Top Picture: The very first Hovertravel poster
Bottom Picture: The Hovergirls. L to R: Jilly Jacobs, Jenny Caparnie, Linda Lever, Mary Sexstone (now I bet she had trouble with her name at school!!!).
Ticket to Ryde (Ride)
The Inauguration of Hovertravel in 1965 just brings it into the brief of this blog. The six men that started the company all admired Sir Christopher Cockerell's invention, but to make it viable they needed to offer passengers a service that they couldn't get from a ferry; the beach at Ryde provided the answer. The low tides in the area take the sea out far beyond the town's esplanade, and it has always been impossible for any ship to berth anywhere near roads or bus routes. Until 1965 the only passenger ferries from Portsmouth stopped at the end of Ryde's half mile long pier.
Obviously ferries still have to use the end of the pier today. But the Hovertravel entrepreneurs seized on the hovercraft s ability to travel across both water and land. No matter what the tide was doing, passengers could embark and disembark in exactly the right place, with no need to trundle up and down the pier by foot, tram or train as an additional requirement of their journey.
So the Hovertravel route was born, adapted over the years, but always operating to use the unique advantage that the hovercraft has over all other forms of transport.
The partners that created Hovertravel shared a love of sailing, pioneer ventures, and a certain daredevilry. They were Desmond Norman and John Britten, who had founded the Britten-Norman aircraft company on the Isle of Wight; Don Robertson, an outstanding pilot who had flown pre-war mail planes in the Arctic and served as a Spitfire test pilot; Edwin Gifford, a civil engineer; Frank Mann, Desmond Norman's partner in an aerial crop-spraying company; and David Webb, a chartered accountant.
The first Ryde terminal was a very basic affair on the seafront and there were two mainland terminals one at Southsea which still exists and one on Stokes Bay in Gosport.
The company's first hovercraft, a 38-seater Westland SR.N6, arrived on 24th July 1965, and Hovertravel went straight into business, making its first passenger crossing from Stokes Bay just before noon on that day.The company's Senior Captain, and initially its sole pilot, was Peter Ayles, who gave the Governor of the Isle of Wight, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, his first hovercraft trip when he inaugurated the service on 4th August 1965.
Unsurprisingly, the public initially regarded Hovertravel and its workings with some hilarity in 1965. The bureaucratic farrago that was involved in dealing with numerous legislative bodies while everyone debated whether the hovercraft was a plane or a ship (or possibly neither) caused particular merriment and the arrival of a pair of caravans to use as terminals added greatly to the fun.
Within a few weeks, the SR.N6 had carried over 30,000 passengers. Hovertravel celebrated with champagne when over 1,000 passengers used the service in a single day. Less than six months after the inauguration, 116,000 passengers had discovered the joys of the hovercraft.
The first timetables were a byword of easy-going enterprise. Initially there were no fixed schedules, with the hovercraft running on demand until more practical methods were devised. The Senior Captain, Peter Ayles, once set a personal record of 77 crossings in a single day, later he had his workload eased when Tony Smith and Peter Atkinson were recruited as pilots. Highly qualified as they were, they still did their stint on the ticket desk when the need arose.
The fares were 7s 6d (37'/ip) for early morning journeys, and a 10s (50p) for crossings made after 10.30am. Much excitement was aroused by the arrival of an exotic team of cabin crew. These sensational females, known as the Hovergirls, will be remembered forever by all who had the good fortune to encounter their daring fashion sense and their willingness to expose their knees.
The Stokes Bay service closed in 1967, but the Ryde-Southsea service became increasingly popular. In 1968, Hovertravel carried its millionth passenger.
The Solent service began operating a regular timetable and by the end of 1970 had achieved a total of 15,000 running hours, with 17,000 crossings made in that year alone. The company's finances, initially somewhat precarious, improved enormously.
Hovercraft technology and commercial requirements have changed greatly in the past forty years, and Hovertravel is in many ways very different from the company that those six partners set up in 1965, but it has always been inspired by their founding principle. For forty years, the hovercraft has been the fastest and most convenient way to cross the Solent, and Hovertravel is proud that it still serves to provide its customers with this unique service.
In 1965 the hovercraft took less than ten minutes to cross the Solent, and that efficiency remains today, although not on the scale achieved in 1970 when the SR.N5 achieved a record crossing time of 4mins 53secs - albeit with no passengers aboard to experience this invigorating trip.
Hovertravel's cross-Solent service was inaugurated in the same year as The Beatles had a hit with Ticket to Ride. Although the title had distinctly less salubrious connotations, it also contained a double - meaning that referred to the visits Paul McCartney had made to Ryde, where his cousin once owned a bar.
Keep in touch
Martin replies to Melv’s question about the School Secretary
Tell Melv her name was Mrs. Richardson..............and I do believe she came to Manor Court for a while............Nice lady....always a smile on her face..........
So does Peter.
Mrs Richardson was the school secretary at Court Lane For as long as I can remember.
News and Views:
You will not be surprised to know that there are a number of Beatles songs in the top 20 for the 60s, but also included is Ken Dodd (Tears), The Seekers (The Carnival Is Over) and Engelbert (Release Me). Rock and Roll!
On this day 7th August 1960-1965.
On 07/08/1960 the number one single was Shakin' All Over - Johnny Kidd & the Pirates and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Castro nationalises all US property.
On 07/08/1961 the number one single was Well I Ask You - Eden Kane and the number one album was Black & White Minstrel Show - George Mitchell Minstrels. The top rated TV show was Top Secret (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Ipswich were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 07/08/1962 the number one single was I Remember You - Frank Ifield and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 07/08/1963 the number one single was (You're the) Devil In Disguise - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Fears over Washington Freedom March.
On 07/08/1964 the number one single was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 07/08/1965 the number one single was Help - The Beatles and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Riviera Police (AR) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.