Brighton entering the harbour and at sea

By John Hills

Two pictures from the 60's of the Brighton entering the harbour in 1964, with whats looks like a full complement of passengers.

The other picture shows her full steam ahead off Newhaven in 1965.

Photo:Entering harbour 1964

Entering harbour 1964

M. W. Hills Copyright ©

Photo:Full steam ahead  1965

Full steam ahead 1965

M. W. Hills Copyright ©

This page was added by John Hills on 17/03/2008.
Comments about this page

Now that would have made some decent waves on the sandy beach, that looks like flat out - just look at the wake at the stern!

By Andy Gilbert
On 19/03/2008

We still remember her well, especially the black smoke!, She could block out our view of the sea from Mount Pleasant.

By Colin Holden
On 19/03/2008

Quick note for the editor(s). Don't let Peter Bailey see or hear you calling Brighton a 'ferry'. He! he!

These ships were Newhaven/Dieppe 'steamers', or 'mailboats'. I don't think I can recall anyone using the word 'ferry' until the car ferry service started in 1964.

For my family, they were always the 'mailboats', as they carried the mail between the UK and France. As such, they HAD to keep to time, not just when the tides let them, and went out in all weathers. The Brighton and her fellow British steamers were therefore entitled to the prefix RMS - Royal Mail Ship.

And doesn't Brighton look great at speed.

By Andy Gilbert
On 19/03/2008

Thanks Andy

I have changed the title page to read 'steamer - mailboat'.

By Sylvia Woolford
On 19/03/2008

As she was explicitly built to ferry nearly 1500 people between England and France and not parcels & letters. I think she should be called a Ferry.

ALSO the notes from her official service record state The Brighton to be the last traditional Ferry to use the Newhaven - Dieppe route see below...

"""The Brighton, was ordered by the Southern Railway in 1947. She was delivered to British Railways in April 1950 by Wm.Denny at Dumbarton on the Clyde. Her continuous contract speed was 24 knots, which she failed to meet over a 6 hour test on her trials, although easily managed more than this in service once run in, and was credited with being the fastest BR ship on the South Coast. Brighton carried 1450 passengers in two classes. Brighton ran on the Newhaven-Dieppe service until the of 1965, when she was used for summer extras only following the opening of a ro-ro berth at Newhaven. Brighton was withdrawn the following year, the last traditional ferry on the Newhaven route, as larger new car ferries entered service. She had served a remarkably incident-free 16 years on her designed route, with only rare appearances on other routes such as Folkestone-Boulogne. Surprisingly Brighton was sold for further UK operations in 1966, when Jersey Lines bought her for use as La Duchess de Bretagne. She received a stern ramp to load just 20 cars, initially running on excursions to the Channel Islands and St Malo from the resorts of Weymouth and Torquay. In 1968 La Duchess de Bretagne ran a very complex series of routes from Southampton, Plymouth, Torquay and St Malo. Jersey Lines failed in 1969, and La Duchess de Bretagne was sold for scrapping in Bruges later that year. """""

So a FERRY is what she will be as far as I'm concerned... not a common Steamer or Mailboat. I think Ferry is more befitting a elegent ship like the Brighton."""

A copy of the official record is freely available on the net at:-

Whoever is asking...

Also I have a original painting of the Brighton done with a spray gun pictured at full speed on her sea trials. The artist was one of the men who orginally worked on her in William Dennys yard in Dumbarton and given to my father who worked in Dumbarton power station for a time...

I will post a picture of it for the FERRY enthusiasts of our site !!!

Note for Sylvia:- You have inadvertently changed the title to STEAMBOAT/MAILBOAT not as you said steamer/mailboat... BTW I like neither.

BRIGHTON FERRY looks better !

Hope that this helped ..   John

By John Hills
On 25/03/2008

Hi John and Andy

I have now changed the title to 'BRIGHTON' to keep everyone happy.


By Sylvia Woolford
On 25/03/2008

John and I will agree to differ about the terminology then! Ferry for him and Mailboat for me.


By Andy Gilbert
On 09/04/2008

As for the fastest on the south coast, don't forget Londres. She ran with many steam nozzles blanked off by the French when she came back from the war. There is an occasion when she sailed from Newhaven 30 minutes behind the Brighton....and overtook her! I wish the chief engineer, Mr Winder, was still with us to testify to this. I don't think anyone can quote her maximum speed during the war, other than "nothing else could catch her" when she was working with the Germans in the Elbe area.

