Post-office steam packets

Mail had for many years been carried at sea by vessels contracted to the Post Office - initially sailing vessels. With the introduction of steam packets in the 1820s, the Post Office started to use their own steam vessels on some routes. The first such routes were Holyhead to Dublin (actually Howth) and Dover to Calais - both in 1821. In some cases (eg Ivanhoe at Holyhead) existing steam packets were bought by the Post Office; in other cases (eg Talbot at Holyhead and Monarch at Dover) existing steam packets moved to other routes where there was no competition from the Post Office.

Further routes serviced by Post Office steam packets were Milford (or Pembroke) to Dunmore (for Waterford) from 1824, Liverpool to Dun Laoghaire (for Dublin) from 1826; Portpatrick to Donaghadee from 1826; Weymouth to the Channel Islands from 1827. By 1837, the Post Office owned 26 wooden paddle steamers. These vessels were referred to as His Majesty's Post Office packet steamers; they were not registered like conventional commercial vessels and they were independent of the Royal Navy.

This situation changed in 1837, when, because of the perceived inefficiency and large cost, the Post Office steamers were assigned to the Admiralty (Royal Navy) and renamed. The majority continued to ply the same routes, with departure timings still determined by the Post Office. Some [Ivanhoe and Aetna] were assigned to other naval duties and some new vessels were purchased [by 1838, new vessels Urgent (ex-Colonsay 1837); Prospero (ex-Belfast 1834); Dasher (1837); Widgeon(1837)]. Lloyds Register for 1838-1849 has an appendix [A list of the steam packets employed in the conveyance of mails, under the orders of the Board of Admiralty] listing these vessels. Other sources of information are newspapers, Royal Navy records, and shipbuilders records.

Eventually, the Admiralty service was seen as inefficient and costly too, and commercial operators were contracted to provide the mail service - known initially as mail contract steamers, later as Royal Mail Steamers.

List of steam packets owned by the Post Office - in order of date of build, with builder, tonnage, engine hp, initial route, name/route 1837 [click for more detail]:
Ivanhoe 1820, Scott, Greenock, 157, 56, Holyhead, HMS Boxer, -
Meteor 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, 190, 80, Holyhead, wrecked 1830
Lightning 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, 205, 80, Holyhead, HMS Monkey, Milford
Dasher 1821, Paterson, Rotherhithe, 130, 40, Dover, wrecked 1830
Arrow 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, 149, 40, Dover, HMS Ariel, Dover
Vixen 1822, Deptford, 189, 80, Holyhead, HMS Advice, Milford
Harlequin 1823, Wigram, Blackwall, 234, 80, Milford, HMS Sprightly, Holyhead
Aladdin 1823, Falmouth, 230, 90, Milford, HMS Jasper, Milford
Fury 1824, Graham, Harwich, 110, 40, Dover, HMS Asp, Portpatrick
Spitfire 1824, Graham, Harwich, 111, 40, Dover, HMS Pike, Portpatrick
Cinderella 1824, Wigram, Blackwall, 234, 80, Milford, HMS Cuckoo, Holyhead
Crocodile 1825, Graham, Harwich, 237, 80, Milford, HMS Adder, Milford
Wizard 1826, Graham, Harwich, 237, 80, Holyhead, HMS Otter, Holyhead
Watersprite 1826, Graham, Harwich, 162, 60, Weymouth, HMS Wildfire, Weymouth
Thetis 1825, Graham, Harwich, 300, 140, Liverpool, HMS Avon, Liverpool
Aetna 1825, Humble, Liverpool, 300, 150, Liverpool, HMS Kite, -
Comet 1825, Humble, Liverpool, 300, 150, Liverpool, HMS Lucifer, Liverpool
Dolphin 1826, Graham, Harwich, 323, 160, Liverpool, HMS Shearwater, Liverpool
Escape 1826, Graham, Harwich, 237, 100, Holyhead, HMS Doterel, Holyhead
Crusader 1827, Graham, Harwich, 125, ?, Dover, HMS Charon, Dover
Jonathan Hulls 1826, Lang, Dumbarton, 50, Liverpool, sold 1833, named Sir John Moore.
Sibyl 1826/7, Graham, Harwich?, 227, 100, Milford, HMS Pigmy, Milford
Dragon 1827, Graham, Harwich, 237, 100, Holyhead, HMS Zephyr, Holyhead
Salamander 1827, Graham, Harwich, 128, 50, Dover, HMS Beaver, Dover
Flamer 1831, Fletcher, London, 165, 60, Dover, HMS Fearless, Weymouth
Firefly 1831, Fletcher, London, 116, 50, Dover, HMS Myrtle, Dover
Ferret 1831, Pitcher, Northfleet, 133, ?, Dover, HMS Swallow, Dover
Gulnare 1834, Chatham, 306, 100, Dover, HMS Gleaner, Holyhead
Richmond 1834, Hunter, Glasgow, 139, 60, Liverpool, HMS Redwing, Liverpool

In addition to those above transferred to the RN (owner Admiralty), additional steam vessels were obtained for the postal service in the period between 1837 and before the takeover by commercial vessels around 1850. As new vessels were introduced, previous vessels were transferred to other RN duties (as gunboat, survey vessel, tender or tug), sold or scrapped.
In order of date of commission (with build if earlier), with builder, tonnage, engine hp, initial route, whether iron.
Prospero 1837 (ex-Belfast 1829), Wood, Port Glasgow, 244, 150, Milford
Urgent 1837 (ex-Colonsay 1837), Duncan, Greenock, 711, 284, Liverpool
Dasher 1837, Chatham, 357, 100, Weymouth
Widgeon 1837, Chatham, 164, 90, Dover
Merlin 1838, Pembroke, 889, 320, Liverpool
Medusa 1838, Pembroke, 889, 320, Liverpool
Medina 1840, Pembroke, 889, 320, Liverpool
Dover 1840, Lairds, 224, 90, Dover, iron
Princess Alice 1844 (b 1843), Ditchburn, Blackwall, 270, 90, Dover, iron
Onyx 1845, Ditchburn, Blackwall, 292, 128, Dover, iron
Violet 1845, Ditchburn, Blackwall, 292, 128, Dover, iron
Undine 1847 (ex-Ondine 1845), Miller, Blackwall, 284, 100, Dover, iron
Garland 1846, Fletcher, Limehouse, 295, 120, Dover
Vivid 1848, Chatham, 352, 160, Dover,
St Columba 1847, Lairds, 654, 350, Holyhead, iron
Banshee 1847, Thomson, Rotherhithe, 670, 350, Holyhead
Caradoc 1847, Mare, Blackwall, 676, 350, Holyhead, iron
Llewellyn 1848, Miller, Blackwall, 654, 400, Holyhead, iron

Service of these Admiralty vessels as reported in Lloyds Register from 1838 to 1849. The Weymouth service ended 1845, Milford 1848, Liverpool 1848, Portpatrick 1849, Holyhead 1850, Dover 1854 (with Garland, Onyx, Princess Alice, Violet, Vivid, Undine).
• Holyhead: Doterel -48, Otter -48, Sprightly -48, Zephyr -47, Gleaner -39, Cuckoo -39, St Columba 48-49, Banshee 48-49, Caradoc 48-49, Llewellyn 48-49,
• Liverpool: Lucifer -39, Shearwater -40, Urgent -48, Redwing -48, Avon -39, Medusa 40-48, Merlin 40-48, Medina 41-48,
• Milford: Monkey -39, Adder -48, Advice -48, Jasper -48, Prospero 38-48, Pigmy 40-48,
• Dover: Ariel -42, Beaver -44, Charon -47, Myrtle -40, Swallow -45, Widgeon -48, Dover 41-47, Princess Alice 44-49, Garland 46-49, Onyx 46-49, Violet 46-49, Vivid 48-49, Undine 49-49,
• Weymouth: Fearless -39, Cuckoo 40-44, Wildfire -44, Dasher -44,
• Portpatrick: Asp -49, Pike -49,

