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Book relives glory days of Kent pleasure steamers

PUBLISHED: 15:56 12 February 2013 | UPDATED: 15:56 12 February 2013

The Waverley at the end of her season on the Thames at Gravesend in 2012. She then departed for the winter in Glasgow.

The Waverley at the end of her season on the Thames at Gravesend in 2012. She then departed for the winter in Glasgow.

Archant

Before the likes of Ryanair and easyJet began flying people abroad for discount prices, pleasure steamers along Britain's waterways were the holiday transport of choice.

Dining was a great tradition aboard Thames pleasure steamers to the Kent seaside resorts. This shows the interior of the grand dining saloon on the Royal Eagle.Dining was a great tradition aboard Thames pleasure steamers to the Kent seaside resorts. This shows the interior of the grand dining saloon on the Royal Eagle.

Steamers such as the Waverley, which moors at Gravesend every summer, and the Balmoral and Medway Queen, were a common sight at the piers and jetties of Kent’s many seaside resorts, including at Northfleet’s Rosherville Pleasure Gardens during the Victorian age.

Museum curator Andrew Gladwell, from Gravesend, has spent more than two decades researching the bygone era of pleasure steamers.

“I first got involved after going on a cruise on a steamer about 25 years ago and became interested in their history.

The Golden Eagle departing for the day from London at Tower Bridge.The Golden Eagle departing for the day from London at Tower Bridge.

“I really specialise in the Thames steamers because there aren’t many people writing about them – yet there is a lot of interest,” he says.

Andrew has published a series of titles looking at the steamer services of the Thames, the latest of which is dedicated to the London to Kent route.

By Steamer To The Kent Coast compiles several hundred photos of the ships and the resorts they sailed to, and is a lasting tribute to former times.

Waverley passing Greenwich in 1979. Her career had recommenced four years previously when she was restored and set to sail again.Waverley passing Greenwich in 1979. Her career had recommenced four years previously when she was restored and set to sail again.

“The pleasure steamers disappeared from the 1960s. As people got their own cars the steamers fell out of use and people began to use ferries,” he explains.

Pleasure steamers are, for Andrew, the best way to appreciate the country.

“I love to see the coastline and you can’t do that from a motorway. But there will never be a return to those days. There are a lot of people who remember the steamers and there is a lot of nostalgia around them.”

By Steamer To The Kent Coast is available at the following outlets: Towncentric, WHSmiths Gravesend and Booksharp, Gravesend.

For a discount visit www.amberleybooks.com

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