Brief History of Hotspur IV and Percy Family

Historic image of Hythe Pier Historic image of Hythe Pier An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Hotspur IV Hythe Ferry An Image of Great Expectations Hythe Ferry An Image of Great Expectations Hythe Ferry

In 1887, Mr Fry, the lessee of the pier tolls was succeeded by Mr James Percy, so beginning the long and happy association of the Percy family with the pier and ferry which continued for more than a century. Their family firm, the General Estates Company, bought the steamers then operating between Hythe and Southampton. James Percy was a direct descendent of Sir Henry Percy, first Earl of Northumberland and father of Harry, called Hotspur, known as the small warrior with the great heart, for his valorous deeds in the 14th century. Hotspur became the name of family's ferry boat, and five others have followed.

The original Hotspur entered service in 1889 and ran until 1927, when the replacement Hotspur was introduced. The original Hotspur was renamed the GEC. Eventually she was stripped of her engine, boiler and anything else of any value, towed into Dibden Bay, and left to rust away! (there is a picture of the second Hotspur on Town Quay on he wall opposite Monsieur Hulot's coffee shop).

Hotspur II was introduced to the service in 1936. She was built by the Rowhedge Ironworks yard in Essex. Hotspur II proved very popular with the travelling public, and such was the demand for the new half hourly service that an order was placed for a new vessel - Hotspur III. Hotspur III was launched in 1938. She was almost identical to Hotspur II, being just a fraction larger.

The second Hotspur had an interesting incident during the Second World War, when making the crossing under the command of Mr W Banks. She triggered off an acoustic mine, it is thought by her disengaged free spinning forward propeller. Both ship and passengers escaped possible disaster with a thorough drenching.

The vessel you travel on today is Hotspur IV. She was built in 1946 at the same yard as the Hotspur II and Hotspur III by the Rowhedge Ironworks Company. On December 10th Mrs Elizabeth Percy performed the official introduction into service in Hythe, witnessed by among others Commander J D Percy, Messrs T M Percy (Director of the General Estates Company) and W A Lane (Manager of the General Estates Company).

In 1968 Hotspur IV was brought alongside the Hythe Quay to undergo extensive propulsion and some structural alterations. A few months later, the Hotspur IV was re-commissioned with new T4 Kelvin diesel engines, bridge controlled and slender twin uptakes, replacing her original single funnel, aft of her engine room cover. Similar alterations were made to Hotspur III in 1969, but she retained her single funnel and received Kelvin R6 diesels.


Designed by Hythe naval architect C P Clayton, the HOTSPUR was 80ft in length 15ft in breadth and had a depth of 6ft.

Her paddles were turned by a 25hp oscillating cylinder steam engine, probably one of the last of that type, capable of moving the vessel at a speed of about 8 knots. Her registered tonnage was 39 net, 62 gross and she was built to carry 200 passengers.

She was sold on January 1 1915 to the General Estates Co, renamed GEC and after having her machinery and fittings removed, her hulk was taken to Dibden bay where it eventually rusted away. The registration was cancelled on May 12 1930.

Second Hotspur

The launching of the second Hotspur took place at the East Cowes yard of John Samuel White and Co on January 17 1927. She was 80ft long, 18ft wide with a moulded depth of 6ft 3in. She was a twin-screw motorship propelled by one Vickers Petter 140bhp 4 cylinder, reversible type, heavy-oil engine arranged to drive a propeller at either end of the vessel (remember the war story?), and move her at speeds of up to 10.5 knots.

She also had a Vickers Petter auxiliary set, coupled to an air compressor, the function of which was to supply starting air to the main engine and for driving the electric generator and general service pump.

She was certified to carry 300 passengers. When Hotspur IV was commissioned in 1947 Hotspur was transferred and ran from Yarmouth. She later became a restaurant in London on the north bank of the Thames. She was removed from the site in the mid-seventies.

Hotspur II

Built by Rowhedge, 32tons, 54gross. 56ft long, 17ft wide and 6 ft in depth. 300 passengers. She served on the passage from 1936 until 1978 before being sold to a River Clyde ferry concern who renamed her Kenilworth. (She is still there).

Hotspur III

The same design as Hotspur II, but slightly larger. 34net tonnes, 55 gross. Lenghth 56ft, passenger capacity 304. During 1949 Hotspur II and Hotspur III were re-engined with two 6 cylinder Kelvin Engines. Hotspur III was broken up in 1981.

Hotspur IV

Hotspur IV, again built by Rowhedge, but rather larger. 65ft x 19ftx6ft. Net tonnage 23, gross 54. She was fitted with two 4 cylinder 65ihp Gardner oil engines, and licenced to carry 350. The speed was increased to 9.5 knots with the added power of two new 4 cylinder Kelvin Engines in 1968 and her appearance improved when her funnel was replaced by slender twin uptakes.