Summary of RN steam packets in early 1848:
[from London Evening Standard - Thursday 17 February 1848]:
The Royal Navy in Commission: ...
• Steam-Packets.
Ships. Guns. Men. Tons. h.p. Commanders.
Adder 1 19 240 100 Mr. Hammond
Advice 1 19 240 100 Lieut. Petch
Antelope* 3 60 649 260 Lieut. Smyth
Asp 1 10 112 50 Lieut. Oke
Doterel 1 18 237 100 Mr. Grey
Garland 1 17 300 128 Mr. L. Smithett
Jasper 1 - 240 100 Mr. Rose
Medina 2 40 889 320 Mr. Smithett
Medusa 2 41 889 320 Lieut. Raymond
Merlin 2 41 889 320 Lieut. Mann
Oberon* 3 60 659 260 Lieut. Gardiner
Onyx* 1 17 292 128 Lieut. Mudge
Otter 1 18 237 120 Lieut. Wylde
Pigmy 1 19 240 100 Lieut. Darby
Pike 1 10 112 50 Lieut. Boyter
Princess Alice* 1 17 270 110 Lieut. Scriven
Prospero 1 21 300 144 Mr. Rundle
Redwing 1 19 139 60 Lieut. Aplin
Sprightly 1 18 234 100 Mr. Moon
Urgent 2 36 561 240 Lieut. Symes
Violet* 1 16 300 128 Mr. Sherlock
Widgeon 1 15 225 90 Lieut. Raymond
Zephyr 1 18 287 100 Lieut. Ladd
  The above 23 vessels are employed in the packet service. Those marked with an asterisk are iron vessels. The Antelope and Oberon are new ships, just sent to the Mediterranean [so not Post Office packets]. The Onyx, Violet, and Princess Alice are on the Dover station, the latter was bought of Ditchburne and Mares for £11,350. The Garland and Widgeon are also employed at Dover; the Asp and Pike are employed at Portpatrick; Adder, Advice, Jasper, Pigmy, and Prospero, at Pembroke; Medina, Medusa, Merlin, Redwing, and Urgent, at Liverpool; and Doterel, Otter, Sprightly, and Zephyr, at Holyhead.
  The Banshee, 650 tons, 380 horse power, has since been added to the list in commission, which makes the numbers:- Ships, 24; guns, 31; men, 549; tons, 9191; horse power, 3808. The Banshee is one of the four new packets built for Holyhead, and is fitting at Woolwich.
[Other commissioned RN vessels listed in the report and which were previously post office packets]:
• Steam-Gun-Vessels.
Ships. Guns. Men. Tons. h.p. Lieut. Commanders.
Avon 2 61 550[sic] 160 B. Cator
Dasher 2 34 260 100 A. Parks
Lucifer 3 50 387 180 Risk
• Troop-Steamers, Tugs, &c.
Ships. Guns. Men. Tons. h.p. Commanders.
Gleaner 2 25 351 130
Kite 1 31 300 170 Balliston, 2d mast
Monkey - - 212 80 J. Bryant, 2d mast
The Gleaner is a tug at Bermuda - the Kite is on her way out to relieve her.
• Yachts and Tenders.
Ships. Guns. Men. Tons. h.p. Commanders.
Undine* - 22 284 106 Allen, master
Wildfire 1 23 186 75 Brockman, 2d m
The Undine is an iron vessel, well known for her excellent speed and seagoing qualities and the strength of her metallic frame, was purchased in February, 1847, for £10,936. She is the commander in chief's yacht tender at Portsmouth. The Wildfire is the commander in chief's tender at the Nore.

List of His Majesty's Post Office Steam Packets

Wooden paddle steamer Ivanhoe, built Scott, Greenock, 1820, 157tons (bm), 102 x 18 x 11ft, 56hp. First owned in Greenock and registered there - provided a packet service from Holyhead to Dublin. Bought by the Post Office in 1823 to provide the same service, later transferred to other PO routes. In 1837 acquired by Admiralty (RN) and transferred to service as a tug and survey vessel (named Boxer). Decommissioned by RN 1841.
  [from Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Saturday 13 August 1825]: Milford Aug 8: The substitution of steam packets between this place and Waterford, in lieu of the old post office sailing packets, has already been attended with great advantages, the mails being now transmitted with the utmost regularity. A few weeks back a new river-built vessel, the Crocodile, arrived on the station. She has engines of eighty horse power, and is not only a very handsome packet, but is in all respects very superior vessel of her class. The Ivanhoe has just been sent from here to London, and her place will be supplied by a new packet, now building at Harwich; the Ivanhoe's engines being only of sixty horse power, were not adequate to this station in the winter season. The present vessels rarely exceed nine hours in making the passage from Milford to Dunmore, so that passengers are now enabled to breakfast in this place and eat their dinners at Waterford.

Wooden paddle steamer Meteor, built 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, for the Post Office mail service from Holyhead to Howth, 190 tons, side-lever engines 80 hp by Boulton & Watt.
1824 on Milford - Waterford service and 1828 on Weymouth - Channel Islands service.
  Wrecked 1830 near Portland Bill.
  Meteor at Holyhead in 1821:

Wooden paddle steamer Lightning, built 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, for the Post Office mail service from Holyhead to Howth. 205 tons, side-lever engines 80 hp by Boulton & Watt,
In August 1821 carried King George to Ireland (Howth) from Holyhead since adverse winds delayed the Royal Yacht. As a result, she was renamed Royal Sovereign. Image of her at that time: [from Painting by Wm John Huggins 1822; NMM, Greenwich]

Transferred to the Milford-Waterford service in 1824.
Offered for sale [from Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser - Tuesday 24 June 1834]:
BY DIRECTION OF HIS MAJESTY'S POSTMASTER-GENERAL. On TUESDAY, July 1, at Half-past two o'clock, at Lloyd's Coffee-house, Cornhill, London, The Steam-packet ROYAL SOVEREIGN, 205 tons builders' measurement, copper-fastened and coppered, River-built, by Mr. Evans, under contract for the Postoffice Service, and propelled by two engines of forty horse power each, made by Bolton and Watt; had new boilers recently, and has been employed on the Milford station, the hull, marine, and engineer's stores, as well as the cabin equipments, being in excellent order. She is well deserving the notice of companies increasing their establishment, and to individuals for employment either for foreign or home service; now lying in the South West India Dock. For inventories and further particulars apply to WILLIAM WOOLCOMBE, 1, Freeman's-court, Cornhill, London.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Monkey; Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.

Wooden paddle steamer Dasher, built 1821, Paterson, Rotherhithe, 130 tons, 100 x 17 x 6 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 40hp. Initial service, for the Post Office, on the Dover - Calais route.
Transferred to the Portpatrick - Donaghadee service 1825.
Wrecked 1830 at Portpatrick.

