Until the early nineteenth
century fast sailing vessels had conveyed the mails
and any passengers wanting to cross the Channel. Six
years after the Battle of Waterloo the first vessel
powered by steam arrived at Dover. The paddle steamer
‘Rob Roy’ entered Dover Harbour on Sunday, 10 June 1821.
She set out on her first cross-Channel run to Calais
on the morning of Friday 15 June, but with very few
passengers. The ‘Kentish Chronicle’ reported with some
glee that “those in the town preferred the regular (sailing)
packets”. Nor was the Post Office convinced, and for
some time continued to send the mail by sailing ships
. Five of these were employed at the time, three for
Calais and two for Holland.
But very soon the ‘Rob Roy’ had won over the sceptics.
In August 1821 the ‘Kentish Chronicle’ swallowed its
pride and wrote “The ‘Rob Roy’ steam vessel continues
to sail daily for France, with a number of passengers
and carriages far exceeding any vessel in the employ”.
The pages of the paper for the same month also tell
the story that “The ‘Rob Roy’ on her passage to Calais
met the ‘Lord Duncan’ (Post Office sailing packet),
Capt. Hamilton, and the ‘Prince Leopold’, Capt. Rogers,
and after landing her freight at Calais, and taking
on board passengers, she came out again, and passed
those vessels and reached Dover long before them.”
A Post Office Packer-Boat Tarrif of 1836.