Herald Express Saturday May 20th 1978


Publican buys controversial old vessel

The Compton Castle paddle steamer which has been the centre of a four-year row on whether she should be allowed to stay in Klngsbridge estuary, has been sold to a Cornish publican for an undisclosed sum and could end up back in service on the River Dart.

The steamer has been bought by Mr Ernie Clayton of Looe, who intends to spend two years refitting and putting her back in service on the Dart, where she originally operated as a paddle-steamer.

It was a sad day for many and the end of an era for the people of Kingsbridge yesterday when the steamer finally left the estuary for good. She has been moored in Kingsbridge for the past 13 years but yesterday said farewell as she was towed away down the five-mile estuary to head for a temporary new home in Looe while her restoration work is carried out.

Two harbour launches and a fishing boat, under the eye of the harbourmaster, Capt Jim Blazeby took on the task of towing the steamer from her berth alongside Kingsbridge Quay, where the has been used as a floating restaurant.

The steamer is reputed to be in very poor condition and her funnel and mast were dismantled for yesterday's trip.

It could cost Mr Clayton up to £70,000 to refit the steamer, but he believes it is a gamble well worth taking . Handfuls of residents lined the banks of the estuary in various spots yesterday to wave farewell to the old steamer, which should arrive in Looe today.

After the 11/2 hour journey from Kingsbridge to Salcombe,the Compton Castle was re-examined by Capt Blazeby before he officially handed her over to her new owner just off Snape's Point.

Mr Clayton then took the vessel in tow for Looe behind his 90 ft converted Norwegian trawler Grassy.

Her removal brings to an end a long legal battle between South Hams Council and her former owners to get her removed from the estuary for safety reasons.

Mr Clayton is confident that the money he will spend on her will be well worthwhile and hopes that within two years she will be back in action on the River Dart with his son Michael as the captain