Wooden paddle steamer Arrow, built 1821, Wm Evans, Rotherhithe, 149 tons, 100 x 17 x 9 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 40hp. Initial service, for the Post Office, on the Dover - Calais route.
Transferred to the Portpatrick - Donaghadee service 1825.
When replaced in 1830 by Spitfire on Portpatrick service, used as a tug and on other services.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Ariel and used for the Dover service until 1842. Sold to commercial interests 1850.
Image of her, as Dover packet Ariel, on 6 February 1840, bringing Prince Albert to Dover: [detail from painting by Wm Aldolphus Knell in Royal collection]

Wooden paddle steamer Vixen, built 1822, H.M. Dockyard, Deptford, 189 tons, 115 x 19 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 80 hp. Owned Post Office and first service on Holyhead-Howth route in 1823. Transferred to Milford-Waterford 1824.
In 1827 went to Graham, Harwich, for repairs.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Advice and used for the Milford-Waterford service until 1848. Later used as a RN steam tender.
  [from Saunders's News-Letter - Friday 17 January 1823]: Arrival extraordinary. Yesterday the beautiful Steam Vessel Vixen, Captain Rogers, arrived at the Parade [Waterford] from London and Milford, with George Freeling, Esq. on board, son of Francis Freeling, Esq. the General Post Office, London. The Vixen, we understand, is to proceed to Holyhead, to be employed on the Dublin Packet station. Her visit, however, probably is not entirely unconnected with the Waterford and Milford Packets. We hear, from excellent authority, that four Steam Packets are being built for this station.
  Suffolk Chronicle Saturday 23 September 1826: His Majesty's Steam packet, Vixen, was launched this day from Mr. Graham's Dock-yard, after having undergone repair.

Wooden paddle steamer Harlequin, built 1823, Wigram & Green, Blackwall, 234 tons, 119 x 20 ft, engines by Maudslay & Co of 100 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Milford-Waterford 1824.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Sprightly and used for the Holyhead-Dublin service until 1848. Later used as a RN steam tender.

Wooden paddle steamer Aladdin, built 1823, Falmouth, 230 tons, 126 x 21 ft, engines by Fawcett & Preston of 80 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1824 on Milford-Waterford route.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Jasper and used for the Milford-Waterford service until 1848.
Caught fire and sank 15 May 1854 off Beachy Head while proceeding to the Baltic as a gunboat.
  [from Exeter Flying Post - Thursday 4 December 1823]: The Aladdin steam-packet built by Mr. Simmons, of Little Falmouth, which stopped in the launch on the first inst. by the settlement of the beach, was on Monday last completely launched at half past four in the afternoon. She is a very fine vessel, extremely well built, and is likely to prove a very fast sailer.
  [from Royal Cornwall Gazette - Saturday 17 April 1824]: On Tuesday last, the Aladdin, Cinderella and Harlequin steam packets, the former built at Falmouth sailed for Milford.
  [from Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 22 April 1824]: Wednesday arrived at Milford the new Post-office steam packets, Aladdin, 90-horse power, Cinderella, and Harlequin, each 80-horse power, which left Falmouth the preceding afternoon at two o'clock. They are very fine well-built vessels, and steam well, as they were only half an hour reaching their anchorage (against a half-ebb strong tide) from the entrance the harbour, a distance of between seven and eight miles. Another steam packet is to be introduced on the station in a short time.
  [from Belfast Commercial Chronicle - Wednesday 07 September 1825]: ..ascertaining who were the best engine makers, a series of experiments were, some time ago, made with three steam packets on the Milford station, which were of precisely the same size and construction, and fitted with engines of the same power, but furnished by different houses. These vessels were the Harlequin, the Cinderella, and the Aladdin; the engines of the first being made by Messrs. Maudslay and Co. of London; of the second by Messrs. Boulton and Watt; and the last by a house at Liverpool.
  Northampton Mercury - Saturday 20 May 1854: Explosion of Baltic Gunboat. The Government gunboat the Jasper, with 33 hands on board, blew up on Monday morning 12 miles off Beachy Head, but happily no life was lost. The Jasper left Portsmouth Harbour on Saturday morning for the Baltic, under the command Lieutenant Crawley, having about two tons of powder on board and other ammunition. They had proceeded as far as Beachy Head, when about half-past six in the morning they discovered fire between the boiler and the powder magazine. Every effort was made to extinguish the flames, but without avail. For nearly two hours the crew remained in the vessel exerting themselves to arrest the progress of the fire, but finding that there was no prospect of getting it under, and that the flames were rapidly approaching the magazine, they deemed it expedient to quit the ship in their three boats. They lay by the vessel, at safe distance, for nearly half an hour, when the flames and smoke subsided, and some of the crew volunteered to return to the vessel; almost at the same instant the flames burst forth with renewed violence, and in a few moments more, about half-past nine o'clock, the vessel blew up. The crew were picked up by the Vanguard, of Liverpool, Crosby, Master, which took them to within about three miles of Brighton, where they safely landed in their boats at 7 p.m., and proceeded forthwith to Portsmouth, having lost nearly everything on board.

Wooden paddle steamer Fury, built 1824, Graham, Harwich, 110 tons, 94 x 16 x 6 ft, side-lever engines of 40 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Dover.
1830 transferred to Portpatrick service as replacement for Dasher.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Asp and used for the Portpatrick service until 1849. Later used as a RN steam tender.
  Harwich. Friday se'nnight the Fury, Post Office steam packet, was launched from Mr. Graham's Dock-yard, She went off in fine style, and has since proceeded to London, to take in her engines. [from Bury and Norwich Post Wednesday 12 May 1824]

Wooden paddle steamer Spitfire, built 1824, Graham, Harwich, 111 tons, 94 x 16 x 6 ft, side-lever engines of 40 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Dover.
Transferred to Portpatrick service.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Pike and used for the Portpatrick service until 1849. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.
  Sailed the Arrow steam packet, to Harwich, for the purpose of bringing round the Spitfire, a new vessel just launched, intended as a steam packet for the Dover and Calais station. Portsmouth. Jan. 18. [from Morning Post Tuesday 20 January 1824]

Wooden paddle steamer Cinderella, built 1824, Wigram & Green, Blackwall, 234 tons, 119 x 20 x 12 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 80 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Milford-Waterford.
Transferred to Holyhead service.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Cuckoo and used for the Holyhead service until 1839 and Weymouth service until 1844. Later employed as a steam tender and as a gunboat.

Wooden paddle steamer Crocodile, built 1825, Graham, Harwich, 237 tons, 116 x 21 x 12 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 80 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Milford.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Adder and used for the Milford service until 1848. Later used as a RN steam tender.
  On Saturday, the steam packet, named the Crocodile, intended for his Majesty's Post-office service, was launched from Mr. Graham's dock-yard. His Majesty's steam packet Arrow has arrived to tow her round. We understand several others are to be built. [from Saturday 12 February 1825 Suffolk Chronicle]
  [from Bristol Mercury - Monday 17 December 1827]: Milford Steam Packets.- On Tuesday morning last, the Crocodile, steam-packet, Captain Nuttall, with the mail for Waterford, was forced back by the heavy sea off Milford, but sailed again at noon, it having moderated, and saved the mail at Dunmore; she also arrived in time back on Wednesday evening, with the mail from Dunmore. - These packets continue to ply regularly, in despite of wind and weather, and arrive at their destination almost as certain as a mail-coach.

