After the Second World War the popularity of the the pleasure steamer gradually dwindled as more and more people drove their own cars and started to take holidays under their own power or, for the more adventurous, took advantage of cheap package deals abroad. As a result, the traditional holiday to the seaside by steamer and even the day trip excursions were seen as "old fashioned", something of a crime in the relentless days of "modern is best". The steamer companies came under increasing financial pressure and sought other ways to raise revenue. In the late 1950's, in an effort to raise the profile and popularity of their steamers, the General Steam Navigation Company Ltd chartered a series of Jazz cruises on their comfortable motor vessels, MV Royal Daffdoil and MV Royal Sovereign, from London to Margate. These were designed to attract a new and younger class of passenger who would pay not only for their trip but also spend freely in the on board bars.
For the princely sum of £2 return, you could see some 20 or so acts. Those artistes who performed on one vessel on the way to Margate swapped to the other for the return leg, so all passengers had a chance to see all the acts. A typical programme would see MV Royal Daffodil leaving Tower Pier at 9.20 am, with MV Royal Sovereign 20 minutes later. The five hour each way journey allowed for a two hour stop at Margate, thus your £2 would give you a full 12 hour excursion. In addition to the bars, food, lunch and high tea were available although many passengers brought a packed lunch with them, to keep the cost down and allow more funds for the purchase of drink!
Fortunately some of the cruises were captured on camera by the father of Pete the Paddler, who runs the excellent Thames Tugs site at www.thamestugs.co.uk/. Pete has kindly given permission for me to include some of these images here on Paddle Steamer Picture Gallery.
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