Tower Belle

The most popular and iconic passenger boat in Bristol

The most popular and iconic passenger boat in Bristol. This 100 year old vessel has been lovingly restored to reflect the timeless style of the 1920s.

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An open boat with canopy cover and side screens over the aft deck.

Maximum capacity 95 passengers.

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History of the Tower Belle

In 1920 Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Shipbuilders (Walker Yard) Newcastle built the Tower Belle. This illustrious ship builder was experiencing a boom period with orders for ships to replace those lost in the Great War. Between the huge Battleships and Cargo vessels this small passenger ship was completed and launched into the Tyne. She was named Wincomblee after the area around the shipyard, later named Tower Belle after Tower Bridge.

We can only speculate why the shipyard needed a 100-seat passenger launch. It could have been to carry dignitaries, or to link the Elswick and Walker shipyards, or to ferry the foreign navy crews to and from their ships during hand over. For whatever reasons this 72ft passenger vessel was built on lines similar to the battle ships and cruisers taking shape around her.

The ships registry shows Armstrong’s owned the Wincomblee until 1939 when the registration transferred to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle and she became the property of the City and used as a ferry. In 1946 she was sold to a Dutch national and taken by sea to London. Based at Westminster Pier with three different owners (Thames Launches ltd, George Hastings then W R Withams Ltd). She ran to Greenwich and up as far as Hampton Court. Many people have childhood memories of traveling on the Tower Belle during the 1950s and 60s

In 1976 Tower Belle was up for sale again and lay unwanted on Eel Pie Island. The enterprising Nick Gray who had started Bristol Packet Boat Trips three years earlier carrying passengers on Narrow Boat Redshank bought her and she arrived in Bristol on the back of a truck in 1977.

In Bristol the Tower Belle quickly gained enthusiastic friends. Offering an Avon Gorge Cruise, a voyage not available to the general public since Campbell’s Paddle steamers had stopped trading in the early 1960s. It also started running trips to Beese’s Tea Gardens, Hanham and Keynsham. Carrying general public on advertised trips and available for private parties, often with jazz bands onboard.

Today she is the most popular and iconic passenger boat in Bristol. A typical day can start with a school party of 80 children screaming under the bridges, followed by a leisurely afternoon cream tea cruise, then an evening party with music and dancing on the aft deck.

Katie
Katie
7 May 2024
Great for special occasions, lots of fun! We had such a fabulous time on the Bagheera boat! There were 21 of us for a Hen Party, and it was a blast. The bar was well stocked, the crew were friendly, there was a microphone for us to use for games, and we could play our own music. Perfect! Booking was really simple, and communication great. Thank you!
Lynds
Lynds
3 February 2024
Do it! The boat trip was fabulous, thank you to Jude. There were only five of us for my sister’s hen do. We got to play our own music, chill have fun and not worry about anyone or anything else
S S
S S
18 December 2023
Excellent views of the city I went on one of these boats at the end of a self-guided tour of the harbourside. It was absolutely lovely. I'm not great with mobility, but I was helped onto and off the boat. What a good way to see the city!
David P
David P
8 September 2023
Must do trip when in Bristol We went on the Avon Gorge tour today 8th September. With Will as our guide,Steve the driver and Joe doing everything else. They were all fabulous and the trip well worth the money. Will was balanced giving out really good information through the trip with humour. The views were fabulous and we were very lucky with weather. Would recommend the trip
Esther W
Esther W
28 August 2023
fun fact after fun fact! lovely lil float around the dock learning a lot about the city! went on the 45 min boat ride and it was indeed fun fact after fun fact, cheers jude!
anthony w
anthony w
14 August 2023
Well worth going to the sites from the river and for Neville's commentry The weather was poor but it did not spoil the pleasure of this trip from SS Great Britain to the Bristol Channel. We were treated to an interesting and entertaining commentary from Neville. His knowledge of facts and noteworthy events was superb. But he did not lecture us, it was a delightful 3hrs, thank you Neville.
EmmaSuze1
EmmaSuze1
26 June 2023
Cracking Cream Tea We met friends for the 2 hour cream tea cruise. The scones were delicious and quite possibly the best I have ever had. The lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownie were also full of flavour. It was a great sightseeing tour and a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, seeing parts of Bristol we may never have see on foot. Our guide was very knowledgeable and engaged well with the passengers. She was interesting, friendly and funny and pointed out many of the moored boats and their history along the way. This trip made our weekend in Bristol even more memorable.
WalesSam
WalesSam
4 June 2023
Highly recommend… Wanted to do a boat trip around the harbour with my 8 year old Son and saw the good reviews. So glad we chose this trip- 45 mins around the harbour. Only £15 for both of us. Very interesting and enjoyable. Lovely comfortable boat, friendly crew. Would highly recommend and would do this again.
Karen P
Karen P
3 June 2023
Fabulous Evening I arranged a 3 hour boat trip for 30+ work colleagues. The crew were excellent: friendly, helpful and fun. We had 2 pub stops to the Grain Barge and Kings Road where we did not feel rushed in any way to get back to the boat. There was plenty of room onboard and plenty of choice at the bar. Everyone had a fantastic time and I’m sure we will have other trips in future. Thank you Bristol Packet Tours!
tracy s
tracy s
1 June 2023
A perfect afternoon on the water. This 45 minute boat trip is a perfect way to explore Bristol's beautiful and historic harbour. Our hosts George and Archie were fantastic, engaging and knowledgeable. They delivered a perfect tour with great facts and were able to answer our questions and provide a lovely glass of wine. Will definitely be booking the longer pub lunch trip next time we are in Bristol.

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