Packet ship

Packet ship

A packet ship was, originally, a vessel employed to carry Post Office mail packets to and from British colonies and outposts. The captains were generally also able to carry bullion, private goods, and passengers. The ships were usually lightly armed and relied on speed for their security.

The Admiralty took over control of the packet ships from 1823 and replaced older vessels with naval ships made redundant by the peace that had followed the end of the Napoleonic wars. Steam vessels started to replace sail in 1830 and this enabled a more regular and predictable service to be operated. After 1840, moves were made to contract out the services to new private companies.

Routes and ports

The international routes can be considered as two groups, those to Atlantic and Mediterranean ports, and those to northern Europe. There were also packets carried to Ireland.

Atlantic and Mediterranean

Packets have been carried through Falmouth in Cornwall since around 1688. The last packet arrived in that port on April 30 1851. Most routes had been transferred to Southampton which had been linked to London by railway - the Cornwall Railway did not reach Falmouth until 1863. Other ports handling packets include Liverpool (from 1840) and Plymouth (from 1850).

Northern Europe

Routes ran at various times from Dover in Kent and Harwich in Essex.


The usual packet route was from Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales to Dublin, or Dún Laoghaire (previously Kingstown), in Ireland. A new road was built by Thomas Telford to link London with Holyhead over the Menai Suspension Bridge.


*"The Falmouth Packets", Tony Pawlyn, Truran, Truro 2003, ISBN 1-85022-175-8
*"Plymouth - Ocean Liner Port of Call", Alan Kitteridge, Twelveheads Press, Truro 1993, ISBN 0-906294-30-4

ee also

*Packet (sea transport)

External links

* [ Falmouth Packet Archives]

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