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Belle Steamers
 
 
This page is devoted to postcards and photographs of Belle Steamers. Belle Steamers was the marketing name for the steamer company created by various interests connected with the development of the east coast resorts of Clacton, Walton, Southwold, Felixstowe and Lowestoft. Belle Steamers was the actual name of the company for about one year only, in 1897.
 
Steamer services from London had been provided by the ailing River Thames Steamboat Company, but in 1887 they were refused permission to land due to non-payment of pier dues. 25000 visitors a year were arriving at Clacton by steamer at this time. Various influential locals, including those with interests in the pier, decided to run their own boat and formed the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company. They had the paddle steamer Clacton built by J.Scott of Kinghorn, entering service in 1888. She ran successfully for one season, but was then sold for service in Turkey as the Aidin. The successor to the River Thames Steamboat Company, the Victoria Steamboat Association (VSA) ran services to Clacton in 1889. However, the Company decided to run their own steamers again, and had four fine paddle steamers built for them by Denny Bros. of Dumbarton, between 1890-1896. The first was the Clacton Belle, 246 feet long and 458 gross tons. In 1890 the Clacton Belle ran successfully from London to Southend and Clacton in competition with the Victoria Steamboat Association, who had the Glen Rosa and Lord of the Isles on east coast routes in that year. The London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea SS Co decided to expand, an their second ship was the smaller Woolwich Belle of 1891. At this time the General Steam Navigation (GSN) also was running a direct service from London to Great Yarmouth, using the Hoboken and their new 'classical birds' Halcyon, Mavis, Oriole, Philomel and Laverock. The was intended for use on the Orwell from Ipswich, but initially joined Clacton Belle on her services from London to Clacton, since there was adequate traffic for two ships. In 1892, the Victoria Steamboat Association received the large new Koh-I-Noor, and the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea SS Co ordered a larger steamer to match her. This was the London Belle of 1893, which at 280 feet and 738 gross tons was to remain the largest vessel in the Belle Steamers fleet. From 1893, the Victoria Steamboat Association provided a connecting service through to Great Yarmouth by running the old Glen Rosa (replaced by Victoria the year after) from Clacton in connection with Koh-I-Noor. The arrival of the London Belle allowed the Woolwich Belle to take up her intended River Orwell service from Ipswich to Harwich, Felixstowe and Clacton. At the end of 1894, the Victoria Steamboat Association lost their three largest steamers, including Koh-I-Noor which ran to Clacton, when their builders Fairfields re-possessed them. The Victoria Steamboat Association continued to compete with Lord of the Isles in 1895, but Koh-I-Noor concentrated on Kent services for her new owners New Palace Steamers from 1896. The lingering parts of the Victoria Steamboat Association had also ceased by 1897, leaving Belle Steamers with a virtual monopoly of Essex services.
 
