Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850
Royal Mail Steam Packet Co
West India Steam Packet Company
Royal Mail Steam Company
In January 1842, ten sailing packets were taken off the West Indies route, being replaced by contract steamers operated by P & O, (as the Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company), the only sailing packets then remaining being on the Falmouth route to the Brazils.
Despite the disastrous start to the steamer service, lost vessels, complaints due to the unreliable schedules etc., Government was determined to support the introduction of the line - to the extent of subsidising the first period with £158,000, over and above the £240,000 contract fee, which was, in itself, five times the cost of running sailing packets. Cunard had been operating twice a month successfully between Liverpool-Halifax & Boston, P & O same weekly between Falmouth and the Iberian Peninsula (as Peninsular Steam Navigation Company) and monthly from Falmouth to Malta & Egypt, (as Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) with the India mails.
Despite steamers being propelled by paddle, and ill-suited to sailing without power, when they ran out of coals, they provided what seemed a more reliable service, with vastly improved accommodation and could cope with larger numbers of passengers. Unlike the sailing packets, which were forbidden from carrying cargo other than specie, gold, silver diamonds etc., (Maximum 8 tons), the contract steamers began to carry Serons of Cochineal & Indigo inwards from the West Indies, and cargoes of fruit from the Peninsula - even Spanish cattle!
[FP 30/5/1840 refers to Vulture steamer, London - St. Petersburg, with £150,000 of Cochineal & Indigo, lost near the island of Oesel 8 May,1840 - indicating the trade & value of such commodities.]
FP 8 January,1842: On and from 1January,1842, mails between England & West Indies, Mexico, Cuba etc., hitherto conveyed by Her Majesty's (sailing) packets, will be forwarded twice in every month, by the contract steam vessels of the Royal Steam Packet Company, which will sail from Southampton, calling at Falmouth. These mails will be made up in London on the 1st & 15th and will be forwarded to Falmouth.
It is expected that branch packets shall touch with mails at;
Pernambuco [Recife Brazil],
St. Juan de Nicaragua [San Juan del Norte, a.k.a.'Greytown'.],
Maracaibo [10.42N 71.50W.] Venezuela,
Bahia [12.56S. 38.27W., San Salvador, Brazil] and,
Honda [05.30N. 75.10W., Colombia].
Newspapers are liable to a charge of 2 pence each.
The Steam Packets will also touch at;
New Orleans [30.0N 90.0W., Louisiana]
Savannah [32.2N. 81.7W., Georgia]
Charlestown [32.50N. 79.58W., (sp. Charleston) South Carolina]
New York [ 40.20N. 74.0W.,] and,
Halifax [44.38N. 63.35W. Nova Scotia.]
Only letters or papers marked "by W.I.Steam packet" accepted (for the latter destinations, otherwise routed via Liverpool [Cunard] etc.
On the return voyage, the packets will touch at Bermuda and at Fayal, and a branch packet will touch twice in every month from Fayal to Madeira [Funchal].
[Note: This plan soon went awry and changes were made due to delays, missed connections etc. etc.].
FP 22 January,1842: "Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company"
The vessels of this company employed 4 years 3 months carrying mails from England to the Peninsula across Biscay, during five winter seasons, made 444 passages and 700,000 miles - only 6 put back; 2 from hull damage and 4 machinery.
Founded as the London & Dublin Steam Company, subsequently extended itself into the Peninsular Company in 1837 and since September 1840 has been incorporated as the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
The original proprietors are the largest stockholders. Upwards of 200,000 passengers have been carried without the loss of a single life or personal injury of any kind.
[Note 1: The company omitted to say that on the first voyage of their contract, Falmouth to Gibraltar, their steamer Don Juan ran aground in fog near Gib. on 15/9/1837 and was a total loss.. although no lives were lost and no blame attached to Lt. Ingledue (RN).]
[Note 2: Following this proud announcement, the company won contracts to provide steamers to the West Indies & Mexico, employing 8 vessels... with an almost crippling effect on the company as vessels suffered damage, and three, Medina, Isis & Solway (33 died) were lost in 10 months and the service was considered most unreliable.... without the (following) compensation approved by Government it is unlikely the company could have survived beyond 1843.]
FP 2 July,1842: RMS Packet Company to give up Halifax & New York - [Due to needing 11 instead of 14 steamers and having their application for a further £60,000 p.a. turned down by the Treasury.]
FP 30 July, 1842: Royal West Indian Mail Steam Packet Company.
From information which has reached us, we understand this company will shortly cease to exist. The speculation has proved a complete failure. Seeing that one of the objectives was to inflict a serious blow at the interests of the port of Falmouth, we cannot feel any particular regret.
FP 6 August, 1842: We hear that the Government is about to re-commission ten of the 10-gun packet brigs,, as before to West Indies with mails. This much is certain, estimates have been requested as to how short a time may be necessary to refit 10 of these vessels.
Quoted from the Globe 2 Aug. 1842.
and, from the Plymouth Journal 4 Aug.;
12 packets are to be brought forward for commission viz.: ALERT, STAR, PANDORA, DELIGHT, HOPE, LAPWING, LYRA, MAGNET, PIGEON, SHELDRAKE, TYRIAN & SEAGULL..
We have no direct information respecting the intention of Government with regard to resuming the conveyance of the mails to and from the West Indies, but we have reason to believe such a mode of transit will shortly be adopted. The Royal Mail Steam Company having altogether failed to accomplish a speedier and better conveyance of the mail & passengers. It is calculated that this company, on winding up, will be losers of nearly half a Million Sterling.
: The contract for the West India Mails appears to have been reconsidered.(Falmouth Docks
Royal Mail Steam Packets
RMSP Avon (1842)
RMSP Clyde (1841)
RMSP Dee (1842)
RMSP Forth (1842)
RMSP Isis (1842)
RMSP Medina (1842)
RMSP Medway (1982))
RMSP Severn (1842)
RMSP Solway (1842)
RMSP Tay (1842)
RMSP Trent (1842)
RMSP Tweed (1842)