Builder: 1934, W Gray & Co Ltd, Hartlepool.
The Wingfield Castle was one of three sisters, the Tattershall Castle, the Wingfield Castle and the later Lincoln Castle, working the River Humber, prior to the building of the Humber Road Bridge. Built at the Hartlepool yards of William Gray & Company, the keel of the Wingfield Castle was laid down on 27th June 1934. Work progressed quickly on the first two sister ships, and they were both ready for launching by the afternoon of 24th September 1934, the ceremony for the Wingfield Castle being duly carried out by the Lady Mayoress of Hull, Mrs Shepherd.
Powered by a triple expansion, diagonal stroke, reciprocating steam engine Wingfield Castle could maintain a steady operating speed of 12 knots. She has an overall length of 209ft (63.3m), a beam (including paddle boxes) of 56ft (17m) and a gross tonnage of 550 tonnes. Along with her sister, the Tattershall Castle, she was built for the London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER) for use as a ferry, operating between Hull and New Holland.
Predominately carrying foot passengers the Wingfield Castle had provision on her main deck aft to carry a small number of cars, and pens for livestock. She carried much livestock during her service largely without incident however, on one occasion a cow did fall down the companionway into the crews’ quarters, proving a little difficult to remove. On another occasion a frightened cow fell overboard in mid river, but calmly turned around and swam back to the shore.
In their early years the two sisters, and the paddler ‘Killingholme’, worked the Hull to New Holland ferry crossing route, as well as providing a Sunday excursion schedule from Hull, comprising evening cruises to Read’s Island and daytime trips to Grimsby. On the outbreak of the Second World War the Killingholme was used to tether barrage balloons and the two sisters where used to ferry troops and supplies along the Humber to wherever they were required. Once hostilities ceased, the peacetime routine was reinstated with the Lincoln Castle having replaced the Killingholme. Excursions continued for some years but as popularity waned they were finally withdrawn in 1967. Wingfield Castle continued to work the ferry route but, with the imminent construction of the Humber Road Bridge, she was finally withdrawn in 1974 after making her last journey on Thursday 14th May with the 5.30pm sailing from Hull.
Subsequently purchased by the Brighton Marina Company, conversion costs for the PS Wingfield Castle proved too great, and she was sold on. Her history at this point becomes a little obscure but she appears to have languished in the King George V dock in London for some eight years while a legal wrangle raged over her ownership. During this time she was used as a set for the film ‘The Elephant Man’ being disguised as an 1824 cross-channel packet steamer, but for the majority of time she was left neglected and vandalised. In an attempt to stop her sinking altogether concrete was poured into her bilge’s to seal the many leaks that were appearing. In 1982 Whitbread purchased her for use as a floating public house in Swansea, but the plan had to be abandoned when it became clear that she was too wide to pass through the dock gates into the marina. For another four years she remained in Swansea until she finally returned to the place of her Birth in June 1986.
Having been beautifully restored by the skilled workers of Hartlepool, a town that has a reputation for its magnificent maritime restoration projects (HMS Warrior – HMS Trincomalee), the Wingfield Castle now forms part of the rejuvenated dock area, the Hartlepool Historic Quay. For more information on visiting, click here.
- 1934 – 1974, Ferry
- 1982 – 1986, Restuarant
- 1986 – , Museum Ship
Sub Functional Area:
Hartlepool, Cleveland, England
Length on the Waterline:
60.96 metres (199.86 feet)
63.89 metres (209.47 feet)