PS Lincoln Castle

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She lost her mainmast and her foremast was shortened after she came out of ferry service.
The PS Lincoln Castle in Alexandra Dock, Grimsby.
Career (UK) Red Ensign (UK)
Name: PS Lincoln Castle
Namesake: Lincoln Castle, Lincoln, England.
Owner: 1941-1978: LNER; British Rail; Sealink
Operator: LNER; Sealink
Port of registry: Grimsby, Lincolnshire

1941-1978: New Holland to Hull - Humber Estuary crossing

since 1981: Moored on the Humber
Ordered: 1939
Builder: A. & J. Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow
Christened: 27 April 1940, 4:30 p.m.
Completed: 4 July 1941
Maiden voyage: 4 August 1941
In service: 1941-1978
Homeport: Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Status: broken up in Alexandra Dock, Grimsby: restoration pending by LCPS
General characteristics
Type: Paddle steamer
Tonnage: 598 GT (gross tonnage)[1]
Length: 209 ft (64 m)
Beam: 56 ft (17 m) (including paddle box)
Propulsion: Triple expansion, diagonal stroke, reciprocating steam engine, 850 hp.
Speed: 12.0 knots (22.2 km/h; 13.8 mph)

PS Lincoln Castle was a coal-fired side-wheel paddle steamer, which ferried passengers across the Humber from the Second World War until 1978. She was the last coal-fired paddle steamer still in regular services in the UK. Later, she served as a pub at Hessle, and then as a restaurant under permanent dock in Alexandra Dock Grimsby. In September 2010, the Hull Daily Mail reported that she was in an advanced state of demolition, despite the efforts of local people to buy the historic vessel and restore her.[2] On 31 March 2011, The Lincoln Castle Preservation Society were reported to have purchased the broken up parts of the ship for restoration.[3][4]


at New Holland Pier in 1975.
crossing the Humber in 1975

PS Lincoln Castle was launched on 27 April 1940, by A. & J. Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow. She was named after the Norman castle at Lincoln. She was delivered to the LNER in Grimsby's Royal Dock on 4 July 1941 to complement the 1934 Wingfield Castle and Tattershall Castle built by Gray's of Hartlepool. She entered service on 4 August 1941 on the New Holland to Hull public service. The route was operated by the London and North Eastern Railway until nationalization in 1948, when it was taken over by British Railways, later known as British Rail. Lincoln Castle served this route until 1978, under Sealink management, when known to be unable to pass a boiler inspection. At the time of her withdrawal, she was the last coal-fired paddle steamer providing a daily scheduled service in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

Her faulty boiler removed, the paddle steamer was converted into a pub and opened at Hessle, close to the Humber Bridge which had, since 1981, rendered the remaining ferries obsolete. In 1987 she was re-sold and moved to Immingham for refurbishment. Her sponsons and funnel were removed and crankshaft cut to reduce her width and enable her to be pulled into Alexandra Dock at what was to be her last port of call. Re-assembled and refitted, she opened as a bar and restaurant in 1989 alongside the National Fishing Heritage Centre and Sainsbury's flagship branch on Grimsby's historic original Haven Alexandra Dock, Grimsby, close to the retired fishing trawler Ross Tiger. Thinning of her hull due to corrosion and pinhole seepage through some of her bottom plates led to her being taken out of public use in 2006, a move considered to be only temporary while repairs were conducted.

She was never to re-open.

In 2010 it was announced that unless a new owner could be found, the vessel could be scrapped, despite the fact that she was quite unique ( and yet somehow not listed on the Core Register of Historic Ships),[5] and had survived these 70 years in remarkable condition. Having been advertised for sale for a nominal sum, the vessel was offered to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society who were to seriously consider taking ownership. In the Autumn 2010 issue of the society magazine Paddle Wheels (no 201), the society's chairperson Myra Allen admitted that the decision not to acquire the ship had been 'a heartbreaking one, but our heads had to rule our hearts.' It was also stated that other avenues were being pursued, and that the PSPS was acting in support of the Lincoln Castle Preservation Society, formed to save the ship when all attempts to purchase it were rejected. In light of what was to follow the society has been criticised for declining to take on the Lincoln Castle, preferring to concentrate on their existing ships,[6] even though one, the MV Balmoral, is not a paddle-steamer.

The ship was advertised for sale in by the Marine shipbrokerage firm Norse Shore for the sum of GBP 20,000, a ridiculously low figure which was explained by the vessel being stuck in Alexandra dock and requiring partially dismantling in order to be moved. Norse Shore admitted later that NE Lincolnshire council had declared that the vessel had no historic interest to them at all, and were refusing to transfer the existing lease without a guarantee of around GBP 50,000 from a new lessee. Controversy has surrounded the move by which the owner placed the ship for sale and then seemingly sought to re-buff any inquiries; claims were made by the interested parties in news-letters and websites that negotiations with both the owner and with NE Lincolnshire Council were foundering despite repeated requests for information and assistance.

