The following two and a half pages are devoted to a collection of photographs which were taken by Joseph Benson between 1902 and 1912. Born in 1874 in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, Joseph was the son of a Master Mariner and himself trained as a naval architect, eventually working at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Glasgow. Joseph was obviously a keen sailor and took several boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads during the early part of the 20th century. He passed his love of sailing onto his son, Maxwell, who was taught to sail by his father as a young boy and later went on to serve with the Royal Navy during WW2. Joseph was also a keen amateur photographer, and captured some wonderful images of Edwardian Broadland. My thanks go to Ray Arnold for taking the time to scan, edit and send the collection to me.
The first photograph is from 1902 and features the lock and lock keepers cottage at Coltishall. At this time, the navigation continued a further nine miles upriver to Aylsham and had been a well used transport route with, it is said, up to 26 wherries serving this section of the waterway at one time. As with the rest of the system, it was the coming of the railways which led to a major decline in goods being transported by river, although some holiday traffic continued to use this stretch. The major floods of August 1912 effectively closed the navigation beyond this point as all five locks, and several of the road bridges were heavily damaged or washed away in the deluge and the funding could not be found to carry out all of the necessary repair works. Although river traffic ceased at this time, the waterway was not officially abandoned until 1928.
Looking downstream towards Coltishall Lock - a wherry is making its way upriver. There was a limit on the size of vessel which could travel beyond Coltishall of a maximum of 54 ft in length with a 13ft 9” beam as far as Buxton Lamas, reducing to a 12ft 8” beam from Buxton Lamas to Aylsham, and a maximum draught of 3.5 ft. The trading wherry “Zulu” was famously trapped on the Upper Bure after the 1912 floods and was hauled manually around the obstructions on slides to enable her to get back downstream again.
An unidentified pleasure wherry, photographed by Joseph Benson in 1902 - possibly on the River Bure between Wroxham and Coltishall.
A heavily laden trading wherry being quanted at an unknown location in 1902.
Sailing on Wroxham Broad in 1902.
Another photograph taken at Wroxham Broad - the River Bure can be seen beyond.
Looking back tow where Joseph had been standing to take the previous photograph at Wroxham Broad.
An eel-catchers hut on the River Bure, also pictured in 1902. I have seen seen several photographs and postcards of the same hut from the late Victorian era and early part of the 20th century, so it seems to have been a fixture on this spot for at least 20 years.
A view of Ranworth maltings, seen on the left, looking across to Malthouse Broad c1902.
Thatched cottages at South Walsham - the photographer John Payne Jennings captured the same scene in the 1880s which was published in his book “Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Broads”.
Another Broadland cottage - possibly also taken at South Walsham?
A thatched boathouse, also pictured in 1902.
Beaumont’s Mill which stood just below Ludham Bridge on the River Ant.
This appears to have been the sailing cruiser which was hired by Joseph Benson for the 1902 holiday, pictured here on the River Ant. As yet, I have been unable to identify the craft, although in subsequent years they do seem to have hired exclusively from Ernest Collins yard at Wroxham.
This photograph of a trading wherry being quanted along a narrow stretch in 1902 looks as though it may also have been taken on the River Ant.
Joseph captured the racing at one of the regattas in 1902 - possibly Potter Heigham?
This is the yacht “America” which was built by Ernest Collins at Wroxham, and would have been fairly new at the time this photograph was taken in 1902. America was 43ft in length, with a 10ft beam, and was listed for hire in Harry Blakes 1908 yachting list at between £6 to £10 per week including two attendants.
An unknown trading wherry moored near Horsey Mere in 1902.
The first of three photographs taken on Hickling Broad by Joseph of the yacht hired by he and his companions in 1902. I can’t quite make out the name on the transom!
Another photograph taken at Hickling.
The third photograph taken at Hickling, and the final one in the collection dating from 1902.