By William Still
On 06/10/2008

Londres was indeed very fast, William, as was her sister Arromanches. In fact I think all our ships (pre car ferry) were fast. Even the V twins got more powerful engines than their sister ship Chantilly up at Dover, to make them faster. (Then they limited them to 18kts!)

My late brother Barry was 2nd/3rd Engineer on both Londres and Brighton, and was on board when Londres had the famous turbine failure. He used to tell me that he always thought Brighton was just a touch faster than Londres, but that Lisieux, if pushed, could probably outrun them both.

He also pointed out that Brighton is the only vessel to have made three N/D round trips in a day and that to do that may well have required her to break the official N/D record of 2h36m, held by the Paris. We'll never know, as they weren't timing her.

Brighton, when sold to Jersey Lines in 1966, was advertised as the 'fastest ship on the channel'. By that time, she probably was.

He tells a lovely story about the crew being proud of her speed. One night, however, the lookouts were amazed to see a ship coming up fast behind them. Turned out to be the liner United States at full speed, and we know just how fast she was - 40kts (when the info was finally released!)

By Andy Gilbert
On 27/10/2008

As far as the Ferry - Steamer/Mailboat controversy is concerned my dad Leonard "Snowy" Corlett always referred to the vessels as 'the boats'. Whether that was because they were mailboats or it was just a common name among the crews I don't know. And by now there wouldn't be many of those who sailed on them alive to put us right. So the area will remain grey.

By Maurice Corlett
On 23/02/2014

As a child, I remember them being referred to either as the passenger boats or mail boats; this distinguished them from the cargo boats/screws. Newhaven crews would refer to them as "the boats" as Snowy did, not being involved with the Dieppe screws. The car/vehicle ferries came in 1964 and this term was shortened to "ferries" by the general public. Although I started work at Newhaven much later in the car ferry era, if asked, I would say I worked "on the boats" as would many others, even though we only had one! During Brighton's lifetime, the mail boats were never referred to as ferries, so it would seem inappropriate to call them that now. I was told by Engineers who had sailed on Brighton that she burnt upwards of 18 tons of fuel oil on a single crossing. Jack Bradford, who had been a Trimmer on Paris before she was converted for oil-burning, told me that she burnt 35 tons of coal per crossing. In contrast, Senlac burnt no more than 7 tons of medium fuel oil per crossing. As well as motorships being inherantly more economical, a major factor in fuel consumption is speed. Senlac's speed was only 19.5 knots and her original scheduled passage time was 3hr.20mins. (3hr.45mins. berth-to-berth)

By Bruce Macphee
On 19/03/2014

I sailed as 4th engineer aboard SS Brighton in the latter part of 1964. The first crossing was a trainload of Welsh rugby supporters going to see Wales try and trounce their French counterparts. Most were “three sheets to the wind” upon boarding singing and asking “show us the way to the bar.” An hour later it was a different story, gone was the bravado and merrymaking. Motion sickness does not discriminate. Further missery was bestowed upon them in Paris where the Welsh team were beaten.

As for her title, yes they were commonly called the ferries amongst Newhaven folk. To me a boat they were not. They required fully qualified ship marine handlers to maintain, service and operate them and rightly deserved to be a vessel classified as a SHIP.

To get SS Brighton running from a cold start on a cold winters morning was quite a challenge as it was first required to get the diesel generator fired up. Shore power was used to run an undersized compressor for the start air. Two blow torches were required to warm up the air inlet manifold and a can or two of easy- start. It usually took two or three goes to get one cylinder firing but then she was away. Then to the stokehold to make some steam.

I have sailed on many vessel since my stint with British Rail, from junior to chief engineer, steam and motor. But there has always been an affection for the “Ole Brighton” in my memories.

By David Balchin
On 29/06/2019

You might have known my older brother Barry, then, David. But by late 1964 I think he'd moved to the Falaise.

I think the debate over what the ships, and you're quite right, they were ships [Rule of thumb - you can put a boat on a ship but you can't put a ship on a boat], were called will go on and on, with various people remembering what their families, friends and colleagues called them. 

Brighton was indeed a thirsty ship, and when run at full speed on the Channel Islands run as 'Duchesse de Bretagne', those fuel costs soon bankrupted her owners.

By Andy Gilbert
On 30/06/2019

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