In 1887, Mr Fry, the lessee of the pier tolls was succeeded by Mr James Percy, so beginning the long and happy association of the Percy family with the pier and ferry which continued for more than a century.
Their family firm, the General Estates Company, bought the steamers then operating between Hythe and Southampton.
James Percy was a direct descendant of Sir Henry Percy, first Earl of Northumberland and father of Harry, called Hotspur, known as the small warrior with the great heart, for his valorous deeds in the 14th century.
Hotspur became the name of family’s ferry boat, and five others have followed.
The original Hotspur entered service in 1889 and ran until 1927, when the replacement Hotspur was introduced. The original Hotspur was renamed the GEC. Eventually she was stripped of her engine, boiler and anything else of any value, towed into Dibden Bay, and left to rust away!
The earliest mention of Hythe was in 1293
Hythe is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning; “landing place” as it acknowledges that Hythe was the first place on this side of the water that one could land dry shod. This was because of a natural feature the “Hythe Hard” a gravel bank extending into Southampton water, uncovered at low tide, and available for landings. The earliest ferryboats were rowed across by strong wherrymen, the journey taking upwards of an hour depending on the state of the tide and weather. The first mention of a regular ferry occurs when the name Hytheferye appears on Saxton’s map of Hampshire in 1575.
The villagers of Hythe were occupied in a mixture of agriculture, fishing and ferrying, they lived around a tidal lagoon with a very narrow entrance through which small boats could pass to moor in the sheltered waters. Over time the lagoon silted up to form what is now known as the Marsh. Hythe High Street was built on the bank between Southampton Water and the lagoon.