MV Edgecumbe Belle
|Namesake:||Sir Humphrey Gilbert|
|Builder:||Blackmore & Sons Bideford|
|Status:||Operating on the River Dart between Dartmouth and Kingswear|
|Type:||Single-Screw Motor Vessel|
|Length:||57.9 feet (17.6 m) LOA|
|Beam:||13.5 feet (4.1 m)|
|Depth:||4.9 feet (1.5 m)|
The Dartmouth-Kingswear Passenger Ferry is primarily used to link the town of Dartmouth with the railway station on the other side of the River Dart at Kingswear. It has long been operated by the railway companies, who maintained a 'station' at the Dartmouth side of the river, with no tracks - instead passengers boarded the ferry to Kingswear, and thence the train towards Paignton.
In 1954 British Railways, the then operator of the ferry decided that their present vessel, the SS Mew was too expensive to operate, and decided to replace her with a smaller and cheaper motor vessel. .
They chartered first the MV Lady Elizabeth and then the MV Western Belle from the Millbrook Steamboat & Trading Co Ltd of Plymouth. The former vessel was unsuitable for the route, however the latter appears to have been quite successful, although there were complaints about the use of a Plymouth vessel, when suitable vessels were avaialable from Dartmouth, so the MV Western Belle was replaced by the River Dart Steamboat Co Ltd'sMV Seymour Castle. .
In 1956, therefore British Rail finally ordered two motor vesels of their own from Blackmore & Sons of Bideford, North Devon. Named MV Adrian Gilbert and MV Humphrey Gilbert after two famous local explorers from Greenway House. In 1972 British Railways closed the railway from Goodrington to Kingswear, and the ferry route, and vessels, passed into local authority ownership, first Dartmouth Borough Council, then South Hams District Council. In 1976 the ferry was taken over by Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd, but both vessels were sold to the St Mawes Ferry Co, for service from Falmouth, Cornwall to St Mawes. They were deemed unsuitable, however, and there is some doubt as to whether they ever left the Dart! . British Rail repurchased them for use on the River Thames on the Gravesend - Tilbury Ferry. Again they were deemed unsuitable, both were re-engined and sold. MV Adrian Gilbert was sold to Dart Pleasure Craft, and returned to the Dartmouth-Kingswear Ferry. MV Humphrey Gilbert was laid up in Newhaven, East Sussex, and in 1978 was sold to Meridian Line Cruises of Greenwich on the River Thames, but remained laid up.
In 1978 Humphrey Gilbert was purchased by the Millbrook Steamboat and Trading Co, renamed MV Edgecumbe Belle and used on the Plymouth - Drake's Island ferry, also relieving on the Cremyll Ferry from time to time. She remained with the Millbrook Company after it was taken over by Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd, but in 1985 Dart Pleasure Craft withdrew from the Plymouth area, and MV Edgecumbe Belle returned to the Dart, and joined her sister on the Dartmouth-Kingswear ferry. . In 1996 the Adrian Gilbert was again sold to operate on the St Mawes Ferry, and was replaced by the MV Kingswear Belle. In 2000 Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd bought G.H. Riddalls and Sons fleet, and introduced the former Riddalls vessel Dartmouth Princess on the Kingswear ferry. MV Edgecumbe Belle was therefore used on a new service to Greenway Quay, where the National Trust had opened Agatha Christie's house and gardens to the public (incidentally this house was previously the home of the Gilbert family, after which the vessel was originally named). This service was later withdrawn and Dart Pleasure Craft instead market the Greenway Ferry Company's similar service. MV Edgecumbe Belle is now back as the relief boat on the Kingswear ferry, and sees considerable operation on the route, as the MV Kingswear Belle now appears to receive little use.  It is interesting that Dart Pleasure Craft Ltd is now owned by Dart Valley Railway plc, owners of the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, so the ownership and operation of the vessel have come full circle, and once again passengers from Dartmouth buy their train tickets to include the ferry to Kingswear.
- http://www.riverlink.co.uk/Dart Pleasure Craft Timetable and website
- Hammar GP. Trip Out 2005/06, Self-Published, 2005
- National Register of Historic Vessels. http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/ships_register.php?action=ship&id=1893, Referred 2009
- Boyle, I, http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/Riddells.html, Referred 2009
- Langley, M & Small, S.Estuary & River Ferries of South West England, Waine Research Publications, 1984
- Clammer, R & Kittridge,A. Passenger Steamers of the River Dart & Kingsbridge Estuary, The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society &Twelveheads Press, 1987
- Kittridge,A. Passenger Steamers of the River Fal, Twelveheads Press, 1988
- Kittridge,A. Steamers & Ferries of the River Tamar & Three Towns District, Twelveheads Press, 2003
Hiding under the bow of the Ocean Princess is the Edgecumbe Belle on ferry duty in Dartmouth 8 August 2010