In 1896 the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company was retitled as Belle Steamers Limited, but the following year, it was merged as part of Coast Development Company along with the Clacton and Walton Pier Companies and various other east coast concerns. The ships continued to be known as Belle Steamers for publicity purposes. The 249 foot Southend Belle joined the fleet in 1896, and the first Belle excursions to Great Yarmouth, an indication of their future plans. The fifth member of the fleet, the Walton Belle, was delivered in time for the 1897 season, and Belle's expansion plans became apparent. They used the Walton Belle to connect with their London (London Belle) and Harwich/Ipswich (Woolwich Belle) sailings at Clacton, as the VSA had done with Glen Rosa and Koh-I-Noor. Southend Belle was used to open a another new Belle express service from London direct to the Kent coastal resort of Margate, in competition with New Palace Steamers and the General Steam Navigation. The sixth Belle steamer, the Yarmouth Belle, joined the fleet in 1898, to expand services to Great Yarmouth. The largest fleet member London Belle remained in use on the busy London-Clacton route. However, traffic justified the use of a second steamer on this route, which then continued to Yarmouth from Clacton each day. The steamer returned to Clacton and London the following day. The new Walton Belle and Yarmouth Belle ran these services, now in direct competition with the through services of the General Steam Navigation and their elderly 'classical birds'. Belle Steamers parent, the Coast Development Company, was expanding in other areas too, extending the pier at Walton-on-the-Naze to allow regular steamer visits. Since two vessels could berth simultaneously, this made a more logical terminus and connection point for their services, with boats from London sailing past Clacton to call at Walton first, which did not please the traders in Clacton. The General Steam Navigation could not benefit from the building of new piers, since they were all owned by the Coast Development Company, and their sailings continued to run directly to Yarmouth. The General Steam Navigation boats were so old and slow, that the new Belle steamers could generally beat them to Yarmouth, despite their pier calls on the way. Harwich was the only east coast pier that GSN called at between Southend and Yarmouth, which they used for excursions. The fine new steamer Eagle (3) did join the GSN fleet in 1898, but she was used on their more profitable Kent services. Her arrival allowed the ancient Hoboken to be scrapped. The Coast Development Company expanded further in 1899, with the purchase of land in Southwold. Work on a new pier was started and the final new delivery was named the Southwold Belle. She first visited the new Southwold Pier in July 1900. The good people of Southwold were not as enthusiastic as other towns to receive an influx of visitors, and relations were occasionally strained between themselves and the Coast Development Company.
 
The progressive chairman of the Coast Development Company, Abel Penfold, died in February 1900. This seemed to be the point from which the company went into slow decline, although initially it was a period of stability in the steamship industry. However, it was railways and later motor coaches that were the new competition, particularly on the longer coastal runs of the Belle boats. GSN concentrated on the shorter and more profitable Kent routes, plus their cross-channel sailings on which Belle never competed. A further new pier was built at Lowestoft, although it was not completed until 1903. Previously, passengers for Lowestoft were unloaded by small boats. In 1902, the Walton Belle, Yarmouth Belle and Southwold Belle visited the south coast for the Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead. The coronation itself was postponed due to the King being taken ill, but the steamers visited the already assembled fleet as planned. By 1905 the Coast Development Company's finances were causing concern, and the company was restructured as the Coast Development Corporation. In the same year, their last new pier was opened at Felixstowe. The GSN received their new turbine Kingfisher in 1906, but again she was used on Kent and cross channel services, not venturing further north than Southend. The GSN was finding their direct service to Yarmouth to be increasingly uneconomic, and it continued to be served by the remaining 'classical birds, of which Halcyon was the first to be sold on 1904, followed by Philomel in 1907 and Laverock in 1908. The last two, Mavis and Oriole went in 1910 and 1912, after the new paddle steamer Golden Eagle had arrived in 1909. In 1910, just a limited GSN Yarmouth service was provided by Oriole, and no services were run from 1911. Belle Steamers had a complete monopoly between Southend and Yarmouth for the first time, but traffic in the area was declining. By the end of this year, urgent action was required, and their latest steamer, the Southwold Belle, sold to the Hamburg-America Line for use as a tender as the Westerland. A year later and she was running from Cherbourg as the Bon Voyage. She went to Italy in 1922, and was scrapped in 1925, the first Belle Steamer to be dismantled. The financial situation did not improve over the next few years, although services surprisingly continued as normal until the end of the season after the outbreak of war in 1914. The Coastal Development Corporation could see no way of meeting their heavy liabilities, and the company went into voluntary liquidation in May 1915.
 
