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1900-1949 Photos 1900-1949 Memories

1900 to 1949 - An Historic Overview

At the turn of the 20th century Broadland was beginning to capitalise on the increasing numbers of holidaymakers who were flocking to the area. The coastal resorts were developing at a rapid pace but Broadland too was experiencing many changes. The numbers of boat builders and owners who had begun hiring had been steadily increasing and the first hire boat agencies had started. The villages were also growing to accommodate and service the visitors and boatyards were competing to build craft that would accommodate the needs and comforts of their clients. It was still the rural tranquillity which attracted visitors to the Broads and, for some gentlemen, the challenge that sailing offered. In 1903 William A. Dutt described Coltishall as “one of the most picturesque waterside villages in the district”. Its amenities included an hotel, five public houses, a cottage hospital and a railway station along with an array of shops. In 1904 Roys opened their now world famous Hoveton branch of the store and by 1908 had opened a further two branches in Horning and Potter Heigham.  Other riverside stores were making morning deliveries of fresh milk, water and other groceries directly to the boats moored nearby.

Yacht racing had, by this time, become a very popular and highly competitive business attracting large prize money and heavy wagering amongst the owners. By 1902 the Waveney Sailing Club, which was established at Oulton Broad in 1895, had over 200 members and regattas were being held at all the major Broadland villages. Wealthy owners strived to have the sleekest and fastest yachts built, employing professional crews to race the boats for them. The lateener and cutter yachts were still in evidence but many fine, large racing yachts were built during the Edwardian period. Smaller, open racing dinghies were also now starting to be developed, some of which continue to be raced at regattas today. Broads One Designs, known as “brown boats”, made their debut at Oulton Broad on Whit Monday in 1901. In 1908 Ernest Woods built the first of his Yare and Bure One Designs at Cantley for the Yare and Bure Sailing Club. He went on to build over 60 of these “white boats” before his retirement in 1963. His brother Walter was the official builder of the Yarmouth One Design class of lug-sailed half deckers made for the Great Yarmouth Yacht Club.

As pleasure wherries and sailing cruisers continued to be built in ever increasing numbers, the amount of steam launches and passenger cruisers on the waterways was also growing, with day trips on the larger vessels costing just a few shillings. The cost of hiring a yacht or wherry was, however, still prohibitively expensive for most holidaymakers although smaller half deckers equipped with camping awnings and mattresses were a slightly cheaper option for some. The summer holiday season was somewhat shorter than that of today covering just a six to eight week period, but one man was determined to try and extend this.

Harry Blake discovered the Norfolk Broads in 1906 when, along with friends from his South London hometown, he took a holiday on a wherry yacht. He approached the owner, Ernest Collins, at the end of the trip and offered to act as an agent for him, promising to increase the number of weeks over which his boats were let. He duly began booking out the boats in 1907 and in 1908 produced his first “Yachting List”. At this stage he was acting as an agent for just this one yard but by the following year his list covered thirteen boatyards and offered 43 cabin sailing yachts for hire. The holiday season had indeed been extended and now ran from May to September.

Ernest Collins boatyard at Wroxham c1907

Amongst his 1909 list of pleasure wherries and yachts available was the auxiliary wherry yacht “Rambler” owned by W.S. Porter of Oulton Broad. For the 1909 season she had been newly fitted with a 14 hp 3 cylinder motor made by J.W. Brooke of Lowestoft, one of the first hire boats on the broads to be equipped with an engine. There were many experiments for the internal combustion engine being done on boats around this time. Some of the earliest examples were made with large, converted lifeboats such as “The John Birch” which had seen service at Great Yarmouth and became the motor cruiser “Crescent”.  These early marine engines were, however, very unreliable and difficult to use. To start the engine you had to pour a small amount of spirit into brass cups placed directly above each cylinder head, small taps beneath were then opened to allow the spirit to run directly onto the pistons, closed off again, then the large starting handle had to be turned vigorously the get the motor to run. Injuries, such as a broken wrist or arm, were often sustained if the starting handle was not being held correctly.

Harry Blakes 1909 brochure also contained notes on how a cruising holiday was conducted at that time. Clients were told to ensure that they had plentiful supplies of tobacco, cigarettes and cigars as one may not find fresh supplies of their usual brands readily available in the villages. Where attendants were provided with the boat there was also a choice as to the arrangements made for their board. You would either provide food for them, prepared for the party by the steward, or pay them an extra allowance to cater for themselves.  The hiring party were recommended to take on board the vast sailing knowledge and experience of the crews as they would ensure that your cruise took you to “the most interesting and picturesque parts of the Broads”. He also made mention of the holiday bungalows that were now beginning to appear along the riverside and recommended Messrs. Boulton and Paul Ltd to clients who wished to rent a piece of land and have a similar bungalow built.

