CAMBRIAN was built in 1860 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1055grt, a length of 245ft, a beam of 33ft 7in and a service speed of 8 knots.
Costing £25,000 she was launched on 23rd April 1860 by Mrs Saxon the wife of Capt. Saxon of Anderson, Saxon & Co, the Union Lines agent at Cape Town.
She was the first mail ship built for the company to exceed 1000grt and also the first steamer to be built specially and exclusively for the mail service.
Her passenger capacity was 64 First Class, 40 in the Fore Cabin (Second Class) she also carried 500 tons of cargo.
Her trial speed was 10 knots and she cost £25,000 to build.
She made her maiden voyage under the command of Captain William Strutt who had commanded the first Union mail steamer, Dane, three years previously.
It was not long before Cambrian was eclipsed in size by the new Briton, Saxon and Roman and soon Cambrian was regarded as a bit of a slow-coach.
She ran regularly in the mail service for eleven years but by 1871 her best days were long since past. She left Southampton on 25 September that year very light and without ballst. On the way out she had a bad time in heavy weather and when nearing Cape Town she ran out of coal. All the available wood on board was used, the bridge itself being chopped up for fuel. Finally, with the water tanks almost dry and food running short, she managed to creep into Saldanha Bay, 42 days out from England. From here her third officer took a horse and galloped across country to Cape Town, from where the coaster Natal was sent at once with coal to Saldanha Bay.
Anchoring alongside the mail steamer, Natal supplied her with the necessary fuel and in due course Cambrian arrived in Cape Town.
After this rather disgraceful performance it was decided that she should be disposed of and it was announced that on 6 March 1872 at Lloyd’s Captains, Room and the Royal Exchange, the sale would take place of this “well-known fast and favourite steamship” a description greeted with much mirth in the South African press. On changing hands Cambrian became the property of H Deglaire of Havre, who ran her (under the same name) until October 1882 when she met her end by foundering near Bordeaux.