After the war, a Mr A.W.Pickard and two Shankland brothers Robert Robertson and John Hamilton bought the Royal Sovereign (2) (New Palace Steamers did not survive the war either) for their newly registered Royal Sovereign Steamship Company. Royal Sovereign (2) was the first Thames steamer to return to service after the war. In 1920, a Mr E.Kingsman successfully chartered the London Belle and Walton Belle for east coast service. By the summer of 1921, Mr Kingsman had purchased many Coast Development Corporation assets, including all the paddle steamers except the Woolwich Belle. He also purchased the five piers, but resold Walton, Felixstowe, Southwold and Lowestoft individually to locals concerns, retaining ownership of Clacton. Mr Kingsman would return to the story in 1929. Woolwich Belle was purchased by her builders Dennys, for refurbishment. The directors of the Royal Sovereign Steamship Company, along with a Mr Harold De Mattis, formed various and numerous paper companies around this time, one of which was called the P.S.M.Syndicate. Another was called Belle Steamers Limited. The P.S.M.Syndicate bought the five steamers from Robert Kingsman, and operated them on routes similar to those run by the pre-war Belle Steamers. P.S.M. were still running the Royal Sovereign (2), again on similar itinerary to pre-war years. The four directors proceeded to perform numerous financial dealings with the ownership of their fleet of six steamers Clacton Belle, London Belle, Southend Belle, Walton Belle, Yarmouth Belle and Royal Sovereign (2), with ownership changing to the Royal Sovereign Steamship Company and later the East Anglian Steamship Company, all basically owned by the four P.S.M. directors. Meanwhile, after a sojourn on the south coast, the Woolwich Belle (as Queen of the South) was bought by the New Medway SP Co, in 1924, who ran her until 1932 when she was scrapped. The New Medway SP Co had been formed in 1919, and used the three old paddle steamers Princess of Wales, City of Rochester and Audrey. In addition to the Queen of the South, 1924 saw the introduction of their new paddle steamer Medway Queen, the first new Thames paddler since the Golden Eagle of 1909. Despite their largely quite elderly fleet, the New Medway SP Co was a dynamic forward-looking company, much as Belle Steamers had been in its heyday. The post-WW1 Belle Steamers was not such a company, probably due to financial restraints, and it suffered increasing competition on both Kent and east coast routes. The New Medway SP Co opened a new route from the Medway to Felixstowe using their popular new Medway Queen in 1925, whilst in the same year the GSN acquired their new oil-fired Crested Eagle, which competed directly with the old Royal Sovereign (2). At the end of this year, the East Anglian Steamship Company (the then favoured title of the P.S.M. directors) decided to sell the Walton Belle. She was bought by the competing New Medway SP Co and renamed Essex Queen. In 1926 she ran from the Medway to Southend and Margate, whilst the remaining Belle Steamers operated on their usual routes, as they did in 1927 and 1928. Competition grew more fierce, with the Essex Queen (old Walton Belle) competed on her old Yarmouth to Clacton route (with ownership of the piers dispersed the steamer company could not protect berthing rights). The East Anglian Steamship Company was wound up at the end of the 1928 season. The Clacton Belle and London Belle were sold for scrap at the Grays yard of T.W.Ward. Yarmouth Belle was sold to the New Medway SP Co and renamed Queen of Southend. She was later renamed Thames Queen and she was scrapped in 1947. Royal Sovereign (2) was sold to the General Steam Navigation and run on her usual route for the 1929 season only before being scrapped. Southend Belle was sold to Mr E.Kingsman, the owner of Clacton pier, and who had chartered the steamers in 1920. He renamed her Laguna Belle and ran her to Clacton between 1930 and 1935, sailing from the new Tower Pier via Greenwich and Woolwich. She was purchased by the General Steam Navigation in 1935, who ran her from 1936 on her usual route to Clacton, in competition with Queen of Southend. The General Steam Navigation purchased the New Medway SP Co in 1937, thereby placing all Thames services in the hands of one company. They continued running Thames excursions until 1966.
 
