Tuesday, 3 May 2011

#GLW003* - The SEVERN PRINCESS - How Sad

#GLW003* - The SEVERN PRINCESS - How Sad

The England end of Aust Ferry in 1964, looking...Image via Wikipedia
The Severn Princess still plying her trade at The Aust slipway
on The Bristol side
whilst The Chepstow Severn Bridge was being built in 1965
- before the carriageway was hung.
A very sad old severn princess

The Severn Princess.

Lying forlornly on the mud banks at Chepstow is a little piece of British history. 
The Severn Princess was a car ferry built especially for use on the River Severn and plied her trade from Beachley on the Welsh side to Aust on the English side of the river.……

She was one of a fleet of three owned and operated by Enoch Williams and family from Chepstow who for many years had the royal charter to operate the ferry from The Beachley slip way at near The Ferry Inn, which is still in quite good order as a slipway…….
which of the ferries is beached alongside is indistinguishable
Many of those who worked for Enoch and his family are still remembered in the area let us remember for a moment a few of them: 
Ron Blight who married Sheila James sister of Bill & Hugh of Lydney and Chepstow Builders Merchants - Their two sons are still very much local!

Percy Palmer whose house was in St. Anne's Street and his wife Annie was on The Council for many years and becam the first Mayor of Monmouthshire when the position was created.

Ben Brown who retired when the ferries closed in 1966 with the opening of the Severn Bridge and he and Pat ran The Five Alls for many years.

The Ferry as many of us remember it first plied its trade on The New Passage with The Silver Queen, in July 1926 with the Olney brothers for crew and Bob Treherne and in the same month they carried their first car a Williams' Gwynne 8 built in Chismick between 1922-25. The cars at that time were hoist aboard.

Subsequent vessels included The Princess Ida named for Ida Williams, Enoch Williams' wife rather than Guilbert & Sullivan's comic opera based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem The Princess! - she went into service on 31st. July 1931 and the first car loaded was Enoch William's Singer together with the vessel's builders Hurd and Henderson of Chepstow.

The Severn King was launched in June 1935 whilst The Severn Princess was launched at Yorkshire Dry Dock Co. Ltd. 23-May-1956.

Others who worked the ferry included Bill (Skipper) Groves and before him Geof. Groves who lived in the house right by the bridge in Chepstow opposite the Bridge Inn.
Also in the fleet , when the service ended in 1966, were the Severn King and the Severn Queen and the Princess was the last addition to the once proud family and was delivered in 1960. There were some subtle differences between the three vessels but their basic construction and design was the same……..
A shallow draft was necessary to enable the ferries to work in the ebb and flow of the Severn where to maintain a reasonable service the boats needed to be able to work in the sparse water available at either ends of the famous Severn tides (it’s the 2nd highest rise / fall of any river in the world so I am told)…………

There was a ramp either side of the boat that would be lowered to enable the cars and vans to get on and off and also to facilitate easier manoeuvring of the vehicles each vessel had a turn table in the middle of the deck……..

Power was supplied by diesel engines fitted below the cabin / bridge that was situated to the rear of each vessel….There was no passenger accommodation for the drivers of the cars, they either stayed sat in the cars or just stood on the deck whatever the weather happened to be doing!......

The ferry service was for many years the only ‘quick’ link if you were travelling from Wales to London or vice versa of course! In those days it must have knocked hours off the journey……..

Many famous folk used the ferry over the years including The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1957 and subsequently Bob Dylan. Whilst on his 1965 (I think?...) tour of the UK a very famous photo of Bob looking very pissed off and huddled up in his coat was taken whilst he stood on the slipway at Beachley waiting for the ferry to pick him up……….

The end for the ferry company came when the first Severn Road Bridge was opened in 1966 and the company was apparently paid compensation by the government for the loss of their livelihood…
The three remaining boats passed through Bristol Docks, where there is a rather forlorne photo of them tied up alongside The Bristol dredger and HMS Ventura.

The Severn King ended her days as a demolition boat and due to an accident, where she was badly holed,  whilst taking down the old Severn Railway Bridge was subsequently scrapped….

The Queen languished for many years in Bristol Harbour before she too was cut up and The Princess was sold to work in Ireland…..

After many years hard graft over there she was due to be scrapped but was bought for the sum of £1.05 (!!) and returned to the UK for restoration …
Unfortunately due to many unforeseen problems since her ‘rescue’ in 1999 the task now seems unachievable and she has deteriorated into a really terrible state ……it looks as if the cutters lamp is now inevitable which will be a very sad end to a lovely little ship with an intriguing history………
Unfortunately the entire enterprise to recover the Severn Princess from Ireland did all look rather unprofessional and all too like profligacy on the part of the local councils - very little control over quite a substantial amount of money was seemingly spent on many planning meetings and celebrations of ........ at The Boat Inn.
There is a wealth of additional information in Colin Jordan's book 'Severn Enterprise' published in 1977, of which good copies can still sometimes be obtained in the region of £50!

down into the engine room

no engines though….

deck winch..

and before she was finally lifted out of the water......
and finally…..Glory days……

Chepstow Shipyard was active until well into the 1960s but was at its peak as The National Shipyard during and just after World War One with the building & launch of a series of 10,000 tonners such as The War Glory, which was presumed lost at sea carrying a cargo of grain in The Pacific in 1956.
The site now lies in some dereliction awaiting developement as the last owners Fairfiel Mabey rebadge themselves in Grant Funded premises exploiting the unsound and largely dishonest concept of Wind Turbines and the specious con of Carbon Trading. None of which seem endorsed by sound science or peer reviewed independent material - Thus largely it would seem a FASHIONABLE TAX to extort money from beleaguered tax payers.

They now have the most resplendent of premises on a vaste scale at New House Roundabout:

The original of the article which inspired this article was posted at CLICK HERE
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