Author Topic: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra  (Read 473 times)

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Offline pomme homme

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Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« on: March 03, 2022, 11:52:47 am »
Like the Britannia (see here), there was more than one paddle steamer named the Alexandra with a Sussex connection. This Alexandra had been built in 1879 for the the Isle of Wight service and by 1930 the work that she required to maintain her passenger certificate was such that her then owner, Cosens of Weymouth, put her up for sale. In 1931 she was sold for scrap but, before work started, in early 1932 she was sold on to Capt. Alfred Hawkes (of Littlehampton) and Clifford Whitley (a theatrical impresario) to be used as a floating dancehall and theatre on the Thames and was given the name Showboat. After an initial flush of success, evidently the appeal to Londoners (and the regulatory authorities) of this novelty venture diminished. She saw just a single season on the Thames. After being laid up for the winter, in June 1933 she moved to and was anchored off Margate. However it seems that the Showboat was even less successful there. Her sojourn off Margate was counted in weeks. By July 1933 the business had closed and by the middle of that month the Alexandra was moved to a berth at Shoreham, on the Adur upstream of the footbridge, to make another attempt for success as the Showboat. Sadly it was not a case of third time lucky. She opened in August and closed in September 1933. She remained moored at Shoreham until the following year. She was then sold to Capt. Andrew Hardie, who planned to take her to Manchester to chance her luck there as the Showboat. But the sale fell though and these plans came to nothing. Thus she stayed on the mud at Shoreham until sold to breakers, T.W.Ward Ltd. at Grays. In tow of a tug, in October 1934 the Alexandra eased, with no small degree of difficulty, through the footbridge (presumably the sliding centre section, of the now replaced bridge, then slid), downstream and out to sea. She made her last voyage along the Sussex coast (where her namesake had plied her trade thirty and more years earlier), past Margate and back into the Thames. She was broken up before 1934 was out and her register was closed.     

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2022, 12:04:38 pm »
The PS Alexandra (aka Showboat) moored on the Adur, just off what is now Coronation Green. If you look closely, you can see the old footbridge just astern of the paddle steamer.

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2022, 21:56:41 pm »
Pathé newsreel footage of the Showboat on the Thames (it's good to have a qualified embedder about  ;))


Offline pomme homme

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Re: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2022, 09:59:26 am »
In preparation for becoming the Showboat, an additional upper covered hall was added aft of the funnel of the PS Alexandra. It can be seen clearly on the photograph of the vessel moored at Shoreham. Unlike at Margate and Shoreham, where she operated as a stationary vessel, whilst on the Thames the Showboat cruised between Greenwich and Richmond whilst entertaining her paying customers. Thus one must assume that, whilst she was on the premises of Pollock, Brown & Co. (the Southampton shipbreakers to whom she was sold in 1931), work was undertaken, to satisfy the Board of Trade, sufficient for her to be granted a passenger certificate.

The 235 ton PS Alexandra was built on the Clyde in 1879 for the Isle of Wight (Portsmouth - Ryde) service of the Port of Portsmouth & Ryde United Packet Co. Ltd.. Her port of registry was Portsmouth. The following year she transferred to the LB&SCR and the LNWR. They operated her for 33 years until she was sold, in only a year, first to Fraser & White Ltd. and then to Bembridge & Seaview Steam Ship Co. Ltd., both of Portsmouth, before being acquired by Cosens & Co. Ltd., of Weymouth, in 1914. In 1915 she was chartered by Capt. Sidney Shippick to serve as an Admiralty ferry between Gillingham and Sheerness. Then in 1916 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and, for the remainder of the First World War, became HMS Alexis, an auxillary patrol vessel, before being returned to Cosens in 1920. As mentioned above, in 1931 she was sold to Pollock, Brown & Co. Ltd., of Southampton, before being bought by Alfred Hawkes, of Littlehampton, the following year. That same year the vessel was in the names of both Hawkes and Clifford Whitley but Whitley was the sole owner by the end of 1932. That remained the case until she was scrapped in 1934.   

Offline pomme homme

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Re: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2023, 14:24:16 pm »
The PS Kingswear Castle website contains 'a report in the local paper' (sadly, neither the name of the newspaper nor the date of the report is given), concerning the final voyage of the PS Alexandra, which says:

Quote
The Show Boat Alexandra, which has been stationed on the River Adur at Shoreham for the last year, left for the Thames by the mid-day tide yesterday being consigned to a firm of ship breakers at Grays in Essex. Considerable public interest was manifest in her departure, her destination being Messrs Thomas Ward ship breakers of London. The London tug Venturous came for her, the harbour tug being at present in dry-dock. On Wednesday an attempt to get her through the footbridge proved futile, there being very little room to spare for a boat of her beam. Another attempt was made that day. Again, a large concourse of people witnessed the operation and this time she safely negotiated the bridge although scraping the south side of the bridge opening and damaging a gate. Apparently however on the face of it the damage to the structure is small. Passengers waiting to cross the bridge who had their gaze concentrated through the gate however jumped back quickly in alarm. The tug then proceeded on her way down the river, out of the harbour and up Channel without further incident.

Offline PNK

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Re: Shoreham & Margate's floating dance hall - the PS Alexandra
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2023, 17:20:00 pm »
There must have been a taste for offshore party boats in the 1930's as my research uncovered one in Essex off the coast of Mersea Island but it gained a reputation for bawdy parties. That ship became a bombing target during WW2.