Wooden paddle steamer Wizard, built 1826, Graham, Harwich, 237 tons, 120 x 21 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 80 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1827 Holyhead.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Otter and used for the Holyhead service until 1848. Later used as a steam tender and a gunboat.
  [from The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 26 August 1826]: Harwich, August 25. Tuesday last a fine steam packet, named the Wizard, was launched from Mr. Graham's dock-yard.

Wooden paddle steamer Watersprite, built 1826, Graham, Harwich, 162 tons, 107 x 17 x 12 ft, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 60 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1827 Weymouth - Channel Islands. In 1836, lengthened by White at Gosport to 114 ft, 185 tons, and fitted with new engines of 75hp by Boulton & Watt.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Wildfire and used for the Weymouth service until 1844. Later used as a RN steam tender.
  Image of Watersprite: [from here]

 [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Tuesday 11 October 1836]: By Direction of his Majesty's Postmaster-General. At LLOYD'S COFFEE-HOUSE, CORNHILL, On FRIDAY, Oct 14, at Half-past Two, THE FOLLOWING MACHINERY; Ex Watersprite Steam-packet: One pair 30 horse cylinders, 3 feet stroke, with pistons. Ex Salamander: One pair 25 horse cylinders 3 feet stroke; one 50 horse boiler, and 2 cast-iron steam pipes, and sundries. Lying in a craft at the South West India Dock. Catalogues will be timely delivered by WM. WOOLCOMBE. 1. Freemans-court, Cornhill.

Wooden paddle steamer Thetis, built August 1825, Graham, Harwich, 300 tons, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 140 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1826 Liverpool.
Caught fire 1834 but rebuilt and lengthened by 15ft at Liverpool.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Avon and used for the Liverpool service until 1839. Later used as a RN steam tender.
  [from Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current - Monday 05 September 1825]: On Wednesday night was launched from the Naval Yard at Harwich, his Majesty's Post-office Steam-packet Thetis. This beautiful vessel is upwards of 300 tons burden, and, a perfect piece of naval architecture, does infinite credit to Mr. Graham, the builder. The Thetis is to be propelled by Boulton and Watt's engines of 140-horse power, and intended for the conveyance of the mails and Government dispatches between Liverpool and Dublin. She is commanded by Captain Townley.
  The steam packet Meteor, has arrived here for the purpose of taking in tow his Majesty's steam packet Thetis, lately launched from the naval dock-yard at this place. She is intended for the Irish station. [from Suffolk Chronicle Saturday 1 October 1825]

Wooden paddle steamer Dolphin, built January 1826, Graham, Harwich, 323 tons, side-lever engines by Boulton & Watt of 150 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1826 Liverpool.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Shearwater and used for the Liverpool service until 1840. Used by RN for surveying, decommissioned 1857.
  This day (Thursday) a fine new steam packet, named the Dolphin, intended for the Post-office service, was launched from Mr. Graham's dock-yard. [from Suffolk Chronicle Saturday 28 January 1826]

Wooden paddle steamer Aetna/Etna, built July 1825, Humble & Hurry, Liverpool, 323 tons, 124 x 23 x 14 ft, side-lever engines by Fawcett & Preston of 150 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1826 Liverpool.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Kite; Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.

Wooden paddle steamer Comet, built July 1825, Humble & Hurry, Liverpool, 387 tons, 155 x 23 x 14 ft, side-lever engines by Fawcett & Preston of 190 hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1826 Liverpool.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Lucifer on Liverpool Service until 1839. Involved in collision with ship Westchester 23 March 1838. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.
  [from London Courier and Evening Gazette - Friday 22 July 1825]: Two fine steam-packets, Etna and Comet, built for the service of the Post-office, to convey the mails between Liverpool and Dublin, were launched from the yard of Messrs. Humble and Hurry, at Liverpool, the 19th inst.
Image of a Paddle steamer off Perch Rock in the Mersey, 1831, by Samuel Walters. Often described as Ariel (ex-Arrow) but much more likely to be one of the Liverpool-based Post-Office steamers (Etna, Thetis, Dolphin, Comet). [from NMM, Greenwich]

  [from Liverpool Mercury - Friday 23 March 1838]:
LIVERPOOL, FRIDAY, MARCH, 23, 1838. Serious Collision. Her Majesty's Mail Steam Packet Lucifer, commanded by Lieut. Tudor, R. N., an experienced officer, well known in Liverpool, left George's Pier with the mail and passengers for Kingstown on Tuesday evening, at about half-past six o'clock. On reaching the red buoy off the Rock Lighhouse, she perceived the American ship Westchester, from Savannah, running in through the Rock channel before the wind, it blowing a strong gale at the moment. Not attempting to cross the ship's course, the Lucifer, according to custom, put her helm to starboard and steered in towards the Battery. At this moment the Westchester suddenly, from what cause is unknown, luffed up and steered straight for the Lucifer: the latter having to run inside the buoy, and being nearly on shore, without any opening for escape, stopped, and then reversed her engines. The Westchester, however, steered so as to strike the Lucifer exactly amidships, breaking through the paddle-box, sponsons, and wheel, and driving all in-board - then swept away the gunwhale aft to the quarter, and knocked the chimney overboard. The Lucifer was now wholly disabled, and the Westchester dropped astern clear. To the astonishment of all, however, she then filled her sails, ranged up and ran on board the Lucifer on the opposite quarter, leaving her in possession of the American ship's head. The Lucifer was immediately brought to an anchor, and on Wedensday morning towed into port by three steamers. We deeply regret to add, that in attempting to leap on board the American ship, a passenger, (Lieut. Brooke, of the 1st Royals,) was jammed between the vessels, and had both his legs broken, and dreadfully lacerated. He was removed early on Wednesday morning to Woodside Hotel, where his injuries were dressed by Messrs. Bickersteth, Stephenson, and Vale: an express was despatched for his brother, Sir Arthur Brooke, who is on a visit near Macclesfield. As a report has been circulated that the Lucifer ran on board the Westchester, we may observe, that the cutwater of the American ship struck the Lucifer, as already stated, exactly amidships. Indeed had the blow been before or abaft the paddle-box, the Lucifer must have gone to the bottom.

Wooden paddle steamer Escape, built 1826, Graham, Harwich, 237 tons, 100 hp engines. Owned Post Office and first service 1827 Holyhead.
1832 Fatal accident to Captain Skinner and mate.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Doterel and used for the Holyhead service until 1848. Decommissioned 1850.

Wooden paddle steamer Crusader, built 1827, Graham, Harwich, 125 tons. Owned Post Office and first service Dover.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Charon and used for the Dover service until 1847. Sold to Trinity House 1849.
  Harwich, February 2. Tuesday last, a fine Steam Packet, named the Crusader, intended for the Post-Office service, was launched from Mr. Graham's Dock Yard. [from Ipswich Journal, Saturday 03 February 1827]
  [from Morning Advertiser - Tuesday 08 May 1827]: The new Post-office packet, the Crusader, still maintains her superiority over every other vessel, and is fully expected, that, after her machinery and gear have been matured, she will prove the fastest vessel ever known between this port [Dover] and Calais, She entered the harbour with such velocity, that before she could be stopped, she ran against the Cross-wall, and damaged her figure head.

Wooden paddle steamer Jonathan Hulls, built James Lang, Dumbarton, 1826, 75 tons, engines 50 hp by Murdoch & Cross, Glasgow. Owned by Post Office from 1827, used as a mail tender at Liverpool until 1834, when Richmond took over this rôle. Then sold to New Brighton ferry service, renamed as Sir John Moore. [Jonathan Hulls was a pioneer designer of steam engines]

Image of her as New Brighton Ferry, Sir John Moore, (after 1834) by Samuel Walters, 3 views, with New Brighton in the background.

