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Red Funnel History - 1861 to date


The Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited was formed in 1861. The Company is the original operator to the Isle of Wight and has a distinguished and colourful history spanning over 146 years. The Company's famous house flag was derived from the names of four steamers that were in the newly merged fleet in 1861- Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby and Pearl.

The story began in the 1820's, when scheduled year-round Packet Services started operating between Southampton, Cowes, Ryde, Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour. Excursion Services were also a mainstay activity during those balmy Victorian and Edwardian summers with daily trips along the South Coast and across the channel to France. In the 1900's, the growing interest in travel provided the Company with an important string to its bow - the provision of tendering services to the great passenger liners.

Many would anchor in Cowes Roads and use Red Funnel's steamers for alighting passengers and transferring all kinds of cargo. In 1885 the Company expanded into Tug Ownership and continued to consolidate its market position throughout the wars. After World War II, recession and changing holiday habits led to the decline of the excursion business and preoccupation with the Southampton-Cowes packet services, particularly in light of growing car ownership and the transfer of cargo onto wheels. Diesel propulsion marked a turning point in the Company's history with the first purpose-built diesel vehicle ferries joining the fleet in the 1950's.

Drawing from the Company's archives, this microsite offers a nostalgic insight into cross-Solent travel since the 1820's. It's rare for a firm to have survived for so long, and the Company is rightly proud of its illustrious history and grateful to those who've played a part.


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Red Funnel 150 by Keith Adams

Red Funnel 150 by Keith Adams

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RedFunnel Address post@redfunnel.co.uk.

Contact Centre: Bookings Tel (Within UK): 0844 844 9988. Tel (Outside UK): 0845 155 2442. Customer Services: Tel +44 (0)23 8001 9192

Switchboard: Tel +44 (0)23 8024 8500. Fax +44 (0)23 8024 8501.

Registered in England: 002404, VAT number: GB 902 873131. All Rights Reserved, © 2014 Red Funnel (i-d2b2b837)

Isle of Wight Port Addresses: Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries, Trinity Road, East Cowes, Isle of Wight PO32 6RA | Red Funnel Red Jet Ferries (West Cowes), Fountain Yard, West Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7AR.

Southampton Port Addresses: Red Funnel Isle of Wight Ferries (Terminal 1), Terminal 1, Dock Gate 7 off Town Quay Road, Southampton, SO14 2AR | Red Funnel Red Jet Ferries (Terminal 2), Terminal 2, Town Quay, Southampton SO14 2AQ.

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Red Jet Hi-Speed service
Southampton <> West Cowes, Isle of Wight
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Our Hi-Speed service is currently delayed by approx 10 minutes.

Passenger Vehicle Ferry service
Southampton <> East Cowes, Isle of Wight
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Service is operating normally

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