 
Ships on this Page:-
Clacton - London, Woolwich & Clacton: 1888-1889
Clacton Belle - Belle Steamers: 1890-1929
Woolwich Belle - Belle Steamers: 1891-1922
London Belle - Belle Steamers: 1893-1929
Southend Belle - Belle Steamers: 1896-1929
Walton Belle - Belle Steamers: 1897-1925
Yarmouth Belle - Belle Steamers: 1898-1928
Southwold Belle - Belle Steamers: 1900-1912
 
Associated Pages:-
General Steam Navigation
New Medway SP Co
New Palace Steamers
UK Excursion Ships
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Cruise Ship Postcards
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Belle Steamers
 
 
Clacton
(London, Woolwich & Clacton: 1888-1889)
 
Steamer services from London had been provided by the ailing River Thames Steamboat Company, but in 1887 they were refused permission to land due to non-payment of pier dues. 25000 visitors a year were arriving at Clacton by steamer at this time. Various influential locals, including those with interests in the pier, decided to run their own boat and formed the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company. They had the paddle steamer Clacton built by J.Scott of Kinghorn, entering service in 1888. She ran successfully for one season, but was then sold for service in Turkey as the Aidin.
 
 
Postcard of Clacton as Aidin in Turkish service.
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Clacton Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1890-1929)
 
Steamer services from London had been provided by the ailing River Thames Steamboat Company, but in 1887 they were refused permission to land due to non-payment of pier dues. 25000 visitors a year were arriving at Clacton by steamer at this time. Various influential locals, including those with interests in the pier, decided to run their own boat and formed the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company. They had the paddle steamer Clacton built by J.Scott of Kinghorn, entering service in 1888. She ran successfully for one season, but was then sold for service in Turkey as the Aidin. The successor to the River Thames Steamboat Company, the Victoria Steamboat Association (VSA) ran services to Clacton in 1889. However, the Company decided to run their own steamers again, and had four fine paddle steamers built for them by Denny Bros. of Dumbarton, between 1890-1896. The first was the Clacton Belle, 246 feet long and 458 gross tons. She had compound engines giving a speed of 17 knots. In 1890 the Clacton Belle ran successfully from London to Southend and Clacton in competition with the Victoria Steamboat Association, who had the Glen Rosa and Lord of the Isles on east coast routes in that year. Clacton Belle was easily distinguished in the Belle fleet having a very tall funnel, which was originally telescopic to pass under London Bridge. She was also built without a fore saloon, but one was added later. She was ran on the London to Clacton service until the arrival of the larger London Belle, and was employed principally on the Margate and Ramsgate route thereafter. After war service she passed to the P.S.M. Syndicate in 1921, passing to the associated East Anglia Steamship Company in 1925. She did not operate that year, but was re-activated in 1926 after the sale of Walton Belle. She was for breaking up in 1929.
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of Clacton Belle.
Telescopic funnel replaced and fore saloon added.
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Postcard of Clacton Belle.
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Postcard of Clacton Belle.
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Postcard of Clacton Belle at Great Yarmouth.
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Postcard of Clacton Belle passing through Tower Bridge
 
 
Postcard of Clacton Belle passing through Tower Bridge
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Modern Pamlin postcard of Clacton Belle.
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Photographic postcard of Clacton Belle.
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Woolwich Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1891-1922)
 
Woolwich Belle was built for Belle Steamers by William Denny & Bros in 1891. Actual ownership of Woolwich Belle was London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamboat Co (1891), Belle Steamers (1897), Coast Development Company (1898) and Coast Development Corporation (1905). Woolwich Belle was the smallest of the Belle Steamers, and was used mainly on feeder services from Ipswich and Harwich to Clacton, connecting with the London boats. She originally had a telescopic funnel, painted black, for passing under London Bridge. She was later given a full width fore saloon, similar to that of Southwold Belle.
 
The Coast Development Corporation failed in 1915, and after her war service, Woolwich Belle was acquired by her builders Dennys for refurbishment at their works to provide employment. She was not ready until the spring of 1922, and she was used by Channel Excursion Steamers as Queen of the South for excursions from Brighton, a year in which P.& A.Campbell could not spare vessels for south coast services. P.& A.Campbell were back the following year, and Queen of the South was withdrawn and laid up in September 1923. She was bought by The New Medway SP Co in November 1924, entering service the following summer, mainly on Strood-Southend services, but also general excursion work. Queen of the South was laid up at the end of the 1931 season and sold for scrap the following July.
 