[from Gore's Liverpool General Advertiser - Thursday 26 July 1827]:
SHIP-LETTERS. The delays and irregularities so often complained of with respect to bringing ship-letters to the Post office will now be completely obviated, as his Majesty's Postmaster-General has appointed a person duly authorised to collect letters on board vessels on their arrival off this port, according to the recent Act of Parliament, and his Majesty's steam-packet, the Jonathan Hulls, is now employed in that service. This small steamer, from her light draught of water and with the aid of her boats, will be able to convey letters to the Post office without any delay, and an important saving of time will be experienced by our merchants in letters from ships which are waiting for water in the Channel. Ship-letters also to be forwarded by the mail will frequently save a day's post.
  [from Liverpool Albion - Monday 11 March 1833]:
GOVERNMENT STORES. Peremptorily. On Friday next, the 15th inst., at twelve o'clock, at Messrs. Richard Bateson and Son's Office, Water-street. THE JONATHAN HULLS, Steam-packet, Used as a Tender to the Post office Packets; lying in the Brunswick Dock, and may be inspected there. For particulars apply to JOHN RICHARDSON, Agent. Packet-office, March 4, 1833.

Wooden paddle steamer Sibyl, built 1827, Graham, Harwich, 227 tons, engines 100 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Milford.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Pigmy and used for the various services, then Milford service 1838-48. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug and as a gunboat.
  [from Sun (London) - Wednesday 05 July 1826]: Harwich, July 4. The launch of a very fine steam vessel, to be employed as a Post Office Packet on the Milford station, took place this day; but by some unforeseen accident she went only about half way down the slip, where she now lies. The tides are however rising, and there is little doubt of her being got off safe the next night tide.
  [from Bristol Mercury - Monday 17 December 1827]: Milford Steam Packets.- On Monday last, the new steam-packet, Sibyl, Captain Roberts, from Dunmore, carried away ten of her paddle-boards in plying to windward in a heavy gale - but, notwithstanding, she saved her mail in good time. This vessel is found to answer uncommonly well, having a very complete engine on a superior principle.
  [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service - Saturday 08 September 1838]: The Gleaner steam-packet, Lieut. Davies, on her passage from Woolwich to Holyhead, put in here on Monday last for coals. The Pigmy, from the latter port, is hourly expected, to relieve the Monkey on this station.

Wooden paddle steamer Dragon, built 1827, Graham, Harwich, 237 tons. Owned Post Office and first service Holyhead.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Zephyr and used for the Holyhead service until 1847. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug and as a gunboat.
  [from Suffolk Chronicle - Saturday 18 August 1827]: Yesterday week, a fine new steam packet, for the Post-office service, named Dragon, was launched from the dock-yard, at Harwich.

Wooden paddle steamer Salamander, built 1827, Graham, Harwich, 128 tons, engines 50 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Dover in 1827.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Beaver and used for the Dover service until 1844. Later used by RN as a dockyard lighter.
 [Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Tuesday 11 October 1836]: By Direction of his Majesty's Postmaster-General. At LLOYD'S COFFEE-HOUSE, CORNHILL, On FRIDAY, Oct 14, at Half-past Two, THE FOLLOWING MACHINERY; Ex Watersprite Steam-packet: One pair 30 horse cylinders, 3 feet stroke, with pistons. Ex Salamander: One pair 25 horse cylinders 3 feet stroke; one 50 horse boiler, and 2 cast-iron steam pipes, and sundries. Lying in a craft at the South West India Dock. Catalogues will be timely delivered by WM. WOOLCOMBE. 1. Freemans-court, Cornhill.

Wooden paddle steamer Flamer, built 1831, Henry Fletcher & Fearnall, London, 165 tons, 112 x 18.5 ft, engines 60 hp. Owned Post Office and first service Dover.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Fearless and used for the Weymouth service until 1839. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.
  Image of Flamer at Weymouth: [from here]

  On Saturday last a fine steam-packet, for the post-office, was launched from the yard of Messrs. Fletcher and Fearnall. She is considered the finest model of a steamer ever built in the river, and is expected to surpass in speed anything of her class. She is intended to convey the mails between Dover and Calais. The ceremony of christening was performed by a young lady, who was conducted by the builders to the end of the platform, erected for the occasion; and as the vessel left the stocks, to seek her proper element, she received the name of the Flamer, amidst the cheers of the spectators. [from Baldwin's London Weekly Journal, Saturday 07 May 1831]

Wooden paddle steamer Firefly, built 1831, Henry Fletcher & Fearnall, London, 116 tons, 97 x 16ft engines by Boulton & Watt of 50hp. Owned Post Office and first service 1831 Dover.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Myrtle and used for the Dover service until 1840. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.
  While undergoing trials in the Thames, on 22 May 1831, in Limehouse Reach, she collided, at about a quarter before eight, with the Venus steam vessel, Capt. Clark, having on board 280 passengers from Gravesend. No lives were lost.

Wooden paddle steamer Ferret, built 1831, Thomas Pitcher, Northfleet, 133 tons. Owned Post Office and first service 1832 Dover.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Swallow and used for the Dover service until 1845. Decommissioned by RN 1848.

Wooden paddle steamer Gulnare, built 1833, Chatham, 306 tons, engines of 100hp. Owned Post Office and first service Dover. [unusual name Gulnare comes from a female slave in a Byron verse saga, The Corsair]
In September 1838, collided with paddle steamer Royal William near Dun Laoghaire.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Gleaner and used for the Holyhead service until 1839. Later used as a RN steam tender, decommissioned 1849.
  [from Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, Thursday 03 October 1833]: On Monday was launched from Chatham dock-yard a finely built steam vessel, for the Post Office, named Gulnare, of 100 horse power. This vessel, the first built under a system of day work (recently introduced the Admiralty into the naval yard) during the period of fifty years; she has been complete under the direction of active and zealous ship officer in the short space 67 common working days, the same slip from which the Waterloo was launched the 18th June last, thereby proving that the new mode of working the men will answer their lordships' just expectations, if directed by active and zealous officers determined to do their duty.
  [from Globe - Tuesday 11 September 1838]: H. M.'s Packet Gulnare - The Royal William. A most extraordinary occurrence took place in Kingstown harbour, in respect to this celebrated steam-vessel, on Thursday evening. She was proceeding to her station at the jetty, for the purpose of taking in her passengers, just as her Majesty's steam vessel, the Gulnare (Captain Davis), was arriving with the four o'clock mail, from Holyhead. The word was passed from the Gulnare to "take that vessel out of the way," when the engines of the Royal William were at once reversed. The Gulnare held on her speed, and struck the Royal William, carrying away her bulwarks. The engines of the Gulnare were reversed and set forward a second time, when again she struck the Royal William, and carried away the fore gangway. The spectators from the shore could not in any way account for this extraordinary proceeding. After the Gulnare had landed the mail, Captain Davis went on board the Royal William to explain the occasion of the collision to Captain Swainson. The Royal William sailed at six, every berth being full.

