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Packet Boats

Packet boats were so called because they carried packages.

The first packet boats ran between Kendal, Lancaster and Preston from 1st May 1820.  The boat left Kendal at 6am, arriving in Preston at 8pm.

In 1833 a fast passenger boat service on a faster boat, the Waterwitch, was begun between Preston, Lancaster and Kendal.  The boat left Kendal at 6am and arrived in Preston at 1pm, halving the journey time of the original packet boats.

Up to 70 passengers could be carried, in two heated cabins where refreshments were served by stewards along the way.

The boat travelled around 10 miles per hour. 

The boats were pulled by horses, driven by a postillion with the packet master steering from the stern, and horses were changed every 4 miles.

Changes of horses on the Garstang rural district section of the canal were made at Garstang and Forton, exact locations are not known but it is thought that they may have been at Ratcliffe Wharf, near Bell’s Bridge, and at the station house at Stubbins.

Between 1833 and 1846 there were 4 fast packet boats operating between Preston and Kendal, Waterwitch, Swallow, Swiftsure and Crewdson (later Waterwitch II), all of which were around 72 feet long.

Waterwitch – courtesy of Lancaster City Museum

Packet Boats sailed daily from Lancaster at 7.30am and 12 noon, and from Kendal at 8.30am and 1.30pm.

Boats from Lancaster were dispatched on arrival of the respective trains from the south, and boats from Kendal would be in time for the trains from Lancaster to the south at 1.10pm and 5.30pm.

In 1842 the price for the journey between Lancaster and Kendal was 3 shillings in the First Class cabin, and 2 shillings in the Second Class cabin. Breakfast and refreshments were provided on board, and the boats were heated in cold weather.

A free omnibus was provided for transfer between the railway and packet stations at Lancaster.