The River Dee’s Boats from the 1930s

One of Chester’s biggest draws after its stunning Roman walls and beautiful rows is the river Dee. Until the river silted up it was a busy commercial route, but ever after became primarily a leisure and beauty spot. During the 1930s there were multiple boating companies selling their services as afternoon and party leisure cruises from the city centre, an industry that remains to this day.

We’ve managed to find three boating companies over two adverts in our tour book of Chester.

First, we have the Chester Boat Company LTD, advertising alongside The Dee Boating Company.

Chester boat company

Now we must admit, we’ve stretched the truth a little by saying there are three boating companies. The Dee Boating Company actually seems to be a shipwright as opposed to a cruise service, offering to build commissioned boats and sell them, as well as carrying out boating repairs. We were unable to determine if The Dee Boating Company is still trading.

We are pleased to say though that the Chester Boat Company LTD is very much still alive. However, their fleet now consists of the cruise boats the ‘Lady Diana’ and the ‘Mark Twain’ and the smaller ‘Jackal’, as compared to the four they sported in the 1930s; ‘The Princess Mary’, ‘The King Edgar’, ‘Princess Elizabeth’ and ‘The Lady Constance’. We can only imagine that over the years the old boats were retired to allow for the current fleet to be updated, and perhaps due to a reduction in usage as a ferrying service.

Today the service is a two-hour tour of the waterways of Chester. In comparison, in the 1930s they would take you as far as Eccleston Ferry and drop you off for a day trip. We are pleased to say that currently they still uphold the tradition of renting out for private parties and serve booze, though we believe they no longer sell tobacco.

The second boating company advert was for The Dee Steam and Motor Boat Co LTD. This ad was annoyingly printed sideways in the book.

Dee steam and motor boatWe cannot verify if the final company is still trading. One thing we can say is if they are, it’s no longer in the cruise capacity. Ferrying day trippers to Eccleston Ferry and further to Iron Bridge, The Dee Steam and Motor Boat Co LTD offered a more personal experience with smaller vessels than their counterpart, which probably gave them the ability to travel further down the silted river Dee.

With four boats; ‘Ormonde II’, ‘Aldford’, ‘Flying Fox II’ and ‘Bend’or’, they operated a regular ferrying service. We are curious as to what happened to the Ormonde I and Flying Fox I! It’s started our imagination racing and our search engine is now full of searches for multi boat crashes on the river Dee…

In Chester we’ve enjoyed many years of larking about on the river, both on the slow boats and the pedalloes with Chester Boat Hire, and we can’t wait for the summer to come back around to get on the water. Who knows, you might even see us on a raft in the race.

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