The crossing of Southampton Water from Hythe to Southampton has probably occurred for as long as there have been people living on either side of the water, but the first specific mention of a Hythe Ferry or ‘Hitheferye’ was on Saxton’s Map of Hampshire in 1575. Sailing ships were used until c.1830 when the first steam powered vessels were introduced. The first of the four ferries named Hotspur was a paddle steamer capable of carrying about 200 passengers, built in 1889. Hotspur IV, built in 1946, had a diesel engine and could carry 350 passengers, although that is now restricted to 300. Great Expectations, which had previously worked the Tilbury – Gravesend route, joined Hotspur IV in 2007. Before Hythe Pier was built in 1881 the ferry operated from Hythe Hard, a little way to the south of the pier. The modern ferry operates between Hythe Pier and Town Quay.
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