 
Postcard of Woolwich Belle with original black funnel.
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Belle Steamers postcard of Woolwich Belle.
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Postcard of Woolwich Belle.
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Postcard of Woolwich Belle on the River Orwell.
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Postcard of Woolwich Belle at Ipswich.
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Postcard of Woolwich Belle.
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Art postcard of Woolwich Belle with fore saloon.
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London Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1893-1929)
 
In 1892, the Victoria Steamboat Association received the large new Koh-I-Noor, and the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea SS Co ordered a larger steamer to match her. This was the London Belle of 1893, which at 280 feet and 738 gross tons was to remain the largest vessel in the Belle Steamers fleet. She was the first Thames steamer to have triple expansion engines, which were fitted to all subsequent Belle Steamers. She operated the main daily sailing from London to Clacton for most of her Belle Steamers career, later joined by a smaller steamer which would continue to Yarmouth. After war service she did not return to servoce until 1923, making no sailing for the P.S.M. syndicate. She ran for the Royal Sovereign Steamship Company and the associated R.S Steamship Company mainly from London to Margate and Ramsgate (the other remaining Belle Steamers passed to the connected East Anglian Steamship Company which ran the Essex services). She was for breaking up in 1929.
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of London Belle.
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Belle Steamers postcard of London Belle on the Thames.
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Postcard of London Belle on the Thames.
 
 
Postcard of London Belle.
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Postcard of London Belle at Tilbury.
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Postcard of London Belle at Walton.
 
 
Postcard of London Belle at Clacton.
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Postcard of London Belle.
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Postcard of London Belle.
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Postcard of London Belle.
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Postcard of London Belle at Great Yarmouth.
 
 
Valentine's postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
Variations of this card were issued over many years - this one dated 1949
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Valentine's postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
Variations of this card were issued over many years
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Valentine's postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
Variations of this card were issued over many years - this one dated 1912
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Valentine's postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
Variations of this card were issued over many years
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Valentine's postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
On this variation, posted in 1961, the horse-drawn vehicles have been replaced by modern LT buses
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Postcard of London Belle passing through Tower Bridge.
A similar card using a different image
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Photographic postcard of London Belle.
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Photographic postcard of London Belle.
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Southend Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1896-1929)
 
Southend Belle was the last steamer delivered to the London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company, Belle Steamers Ltd being formed the following year. Southend Belle was not built for a specific service, working as required on all belle Steamers routes. She remained unused after the war until purchased by the East Anglian steamship Company in 1925. Southend Belle was sold to East Anglian Hotels in 1929, the owners of Clacton Pier, who feared a reduction in visitors after the demise of her former owners. She was overhauled and re-boilered and returned to service as the Laguna Belle, with ownership ttransferred to H.E.Kingsman (a director of the Clacton Pier Company). She also received a full width fore saloon and carried the unusual combination of a yellow funnel with a blue band, and a unique chevron on her bow. Laguna Belle ran direct from London to Clacton, without the usual stop at Southend, and was very successful. She was bought by the General Steam Navigation in 1936, continuing on the same service, but later substituting Port of London dock cruises on certain days. GSN purchased the New Medway Steam Packet Company in the same year, given them a monopoly of Thames excursion sailings.
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of Southend Belle.
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Postcard of Southend Belle.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Ramsgate.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Margate.
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Postcard of Southend Belle.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Great Yarmouth.
Yarmouth Belle in the distance
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Great Yarmouth.
Yarmouth Belle in the distance - variation on card above
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Great Yarmouth.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Clacton.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Great Yarmouth.
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Postcard of Southend Belle at Strood.
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Photographic postcard of Southend Belle.
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Modern art postcard of Southend Belle , but showing full width fore saloon.
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Walton Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1897-1925)
 