Wooden paddle steamer Richmond, built 1834, Hunter & Dow, Glasgow, 139 tons, 144 x 16 x 11 ft, engines by David Napier of 60hp. Owned Post Office and first service at Liverpool - as a tender to embark and disembark the Dublin post office packets.
In 1837 transferred to Admiralty (RN) as Redwing and used at Liverpool until 1848. Decommissioned 1849.
  [from Liverpool Mercury - Friday 01 August 1834]:
STEAM TUGS. TO THE EDITOR OF THE LIVERPOOL MERCURY. Sir,--Allow me to thank you for inserting my communication of the 24th ult. and, at the same time, to express the surprise of many of your readers that the trade of towing by his Majesty's Post-office tender, the Duke of Richmond, should be allowed to continue. Is it not disgraceful that a vessel carrying the national pennant, allowed only to King's ships, and at a considerable expense to the country, should follow the trade a steam-tug? That she is a stearn-tug, and tows more vessels than she boards for letters, is a fact that may be witnessed from the Pierheads almost any day. A practice so illegal and prejudicial to the proprietors of steam-boats and others intending to supply regular tugs, should not be allowed. -Yours, &c. OBSERVER

Post Office steamers acquired by the Admiralty after 1837

Wooden paddle steamer Belfast, built 1829 John Wood & Co, Port Glasgow, 244 tons (bm), 117 x 18 x 11ft, engines 150hp by David Napier, owned Belfast & Glasgow Steam Co., registered Glasgow. Bought by Admiralty 1837 and named Prospero. In 1837 remeasured as 141 tons burthen, 129 x 18 x 10 ft. Used on Milford/Pembroke post office packet service until 1848. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.

Wooden paddle steamer Colonsay, built Robert Duncan, Greenock, 694 grt, 175 x 26 x 17ft, engines by Caird & Co of 280 hp. First owner North British Steam Navigation Co. Bought by Admiralty in 1837 and named Urgent. Used on Liverpool - Dublin Post Office Steam Packet Service until 1848. Decommissioned by RN 1850.
  Steam Ship Colonsay will shortly appear on the above station [Liverpool to Lisbon, Cadiz and Gibraltar] to ply in conjunction with the Manchester, the days of sailing and further particulars ... [from Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser Tuesday 23 May 1837]
  [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service - Saturday 29 July 1837]: Government has purchased the Colonsay steam-vessel for the Post-office Packet Service at Liverpool, to be named the Urgent.
  Boiler explosion while alongside at Liverpool 13 April 1839; no fatalities.
  Collision in fog of HM mail steamer Urgent and PS Tynwald near Formby Lightship 30 December 1846. Neither sank and no lives lost. Urgent held responsible.

Wooden paddle steamer Dasher built Chatham 1837 for the Admiralty, 357 tons, 120 x 22 ft. Engines of 100hp by Seaward & Capel, Canal Iron Works, Millwall. Used on Weymouth service until 1844. Later employed by the Royal Navy as a steam gun boat (3rd class).
  Chatham Thursday. The Dasher steam packet, for the Weymouth station, will be launched from this yard on the 27th inst. [from West Kent Guardian Saturday 23 December 1837]
  [from West Kent Guardian - Saturday 30 December 1837]: Chatham. Sailed, the Lightning, steam vessel, with the Dasher, for the Canal Iron Works, to have her engines and boilers put on board.

Wooden paddle steamer Widgeon built Chatham 1837 for the Admiralty, 164 tons. Engines of 90 hp by Seaward & Capel, Canal Iron Works, Millwall. Used on Dover service until 1848. Later used by the Royal Navy as a steam tug.
  The Widgeon, Post-office Steam Packet, on a perfectly new construction [designed by Sir William Symonds], will be launched from Chatham Yard on the 12th Sept. This vessel was only commenced upon about six weeks since. Great credit is due to the new Superintendent, Captain Clavell, for the order and regularity which prevails in that Dock-yard; and the expedition with which the work on the Widgeon has been performed, shows what our Dock-yard shipwrights are capable of effecting if properly encouraged, as we trust from henceforth they will be. [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service Saturday 19 August 1837]

Wooden paddle steamer Merlin built Pembroke Dock 1838, 889 tons, 153 x 33 x 16.5 ft, engines by Fawcett & Preston 320 hp, for the Admiralty. Used on Liverpool service until 1848. Later used in the Mediterranean, as a survey vessel and as a RN steam gun boat (2nd class).
  Builder's model of steam packet Merlin (quoted as 175 x 33ft, 889 tons builder's old measurement, designed Sir William Symonds)[from NMM, Greenwich]:

5 January 1841 HMS Merlin collided with Mersey Ferry Earl of Bridgewater in the Mersey.
Image of survey vessel HMS Merlin being attacked by Russian mines at Sveaborg, near Helsinki, from painting by J W Carmichael 1855

Wooden paddle steamer Medusa built Pembroke Dock 1838, detail as Merlin, for the Admiralty. Used on Liverpool service until 1848. Later used in the Mediterranean and then as a RN steam gun boat (2nd class).

Wooden paddle steamer Medina built Pembroke Dock 1839, detail as Merlin, engines fitted 1840, for the Admiralty. Used on Liverpool service until 1848. Later used in the Mediterranean and then as a RN steam gun boat (2nd class).
  [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service - Saturday 08 September 1838]: The Merlin, large class steamer, building at Pembroke Yard for the Liverpool station, will be launched this month, and the Medusa, a sister vessel, in October; they are beautiful models, constructed by Sir William Symonds.
  The Lucifer mail steam-packet, Lieut. Phillips, arrived here [Pembroke] on Monday from Liverpool, to tow the Merlin steamer, lately launched at Pembroke Dock-yard, to the former port, where, after being fitted with machinery, etc., she is to ply with the mails to Dublin; both the vessels left about 4 o'clock the same afternoon; it is reported that when the four new vessels of the Merlin's class are ready for service on that station (another of which, the Medusa, is building at Pembroke, and will be launched on the 31 inst.,) those now doing the duly there will be removed to this port [Pembroke] to relieve the present inefficient ones on this line of communication with the Emerald Isle. [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service Saturday 6 October 1838]
  The Medusa, another new steamer, for the Liverpool station (a sister ship to the Merlin), was launched this afternoon from Pembroke-yard. She, like her companion, was very loath to ... [from Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service Saturday 3 November 1838]
  On Monday last her Majesty's steam-ship Medina received her last boiler [fitted at Liverpool], a prodigious specimen of British engineering, skill, and industry. She is intended to ply between ...[from Belfast Commercial Chronicle Monday 1 June 1840]
  [from Cheltenham Examiner - Wednesday 17 June 1840]:
Her Majesty's new mail steam ships between Liverpool and Dublin.
Merlin, 889 t 320 hp, Lieut Townley RN commander
Medusa, 889 t 320 hp, Lieut Phillips RN Commander
Urgent, 711 t 284 hp, Mr Emerson RN Commander
Medina, 889 t 320 hp, Mr Smithett RN Commander
Proceed for Kingstown [Dun Laoghaire], with the London Royal Mail every morning, at Seven o'clock precisely.
Passengers embarked from George's Pier Head, free of all charges, either by a small Steamer or a barge (whenever the tide win not allow the Packet to come alongside) which will be ready for that purpose at Six o'clock, but Carriages and Horses, not shipped the previous evening, should be sent down by half-past Five, if possible.
[Note that from 1839 the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company were contracted to provide a daily evening mail service from Liverpool to Dublin, to run in parallel with the morning service from the 4 Admiralty steamers]
[from Liverpool Mail - Thursday 02 January 1840]: City of Dublin Steam Packet Company: They also despatch one of their first-class Vessels, the Royal William, Queen Victoria, Prince, or Duchess of Kent, Every Evening, at Seven o'clock, from George's Pierhead to Kingstown Harbour, with her Majesty's Mail and Cabin Passengers only.

