Wednesday, 4 May 2016
The modern hovercraft was the invention of Sir Christopher Cockerill, a British mechanical engineer. Recently I watched Pathe news footage of him attending the opening ceremony at the then brand new Ramsgate International Hoverport at Pegwell Bay in 1969. The Saunders Roe Nautical 4 Hovercraft was purposely designed to travel between England and France and at one point two companies, Hoverlloyd (based at Ramsgate) and Seaspeed (based at Dover) were both operating cross channel services. Due to escalating fuel costs caused by the worldwide oil crisis during the 1970's both companies merged to form Hoverspeed and services ceased to run from Ramsgate in 1981. The port survived as a servicing and repair depot for a few years, but has since been demolished and the site is now heavily overgrown and neglected. Services continued to operate out of Dover until Hoverspeed decided to replace the Hovercrafts with a high speed Catamaran known as the Seacat. The final journeys were completed on 1 October 2000 before both remaining hovercrafts were bought by a private collector. The site of the Dover hoverport has also recently been demolished as part of a new redevelopment.
Over recent months the two surviving SRN4 hovercrafts, which are currently being stored at a hovercraft museum in Leigh-on-Solent, have been threatened with being scrapped. Thanks to a worldwide campaign at least one of the two will be preserved as "The Princess Anne" pictured has been deemed in a far better condition than "The Princess Margaret", the other SRN4 hovercraft.