Wroxham bungalow 1910

Riverside bungalow at Wroxham c1910

Blakes introduction to the yachting list also gave an insight into what delights the Norfolk Broads had to offer visitors.  “All lovers of nature will be greatly impressed the moment they find themselves on this wonderful lakeland, for one feels the glamour of it stealing over you”. Although Norwich and Great Yarmouth provided opportunities for amusement and entertainment, little else was available in the villages at this time but some attractions were now beginning to appear. In 1910 visitors were urged to take a trip on the Waveney to visit Frank Rice’s Zoological Gardens at Burgh St. Peter to see the latest addition of “a sacred white camel”.  In his 1912 list, Blake told potential holidaymakers that “a visit to the local inn, where refreshments of every description are served, must not be missed, for many a good yarn may be heard spun by veteran wherry and yacht skippers, who know little of other life besides that of cruising up and down the Broads district, summer and winter”. One would imagine that the locals were more than happy to spin “yarns” for the tourists in return for a few beers!

By 1912 the number of yards that Blake was representing had increased to 20 and the letting season had extended into April. The average cost per head for a two week holiday including boat hire and expenditure on food and sundries, based on a party of six, was estimated to be £5 10s 6d per person for the whole fortnight. The wherry yacht “Olive” which slept up to ten persons could be hired for a week, along with two attendants, for £11 early or late in the season and £14 4s during August. The 38ft “Blue Diamond” which could be hired from Wroxham and came with one attendant, would cost between £7-£8, and  the 28ft 4 berth yacht “Frolic” was advertised as having “one sail only, to enable gentlemen to manage themselves” and cost between £3 and £4 10s for a weeks hire depending on the season. Half deckers with camping awnings were available from just 25 shillings a week. There were also seven pages of motor cruisers and launches listed at the back of the 1912 list. “Christina” was a 27’6” 4 berth cruiser which cost £7 7s per week to hire during August. The day launches “Sunflower” and “Amy” could be hired for picnic parties, complete with a skipper and inclusive of fuel, for between £1 10s and £2 2s per day.

Blakes 1913 brochure

Blakes 1913 Yachting List

Evidence that motors were really beginning to make their presence felt in the pleasure boating world was to be found in the adverts for Boulton and Paul marine engines and also “Motorboat and Marine Oil and Gas Engine” magazine which was published weekly at a cost of 1d.

The Broadland landscape was ever changing, the first Breydon swing bridge, part of the rail network, had opened in 1903 and in 1912 one of the most contentious Broadland landmarks arrived at Cantley. The sugar beet factory was built by the Anglo-Netherlands Sugar Corporation who were, at that time, one of the largest landowners in the area.  Production was shortlived as the factory was closed down after the outbreak of the First World War, however, the machinery was maintained throughout its closure and production finally resumed in 1920. 1912 also saw two other major events worth mentioning. The railways had taken a good deal of the transportation of goods and supplies away from the waterways but trade was still continuing. The old trading boats were being superseded by steam tugs and the last Norfolk wherry “Ella” was built in this year.

In August Broadland was dramatically transformed when eight inches of rain fell over the region in under 24 hours causing the most devastating floods to be witnessed since 1878. Although the occasional flooding of rivers was to be expected, the amount of rainfall and the accompanying gales caused massive destruction all over the system. When the lock at Buxton collapsed it caused a surge of water which also destroyed the road bridge at Coltishall. Norwich and Oulton Broad also suffered major damage in the Great Flood of 1912.

In 1913, with the threat of war looming, the admiralty proposed to take over Hickling broad as a reserve base for flying boats. Contractors built a concrete slipway which is still in evidence today but the planned base did not happen. The broad was taken over under the defence of the realm act in 1918 but even then was only used for a couple of emergency landings and, once the armistice came, Hickling returned to normal. The outbreak of war did little to affect the boat hire industry on the Broads. Many young men from Norfolk and Suffolk were of course called up to fight in the trenches but holidaymakers still visited Broadland throughout the period. Harry Blake continued to produce his annual lists of boats available for hire and, in 1916, formed the Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Owners Association which was to represent the many boatbuilders for whom he was acting as an agent.

Magdalen Street Norwich August 1912

Magdalen Street in Norwich pictured after the 1912 flood

Whilst the war did little to diminish the boat hire industry, yacht racing came to a virtual standstill in 1914 when most of the paid crew that the owners relied upon were called up. It was slow to recover after this period but the first Wroxham regatta to be held after the war took place in 1919. The large, fast racing yachts that had dominated the racing scene in the Victorian and Edwardian era were now felt to be too expensive to build and maintain, smaller dinghies and sailing cruisers were increasingly becoming the more popular choice. Yacht racing had now become a strictly amateur affair and, over the next decade, small sailing boat ownership was to increase amongst people from all walks of life, reaching its peak in the 1930’s.