Iron paddle steamer Dover built Lairds, Birkenhead, 1840, 228 grt, engines by Forrester of 90 hp, for the Admiralty. Used as a Dover post office packet 1841-1847. This was the first iron vessel of its type ordered by the Royal Navy. Later used as a RN steam tender.

Iron paddle steamer Princess Alice built Ditchburn & Mare, Blackwall, 1843, 270 grt, engines by Maudslay of 90 hp, for the Dover shipowners, John and William Hayward, for the Dover Boulogne service. Bought by the Admiralty in January 1844. Used as a Dover - Calais post office packet 1844-1854. Subsequently leased by the commercial operator, Churchward, after he obtained the mail contract. Later used as a Royal Navy steam tender and a steam gunboat.
  The Princess Alice steamer. In our last week's publication, we made mention of this splendid new iron steamer, constructed and intended (as we have since ascertained) for the Boulogne passage. Since then, another trial trip has been made by Mr. Maudslay, the engineer, Mr. Hayward, the agent, and a few private friends, to test her sea going speed and qualities. On Wednesday last, the Princess Alice left Dover Roads at half-past 7 o'clock in the morning with fresh wind, S.E. Heavy swell and ebb tide against her. [from Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser Saturday 16 September 1843]
Princess Alice in March 1844 [from Illustrated London News]

Iron paddle steamer Onyx built Ditchburn & Mare, Blackwall, 1845, 139 x 21 ft, 295 grt, engines 128 hp by Messrs Penn & Son, Greenwich, for the Admiralty. Used as a Dover - Calais post office packet 1846-1854. When the Admiralty service ended, she was sold to the commercial operator and renamed Vivid II.

Iron paddle steamer Violet built Ditchburn & Mare, Blackwall, 1845, 139 x 21 ft, 295 grt, engines 128hp by Messrs Penn & Son, Greenwich, for the Admiralty. Used as a Dover - Calais post office packet 1846-1854. When the Admiralty service ended, she was sold to the commercial operator, Churchward.
  On the night of 5-6 January 1857, the Violet was lost with all hands. Further, the Violet was underinsured and it would cost £14,000 to replace her.
  [from Liverpool Daily Post - Wednesday 07 January 1857]: Loss of the steamer Violet. There is every reason to believe that the steamer lost on the Goodwin Sands is the Violet, which was due at Dover from Ostend on Monday, at 12 am, but had not arrived at a late hour on Tuesday night. A telegraph despatch from Ramsgate, received at seven pm., says all hands were drowned. Three bodies were found attached to a life buoy, and the wreck lies on the sand. The officers and crew numbered 17 and a post office guard. The number of passengers at this time of the year amounts to about five or six. No precise details have, however, been received.

Iron paddle steamer Ondine, built Miller, Ravenhill, Blackwall 1845, 295 tons, 154 x 19 x 10ft, engines by Miller, Ravenhill & Co of Blackwall of 140hp, for Dover ship-owners Messrs. Bushell, to go on the Dover Boulogne service (first voyage March 1845). In August 1845, she was disabled by a malfunction to one paddle and had to be towed to Dover. She was later owned by newspaper proprietor Edward Baldwin.
In February 1847, impressed by her speed, the Admiralty bought her, renamed as Undine, for service from Portsmouth, but later used her for the Dover-Calais service from 1849-1854. She was sold by the Admiralty to the new contractors for the Dover mail service, and named Dover. On 4 May 1855, she struck the west pierhead at Ostend, fell broadside to heavy seas, and became a total wreck; passengers and crew saved by lifeboat.
  [from Dover Chronicle - Saturday 11 January 1845]: LAUNCH OF THE ONDINE. This magnificent vessel was launched from the building yard of Messrs. Miller & Co., Blackwall on Thursday. Her size is admirably adapted for the continental traffic here, for which she is destined and her qualities for speed, and as a sea boat, are very superior. Under the water line she is remarkably clean, and as she rises to the gunwale, she is beautifully modelled, her bow flaring off in a manner most pleasing to the eye, to counteract the effects of wind and sea. She has a very handsome stern, square, but tastefully moulded at the corners. Her figure-head. a graceful nymph, representing Ondine, which is the name of the vessel, is beautifully carved. Her paddle boxes are proportionally small. She entered the water about two o'clock, in beautiful style, in the presence of a large number of spectators;...
The following are the principal dimensions: Length between perpendiculars 145 ft; Ditto overall from taffrail to bowsprit 161; Breadth between paddle boxes 20; Depth amidships 10.5; depth of water about 6; Burden in tons (om) 263. The workmanship of the builders has been performed in admirable style, and the ornamental parts are in the best possible taste. She will be fitted with two new engines, of improved construction, of about 73 horse-power each.
  [from Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers' Gazette - Saturday 05 May 1855]: Dover. Stranding of the royal mail packet Dover off Ostend. We are very sorry to announce that one the magnificent steam packets belonging to the Dover Royal Mail and Continental Steam Packet Company went ashore yesterday morning on the western side of the harbour, where she still lies, without any prospect of release. The Dover, Captain Watson, left this port on Thursday night, having on board the Belgian mail and a number of passengers and, after a stormy passage across the Channel, was approaching the harbour of Ostend, about five o'clock yesterday morning, when she by some means, not definitively stated, struck the bar of shingle accumulated at the mouth of that port, and ultimately ran aground on the western side of the pier. The passengers and mail were got on shore without difficulty; nor can we learn that the slightest accident occurred to any person, not withstanding the excitement and confusion which naturally prevailed. These brief facts were received yesterday morning by submarine electric telegraph, and up to a late hour last night, no further particulars reached us. The packet, in common with the rest belonging the company, is very valuable, but we bear that it is insured to a large amount, although not to its full worth.
  [from Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser - Saturday 12 May 1855]: The mail-packet Dover, stranded at Ostend, is become, as was anticipated, a complete wreck. The efforts to recover her machinery have been successful, and exertions are now being made to secure whatever of the vessel that can be removed.

Wooden paddle steamer Garland, built Henry Fletcher & Fearnall, Limehouse, 1846, 295 tons, 220 x 22 x 10 ft, engines by Penn & Co of 120hp, for the Admiralty. Used Dover service 1846-1854. Sold to commercial operator of service around 1854.
  Image of Garland as a Dover Packet circa 1848:

Wooden paddle steamer Vivid, built Chatham Royal Dockyard, 1846, 352 tons, 160 hp engines by Penn & Co., for the Admiralty. Used Dover service 1848-1854. Briefly on Holyhead service in early 1850. Leased to commercial operator of service around 1854. Then used by Royal Navy as a tender.
  [from London Evening Standard - Wednesday 13 February 1850, extract]: We subjoin also the particulars of tonnage, horse power, builders, and engineers of these celebrated packets [on the Holyhead station during January 1850]:
Vivid wood 352 O. W. Lang. 160 Penn & Co.

Iron paddle steamer Caradoc, built Seaward, Limehouse, 1847, 676 tons, 193 x 37 ft, engines of 350 hp, for the Admiralty. Used on the Holyhead service 1848-9. Retained by Admiralty as a dispatch boat and as a steam gun boat (1st class).

Iron paddle steamer St Columba, built Lairds, Birkenhead, 1847, 654 tons, 205 x 26 x 15 ft, engines by Forrester of 375 hp, for the Admiralty. Used on the Holyhead service 1848-9. Sold to City of Dublin Steam Packet Company 1850.

