The first vessel to bring the official Southampton mail to Jersey, on 27 April 1845, was the South Western, built in 1843 by Ditchburn and Mare of Blackwall and engined by Maudsley. She had made her first demonstration voyage to Jersey on 10 July 1843 and started commercial voyages to the Channel Islands on 1 August.
She was the first vessel built after London and South Western Railway financed the setting up of the South Western Steam Packet Company.
This happened in 1842 because the railway company was not legally able to own ships, so it bought out the British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company which had been formed some years previously. The South Western Steam Packet Company five years later absorbed the South of England Steam Packet Company and then changed its name to the New South Western Steam Navigation Company.
Finally the London and South Western Railway took over completely the New South Western Steam Navigation Company in 1862 and kept the name of London and South Western Railway Company until 1932.
Iron paddle steamer
Of 204 tons, 143 feet long and 18 feet beam, the South Western was the first iron paddle steamer put on the Channel Islands run. In 1845 and 1846 she operated between Southampton and Jersey, moving in 1848 to the Poole-Channel Islands-St Malo route with mail and cargo. She was then based in Jersey for three summers, operating scheduled services to France and excursions. A short period on a service between Weymouth and the Islands was her last commercial operation in local waters.
However, as the pictures on this page show clearly, South Western was to undergo a major change in appearance. She returned to Jersey in 1863, having been bought by shipowners and shipbuilders Esnouf and Mauger, and she was converted to a barque, with the addition of a central mast, the paddle casing and funnel removed, and in August that year she sailed for Singapore, taking five months for the voyage. She traded between Hong Kong and China before being sold in Shanghai in 1865.
Three years later, renamed the Sud Veste and sailing under the Spanish flag, she took part in the rescue of the crew of HMS Gnat in the China Sea.