The ‘Castalia’ was named after Lady Granville
who launched the ship in June 1874. It was designed by Captain
Dicey who was convinced of the trustworthiness and stability
of the catamaran design, based on his observations of native
canoes and catamarans while he was Harbour Master in Calcutta.
The ship was in effect two half hulls joined together by girders
and with paddle wheels between the hulls. She was the largest
ship yet built for the Channel service, measuring some 290ft
by 60ft with a gross tonnage of 1,553. It was her unusually
wide beam that Captain Dicey hoped would be the answer to
the problems of seasickness that plagued cross-Channel passengers.
The ‘Castalia’ was designed to carry 700 passengers and, because
manoeuvring in Calais harbour was so difficult, the ship was
double ended so that it would be unnecessary to turn round.
Although the ‘Castalia’ was owned by the English Channel Steamship
Company, the London, Chatham
and Dover Railway
encouraged them and were keen to monitor
performance. She arrived in Dover in October 1874 but had
to return to London the following month to have new boilers
and paddles fitted as her speeds on trial were nothing like
as high as were expected.
In June 1875 she returned to Dover and her first crossing
to Calais was encouraging enough for her to start a regular
service in August. Her crossing speeds were still far too
slow, which meant that she had to leave Dover or Calais before
the arrival of the mail train, causing passengers wishing
to travel on the ship considerable inconvenience. She thus
carried fewer passengers than she might otherwise have done
and was not a financial success. After a short working life
she was withdrawn at the end of October 1876 and, after a
few years lying idle, she was sold in 1883 and ended her days
as a hospital for infectious diseases on the Thames.