Walton Belle was built in 1897 for Belle Steamers in the one year that this was their official title, and she was unique in this respect (previous deliveries were initially owned by London, Woolwich & Clacton-on-Sea Steamship Company, whilst subsequent ships went to the Coast Development Company). She could be recognised by one large and two small ventilators immediately forward of the funnel. Walton Belle sailed from Great Yarmouth via Lowestoft and intermediate piers to Clacton, connecting with London Belle the for London. After war service, Walton Belle was chartered then sold to Messrs. Kingsman who had interests in Clacton Pier. She passed to the P.S.M.Syndicate, transferring to their East Anglia Steamship Company in 1925 with whom she ran that season only before being sold to The New Medway Steam Packet Company in time for the 1926 season. Clacton Belle was re-activated to take her services. Walton Belle was renamed Essex Queen, initially retaining her original appearance. In 1930 Essex Queen, was converted to oil firing. Her fore saloon was extended to the width of the hull, and she also received a new funnel. Essex Queen was laid up after the 1938 season, but surprisingly re-entered service briefly after the war for the South Western Steam Navigation Company from Torquay as Pride of Devon.
 
 
Postcard of Walton Belle at Walton Pier.
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Postcard of Walton Belle at Tilbury.
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Postcard of Walton Belle.
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Postcard of Walton Belle at Gorleston.
 
 
Photographic postcard of Walton Belle.
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Photographic postcard of Walton Belle.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yarmouth Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1898-1928)
 
Yarmouth Belle was built in 1898 for the Coast Development Company, designed for use on through London-Yarmouth sailings (previously a change at Clacton or Walton was necessary). She was similar to the Walton Belle of the previous year, but 10 feet longer at 240 ft, and 522 gross tons. Triple expansion engines gave a speed of 17 knots. After war service Yarmouth Belle was sold to the P.S.M. Syndicate, passing to the R.S.Steamship Company in 1925 and East Anglia Steamship Company in 1926 (all basically the same company). Yarmouth Belle was sold to The New Medway SP Co in 1928 and renamed Queen of Southend. In 1931 she had new oil burning boilers fitted, and over the winter of 1935/36 she received a radical rebuild with an extended promenade deck to the bow. In 1937 she received a new funnel. She was used on a wide variety of New Medway service. In 1938 Queen of Southend took over he Port of London Authority dock cruises and was renamed Thames Queen, succeeding Royal Daffodil (1). After WW2 war service, she was scrapped at Dover in 1948.
 
 
Postcard of Yarmouth Belle, on trials on the Clyde?
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
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Belle Steamers postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
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Belle Steamers postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
The steamer has a full width fore saloon, so is actually Southwold Belle?
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Postcard of Yarmouth Belle at Gorleston.
The steamer has a full width fore saloon, so is actually Southwold Belle?
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Postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
 
 
Postcard of Yarmouth Belle (distance) at Great Yarmouth.
Southend Belle in the foreground
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Postcard of Yarmouth Belle at Great Yarmouth.
 
 
Photographic postcard of Yarmouth Belle at Felixstowe.
I am undecided whether this is Walton Belle
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Postcard of Yarmouth Belle at Gorleston.
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Postcard of Yarmouth Belle at Gorleston.
 
 
Photographic postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
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Photographic postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
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Photographic postcard of Yarmouth Belle.
Titled Walton Belle on the card, but I think the ventilators above the saloon indicate Yarmouth Belle
 
 
 
 
 
 
Southwold Belle
(Belle Steamers: 1900-1912)
 
Southwold Belle was the last of the Belle Steamers, built by Denny's in 1900, and also the first to be disposed of. She was delivered to the Coast Development Corporation and was 245 feet long. Her owners were facing financial problems in the years leading up to the war, and so decided to sell their latest steamer since she would generate most capital. She went to the Hamburg-Amerika Line as Westerland, then a year later to Cherbourg as the Bon Voyage. In 1922 she was registered in Genoa, but was broken up in 1925, making her also the first Belle Steamer to be scrapped.
 
 
Belle Steamers postcard of Southwold Belle.
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Postcard of Southwold Belle.
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Postcard of Southwold Belle.
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Postcard of Southwold Belle at Clacton.
 
 
Postcard of Southwold Belle at Gorleston.
 
 
Photographic postcard of Southwold Belle.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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