Red Funnel has officially reached its 160th birthday, marking over a century and a half of travel between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, serving as the island’s original and longest standing ferry operator.

The ferry operator first launched in 1861 as the ‘Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited’.

During its long history it has hosted millions of passengers, from islanders and commuters to families exploring the Isle of Wight, to celebrities and royals.

To commemorate its milestone anniversary this Autumn, Red Funnel will be launching two new community initiatives to bring together island partners and residents. The projects will draw on the island’s creative roots and have been inspired by the local environment.

Fran Collins, Chief Executive at Red Funnel said: “We are extremely proud to reach our 160th year – over the decades we’ve experienced so much change, from two world wars and supporting the Dunkirk evacuations, to welcoming the first ever Isle of Wight festival-goers on board in 1968 and not to forget Red Funnel’s significant involvement in the story of Titanic. The island is so unique and has so much to offer, and we are extremely privileged to be a part of its history, identity and future.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve often thought about our predecessors and considered the challenges we know they faced. There’s a comfort in knowing that during that last 160 years, no matter what, they kept going. Through wars, recessions, pandemics – they persevered and kept sailing. Today their legacy lives on as we continue to uphold their unwavering spirit of strength and resilience, and that enduring commitment to our Island community spanning 16 decades.”

As part of its commitment to the Island, Red Funnel has nurtured relationships across the region, including the likes of Isle of Wight Independent Lifeboats, Mountbatten Isle of Wight, and the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary, raising over £300,000 for charitable causes since 2015.

Each year its customers and team of over 400 colleagues raise funds for a nominated Charity of the Year, with nominations set to open for 2022 this Christmas.

About Red Funnel

Red Funnel is the original Isle of Wight ferry company with roots tracing back to 1820. Based in the UK port of Southampton, Red Funnel carries 3.4m passengers and over 800,000 vehicles on its ferry route between the UK port of Southampton and East Cowes and 1.1m passengers between Southampton and West Cowes on its Red Jet Hi-Speed service.

In addition to ferry travel, Red Funnel is the only cross-Solent operator to offer ferry inclusive bonded holiday accommodation, attraction tickets, festival and event tickets and activity packages. Sub-brands include Red Jet, the high-speed passenger only ferry service serving West Cowes, and its on board café, ‘ReFuel’.

The Company is a founder member of Visit Isle of Wight Ltd, the Island’s not for profit destination management organisation and Red Funnel sponsors or supports most of the Island’s events including the IW Festival, Cowes Week, Rhythm Tree, The Great Wonderfest, Wight Proms, Cowes Classics, and Walk the Wight as well as a range of community and niche interest events.

Red Funnel’s Charity of the Year, 2021 is Isle of Wight Independent Lifeboats.

The Nov 2021 issue of Ships Monthly will contain a detailed history of the company.

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