Despite a public outcry, 2010 photographs in the Grimsby Telegraph revealed how it was being reduced to a shadow of its former self. Demolition contractors could be seen tearing out the inside of the vessel at its berth in Alexandra Dock, Grimsby. The representatives of the owner had stated that they had completely ruled out any chance of transferring the vessel to the Hull-based Lincoln Castle Preservation Society. They cited the cost of dismantling the vessel, dredging the channel in order to move it seaward, and the cost of restoration as the prime reasons for refusing to sell. The statement amounted to saying 'You'll thank us for it one day,' and served to enrage onlookers as well as those with a vested interest in preserving the ship.[7]

Myra Allen of PSPS stated in Paddle Wheels that 'Even at one point when it seemed a sale of the ship was going ahead, the owner insisted that the bottom plates of the ship could not be sold, which of course makes a rescue attempt for the complete vessel impossible. The whole episode has been a heartbreaking one. Although demolition work had started some months ago, there were several buyers for the engine and other machinery, including a museum that had cleared a space to take the items, and we were actively involved in facilitating this. However destruction continued in spite of those interested parties, almost, it seemed, in haste.'

Despite protests and offers by LCPS to buy the ship at prices well in excess of the original asking price the scrapping of the ship went ahead. The website for the Foundation for Paddlesteamers Worldwide (Paddlesteamer Resources by Tramscape) placed the end of the demolition as being mid-October 2010, and expressed surprise at the turn of events, stating ‘ is clear that the owner never entered into any serious negotiations, especially with LCPS who had developed a plan for her removal, storage and restoration. There would appear to be more to this matter than meets the eye and the full story has yet to emerge.’

The anchor and chain from the vessel were offered to local conservation group the Friends of the Freshney, and they have already been installed in the nearby Duke of York Gardens in what will eventually form a floral display. Funding has been granted from the John Ross Foundation towards this project, and a plaque will be added given details of the historic vessel.

Restoration bid[edit]

On 31 March 2011, the Lincoln Castle Preservation Society launched a bid to buy the ship's parts from scrap and rebuild the vessel as a tourist attraction. As the vessel was dismantled by heavy machinery,[8] the salvaged parts would be fitted on a newly constructed steel hull.[3]


The PS Lincoln Castle was built as a great refinement on the earlier Humber ferry sisters, the PS Tattershall Castle and PS Wingfield Castle and was a different vessel in concept and construction. She had a straight stem and counter stern with the usual good lines of such a vessel though the paddle boxes and sponsons could give an impression of a greater beam. Her length was 209 feet (64 m) and beam 33 feet (10 m), excluding sponsons. She could carry up to twenty cars (on the after deck) and 1,200 passengers.

The PS Lincoln Castle was built with good reason in a different yard from the earlier vessels with a different engine with different layout and vastly different accommodations and equipment as any user of the three would amply testify. It was conceived of as a greatly different vessel and specification built on experience of some six years with the earlier pair of vessels and other paddle steamers. This vessel was unique; the ultimate design of its type as a sheltered-water paddle-steamer ferry and a vast improvement on the earlier two on this service from the engineer’s and passengers’ viewpoints, with superior passenger accommodation and a logical engineering layout, intentionally affording passengers unequalled views of the engine room and the engine in operation.[9]

All her working life, her boiler was coal-fired and its steam used to power a triple expansion diagonal reciprocating engine. This engine, built by Ailsa of Troon, Scotland, was a rare survivor of its type from this manufacturer and of particular historical significance due to its survival within the hull of its intended vessel. The cylinders were respectively 18 and 28.5 and 46 inches (0.46 and 0.72 and 1.17 m) in diameter with a 51 inches (1.3 m) stroke. The PS Lincoln Castle was different from the other vessels in the Humber ferry service in having her boiler forward of her engine, therefore her funnel was further forward than the others; just before midships, abaft the bridge and halfway between her two equally-sized masts.


For years, the Lincoln Castle ferried day-trippers between the banks of the Humber. Before she was laid up in 1981, she was described as "The Lady of the Humber" and was a regular sight on the water between Grimsby and Hull.[7]

The vessel was designed for and operated from New Holland to Hull (an important local factor financially, geographically, economically and socially, as the raison d’être of the ferry operation was to serve the north-east Lincolnshire hinterland of Grimsby in its connexion with the nearest city, Hull and its hinterland) by the LNER in Grimsby by J.F. Wood, the company's Superintendent Marine Engineer and formerly the company's ferry superintendent at New Holland where day-to-day management and operation were carried out. Port of Registry and home port was Grimsby throughout its working life.[9]

The success and importance of this operation can be judged from the fact that the Cleethorpes/Grimsby railway line to New Holland/Barrow Haven and Barton-on-Humber escaped the Beeching Axe while the direct line from Cleethorpes and Grimsby to London was closed.[9]


  1. ^ "Lloyd's Register". 1945. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  2. ^ 'Demolition teams move in to tear apart historic paddle steamer Lincoln Castle' Hull Daily Mail 15 September 2010. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Humber ferry hopes to sail again after £3.5 million rebuild". BBC News Online (BBC). 31 March 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Lincoln Castle"; Tramscape: Retrieved 8 May 2012
  5. ^ "Lincoln Castle". Greenwich: National Register of Historic Ships. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Letter in Grimsby Telegraph July 2010
  7. ^ a b "Is this the end for much-loved Lady Of The Humber?". Grimsby Telegraph. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Lincoln Castle". Paddle Steamer Resources by Tramscape. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c All data here, (exception the previously recorded dimensions) from original documents of the railway company and the personal records of J.F. Wood and his successors.[original research?]