 feet (9.76 metres)

203.38 feet (62.03 metres)

6.62 feet (2.02 metres)



The cumbersomely named Southampton, Isle of Wight & South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, known more informally as the Red Funnel Line, needed to replace two paddle steamesr lost in the war and, in October 1947, ordered the motor vessel BALMORAL from John I. Thornycroft & Co. Ltd, of Woolston, Southampton. Her raked red funnel had a horizontal black top and she had two masts - the mainmast was a stub mast but was later increased to full height. The promenade deck had two saloons.

BALMORAL, whose engines were also built by Thornycroft, was launched on 27 June 1949 and started trials at the end of October. She entered year-round service on the Southampton-Cowes route in December 1949 and, from 1952 onwards, was also used for summer excursion work from Southampton. Her car deck becamse an impromptu sun deck on these occasions. One popular excursion was the Round the Island cruise, also picking up passengers from Southsea. These excursions and a range of charters took her further afield on the South Coast from Brighton to Swanage.

She was also used as a tender to ocean liners lying in Cowes Roads, ferrying passengers to Southampton. One one such occasion, BALMORAL collided with the Italian liner, FAIRSKY, in November 1961, and her starboard lifeboat was smashed and she sustained a gash in the side of the hull. The summer season of 1968 was her last with Red Funnel and she was offered for sale, having been replaced by a dedicated car ferry. In the event, she was chartered to P. & A. Campbell Ltd, Bristol, to replace a paddle steamer and she was eventually purchased by them in 1978.

From May 1969 onwards, she was employed in excursion work in the Bristol Channel area, adopting the white funnel lievery of the Campbell fleet. Cruises to and from the resorts of Ilfracombe, Weston and Minehead were complemented by passenger-ferry work to Lundy, and there was an annual four-day cruise to the Scilly Isles. She was later based at Swansea, until being withdrawn at the end of the 1979 season. In 1980, she was chartered by White Funnel Steamers, a company set up with the support of the Landmark Trust, which owned Lundy, to continue the island service, but made her last sailing on 14 October 1980.

BALMORAL was then sold to become a floating pub and restaurant at Dundee in 1982, but this venture failed. The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society purchased her in March 1985 for continued work as a cruise vessel, operated by Waverley excursions and complementing WAVERLEY. A refit equipped her with a new dining saloon aft, where the car deck had been. On 27 June 2009, exactly sixty years after her launch, she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee with a cruise from Southampton around the Isle of Wight, with calls at Cowes and Portsmouth. Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated Feb 2011.

Norman J Brouwer, International Register of Historic Ships (Edition 2, 1993, pp135) pub: Anthony Nelson
Balmoral and the story of the Bristol Channel Steamers (May, 1988) pub: Waverley Excursions Ltd
Lloyds Register of Ships 1994-5 (Volume A-G, 1994, pp452) pub: Lloyd's of London
Lloyds Register of Ships 1997-8 (Volume A-G, 1998, pp478) pub: Lloyd's of London
Geoffrey Hamer, Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles (1995) pub: G P Hamer
Jon and Jones, Nigel Holyoak, Ships Monthly (February, 1986, pp32-35) Balmoral's Happy Return
Russell Plummer, Ships Monthly (August, 2000, pp42-45) UK Excursion Guide 2000

Subsequent developments

10 April 2012  BALMORAL is due to dock in Whitehaven next month.  Will be also back in the port in June when it will be taking passengers to the Isle of Man.  Source: Times & Star, April 2012.

December 2012 BALMORAL is being looked after on a care and maintenance basis by volunteers in Bristol. We are looking at alternative ways of utilising the ship in 2013 and over the coming months we will seek to identify a robust operating programme to offer the prospect of returning her to service in 2014 and beyond. Source: Waverley Steam Navigation Co., Dec 2012.

January 2015  BALMORAL has been awarded a grant of £344,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, to be phased over the next two years.  Source: MV Balmoral News, Jan 2015

Key dates

  1. 1949 Built in Southampton
  2. 1949-1969 Worked as a passenger/car ferry between Southampton and the Isle of Wight for the Red Funnel Company
  3. 1950 onwards Used as an excursion ship and ferry
  4. 1953 Took part in the Coronation Review
  5. 1958 Opened the new locks at Shoreham with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on board
  6. 1961 Collision with Italian Liner FAIRSKY requiring major repairs
  7. 1969 Chartered by White Funnel Fleet and used as a Bristol Channel ferry
  8. 1969-1979 Used as a ferry from Bristol to Lundy and Swansea to Ilfracombe
  9. 1980 Ownership transferred to P & A Campbell and chartered to White Funnel Steamers
  10. 1982 Acquired by Craig Inns Ltd for use as a floating restaurant
  11. 1984 Sold by the Bank of Scotland after the demise of Craig Inns and bought by the Waverley Organisation
  12. 1985-1986 Extensive restoration
  13. 1986-present Used as an excursion vessel
  14. 1996 International voyage to Boulogne
  15. 2003


  16. 2012

    Laid up in Bristol

  17. 2013

    Balmoral is being looked after on a care and maintenance basis by volunteers in Bristol

  18. 2014

    Over £600k ( made up from £344k from the Coastal Communities Fund) and the remainder by donations to help restore her back to operating condition

  19. 2015

    Operating for the first time since 2012


  1. 1986 Ships Monthly Balmoral's Happy Return
  2. 1988 Balmoral and the story of the Bristol Channel Steamers
  3. 1993 International Register of Historic Ships - Brouwer, Norman J
  4. 1994 Lloyds Register of Ships 1994-5
  5. 1995 Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles - Hamer, Geoffrey
  6. 1998 Lloyds Register of Ships 1997-8
  7. 2000 Ships Monthly UK Excursion Guide 2000
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact

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