Whilst viewing some illustrations recently of Skegness sea front showing the beach, pier and the sea as it looked around the early 1900’s it was very noticeable that the same view today looks very different, something is clearly missing. The beach looks the same with families enjoying either playing sporty games, digging in the sand or relaxing in the sun, there is the same thin line of bathers on the seas edge, but past this its looks very different. In the illustrations from the early 1900’s the 300 or so yards of sea close to the beach show many things happening, small craft, and yacht’s circulate and pleasure steamers leave the pier bound for the wash or Hunstanton. Today the only craft you are likely to see off our coast is the occasional Jet-ski or a distant trawler returning to Boston.
One of the most popular trips they ran was to Hunstanton in Norfolk. Here visitors could visit the grounds of nearby Sandringham estate. On the return trip to Skegness in the evening there would be an opportunity to visit the Lynwell Lightship – although this was as much for the crew to receive fresh supplies and mail.
These steamers ran until the end of 1910. There were various reasons for stopping. The profits were waning, the building up of sandbanks in the Wash made the Hunstanton trip even more difficult as the steamers had to make a further detour to get across to the other side, and the landing stage had to be removed due to it becoming unsafe.
One of the largest of these steamers used for the trips was P.S ‘May’. She was 116ft long with a beam of 18ft 8ins. She was licensed to carry 487 passengers on a river trip and 255 at sea. She could travel from Hull to Skegness in about three and a half hours.
It must have been quite a sight from the beach to watch these steamers leaving the pier head. To get a glimpse of what it was like take a look at the Pathe News film of P.S Brighton taken in 1900. http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=51929
To get a feel of how it would feel going on one of the Paddle steamers watch this short film of P.S Waverley passing the Pier Head at Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
I’m not sure about any pleasure craft operating pleasure trip from Skegness after the Paddle Steamers stopped running in 1910. I have an idea that there were trips organised using a small Hovercraft but I’m still researching this and will update on a future blog.
I would hope that despite all the difficulties of organising pleasure trips by sea that one day we will once again be able to enjoy trips to Hunstanton or even out to view the wind farms, I believe there would be an interest in these trips and maybe in the future money might become available to extend the pier and provide a jetty for such trips to take place, all we can do is hope.
If anyone would like to view more of the magnificent Paddle Steamers that used to sail along our coast, you can view some great pictures by visiting this site.