Wooden paddle steamer Banshee, built Thomson, Rotherhithe, 1847, 654 tons, 172 x 26 x 15 ft, engines by Penn & Co of 350 hp, for the Admiralty. Used on the Holyhead service 1848-9. Temporary loan to City of Dublin to cover delay until Llewellyn was repaired after her shaft broke in mid-channel. Retained by Admiralty as a dispatch boat and as a steam gun boat (1st class).

Iron paddle steamer Llewellyn, built Miller & Ravenhall, Blackwall 1848, 654 tons, 190 x 27 x 16 ft, engines by Miller & Ravenhall of 400hp, for the Admiralty. Used on the Holyhead service 1848-9. Sold to City of Dublin Steam Packet Company from 1850 for use on the same route. Renamed St Patrick 1865, while owned by City of Dublin SPCo.
  [from Morning Advertiser - Tuesday 11 January 1848]: The new steamer Banshee. Yesterday highly interesting and most satisfactory series of experiments was performed with this magnificent steam-ship, at the direction of the Lords of the Admiralty, the result of which, in the opinion of the naval officers who witnessed them, has conclusively established her fame as a prodigy in the annals of naval architecture, as modified the exigencies of steam navigation. Her fine form and vast power have on several occasions been the subject of public admiration, and among nautical men, the official report of her performances having exceeded eighteen miles per hour, the most lively interest has been created. This report was made to the Board of Admiralty yesterday week, when Captain Atherton stated her speed at eighteen miles and half, and notwithstanding the extreme difficulty which must of necessity attend the attempt to increase it the smallest fraction beyond so high a velocity, she has succeeded, not only in confirming the accuracy of the report so made, but also, to the astonishment of every one connected with her, in adding another furlong to the speed determined at the trial on Saturday-week below the Nore. Besides her stately appearance in the water, and her rapidity of motion, the ease with which she accomplishes her task is another excellent quality peculiar to her, and which can hardly be supposed to appertain in an equal degree to vessels even of smaller tonnage, and moving at smaller velocities. A most critical and conclusive criterion of this circumstance was applied to her in our presence, which she underwent with astonishing success. In the after-part of the main-cabin two wine-glasses were placed upon the floor, and though their edges were brought into actual contact, they did not emit any sound whatever. With these invaluable qualities, possessed in degree which the most sanguine anticipations of her builders could hardly have expected, the Banshee has created no little degree of sensation in the nautical world, and on that account, before proceeding to notice the experiments of yesterday, it may convenient to recapitulate very briefly the leading particulars of this fine vessel, which have from time to time been published.
The Banshee is a vessel of 670 tons, and has been constructed for the Holyhead and Kingstown station by Mr. Thomson, of Rotherhithe, from the lines of Mr. Oliver William Lang (son of the eminent master builder of that name), adapted to his diagonal principle. She measures 189 feet between the perpendiculars, the keel for tonnage being taken 172 feet 9.5 inches. Her extreme breadth is 27 feet 2 inches, breadth for tonnage 26 feet 2 inches, and depth of hold 14 feet 9 inches. The engines are by Messrs. Penn and Son, of Greenwich, and consist of two patent vibrating cylinders, each giving a power of 175 horses. The diameter of the cylinders is 4 feet 6 inches, and the length of stroke 5 feet. There are two pairs of boilers, heated by 16 furnaces, from which the smoke is conducted two funnels, placed in midships, about 20 feet apart. These vast machines, to which so much of the result is attributable, executed their duty to the admiration of all who witnessed them, the paddle-shaft attaining the extraordinary number of thirty-one, and at one trial of almost thirty-two revolutions per minute. Considering that the engines are new, and therefore work with whatever stiffness may be expected in new engines; considering also the great length of stroke, and that 22 revolutions of the shaft per minute is the usual rate at which a shaft is impelled, the work of these engines cannot be regarded otherwise than as a complete triumph in the art of engine-building, the honour of which has been well earned by the Messrs. Penn. Some idea of the enormous power of the vessel will also be derived, from the consideration that this great length of stroke acts with the concurrent advantages of rapid rotation, and epicycloidal paddle-wheels of 25 feet diameter.
She is the third that has been launched of four vessels destined for the same station, and which have been purposely made of large tonnage, to facilitate the transmission of the mails to Dublin, via Holyhead. The first of these, the Caradoc, was constructed by the Messrs. Seaward, of Limehouse, and was reported at 17.75 statute miles per hour. The St. Columba was built at Liverpool, by Messrs. Laird and Forrester, and attained at maximum, a speed of about a mile per hour less than the Caradoc. After the Banshee, is the Llewellyn, which is now in course of construction at the extensive works of Messrs. Miller and Ravenhill, of Blackwall, and is expected to prove a vessel of superior order. These three vessels being of iron, whereas the Banshee is of wood, and has already beaten two of her rivals, great emulation has necessarily been occasioned between the advocates of the two competing materials, and the result of the exertions of either party has been the construction of these splendid ships.
  [from London Evening Standard - Wednesday 13 February 1850]: We subjoin also the particulars of tonnage, horse power, builders, and engineers of these celebrated packets [on the Holyhead station during January 1850]:
Llewellyn iron 654 Miller and Co. 350 Miller & Co.
Banshee wood 670 O. W. Lang. 350 Penn & Co.
St. Columbia iron 655 Laird. 350 Forrester.
Vivid wood 352 O. W. Lang. 160 Penn & Co.
 It will be seen by the above that the Llewellyn, by Miller and Ravenhill, has again the advantage of all the others in the average performance [as of January 1850; Caradoc was laid up for repairs, so Vivid from the Dover station was employed] ....
  [from Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser - Saturday 25 May 1850]: Admiralty Holyhead steam packets: The Banshee is ordered to remain at Holyhead, to be lent to the contract company. The Caradoc is ordered also to remain at Holyhead, but her Crew are to be paid off. Banshee, Master Commander Smithett, having been to ordered round to Chatham to be paid off, the following detail of distance gone over by each of the vessels of Her Majesty's Holyhead mail steam packets since launching, including trial trips, passage round, and passages made on the Liverpool sections, may prove interesting to the public:
Banshee constructed by O. W. Lang and fitted with engines of 350 horse-power, by John Penn and Son, was commissioned by Master Commander William Smithett on January 5, 1848, and including her trial trips, passage round, and passages made on the Liverpool station, ran over 42,000 miles at the rate of 16 miles per hour of average passage.
Llewellyn, constructed by Ravenhill and Miller, with engines of 350-horse power by Miller and Ravenhill was commissioned by Master Commander John Grey on May 3 1848, and including her passage trips, passage round, and passages made on the Liverpool station, ran over 28,500 miles at the rate of 15.5 miles per hour of average passage.
Caradoc, constructed by Sir William Symonds, and fitted with engines of 300-horse power, by Seaward and Co., commissioned by Lieutenant Commander Charles P. Ladd on April 4, 1848, and including her trial trips, passage round, passages on the Liverpool station, ran over 27,300 miles at the rate of 14.2 miles per hour of average passage.
St. Columba, constructed by Laird, and fitted with engines of 350-horse power by Forrester, was commissioned by Second Master Commander Richard Michael on March 1, 1848, and including her trial trips, passage round, and passages on the Liverpool station, ran over 36,600 miles at the rate of 14 miles per hour of average passage.

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