Around Broadland development was proceeding rapidly as more and more people wished to experience the beauty of the area. Populations were steadily growing and new methods of transport meant that access to the villages became easier. In the earlier years of the century visitors were met at the station by pony and trap but Harry Blakes 1920 brochure, by now entitled “Norfolk Broads Holidays Afloat”, contained an advert for the “Norfolk Broads and District Motor Service” at Horning. It stated that a “regular service of first class motor omnibuses run daily between Wroxham station, Horning, Ludham and Potter Heigham bridge for the conveyance of passengers and luggage. During the summer months it is intended to considerably extend this service, linking up many places which, hitherto, have been practically inaccessible”. It also offered motor cars for hire to private parties which would meet them at the station. The famous Bristol L type bus began service in the 1920s and was to become a regular sight for the next 30 years running a service between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, stopping at all the main Broadland villages en route on a journey that took nearly two hours to complete. The brochure also contained advertisements for outboard motors by Evinrude, Knight and Watermota. Norwegian born inventor Ole Evinrude designed and built the first outboard motor in 1909, inspired after rowing to an island with his girlfriend for a picnic on a very hot summer’s day. The earlier designs were not highly efficient but by 1920 he had perfected his motors and others were copying his ideas.

Blakes 1920 brochure included a note that his contact with potential clients now stood at ten thousand and along with the yachts, wherries and motor boats for hire were 15 houseboats and a few bungalows. The effects of the war had begun to take their toll as he announced that boat hire prices had risen this year due to “ a heavy increase in materials etc., which have risen 200 to 300 per cent since 1914”. This did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for boating holidays and bookings remained strong even though prices has almost doubled compared to those listed in the 1912 brochure. Noticeably in this edition, the higher peak season rate was charged between May and September rather than just the August of previous years. The average estimated cost per person for a fortnights holiday, based on a party of six, had now risen to £8 12s 6d. The wherry yacht “Olive” cost between £18 and £24 for a weeks hire, the yacht “Blue Diamond” was £9 10s rising to £12 15s while the smaller “Frolic” cost £7 10s at the highest rate. Of the motor boats listed some had been converted from older sailing vessels but purpose built motor cruisers and launches were now appearing.  The 30ft launch “Marguerite” from Oulton Broad was fitted with a 22hp Daimler engine and was “especially suitable for picnic parties” for up to 12 people or it could sleep 2.  It was priced at £14 15s per week or £5 5s per day during high season.

Pleasure wherry at Horning 1920s

Pleasure Wherry at Horning 1920s

More and more yards were starting to build and hire motor cruisers alongside the sailing yachts and wherries during the early 1920’s including Alfred Ward and J.H. Jenner at Thorpe and E.C. Landamore at Wroxham. Landamores also built the famous passenger cruiser “Duchess” during this decade which saw many years of service at Wroxham. Along with the new builds were the converted craft, several of the pleasure wherries had their masts removed and engines fitted and, in 1923, one of the largest motor cruisers to feature in a hire fleet appeared when an 80’ ex-WW1 Royal Navy motor launch was re-fitted for holiday use. In his 1927 brochure Harry Blake had 36 pages of motor craft listed and, as the popularity of motor cruisers began to increase, attentions were turned away from building the larger sailing vessels - the very last pleasure wherry “Ardea” was built at Oulton Broad in 1927. In January 1928 a rival agency to Blakes appeared when a group of private owners and boat builders including Jack Robinson and John Jenner, formed The Broadland Yachting Association at Oulton Broad. There were initially 19 members and the BYA continued operating until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Herbert Woods had joined the family business run by his father, Walter, at Potter Heigham in the early 1920’s when Walters health began failing. Herbert Woods is now considered to be the architect of the modern hire boat industry with both the design of his motor cruisers and the way in which he developed the yard at Potter Heigham. In 1926 he built his first motor cruiser “Speed Of Light” and over the next four years was to launch a total of nine of this class of vessel which he hired out through Harry Blakes agency. He recognised that some of the earlier cruisers were often very difficult to manoeuvre, the engines were usually noisy and smelly and extremely difficult to start. With “Speed Of Light”, Herbert introduced a low wash hull and turned to Morris Motors at Cowley to provide a marine engine, a partnership which would last for many years. The Morris marine engine was built with a self starter button, was cleaner and easier to maintain than anything that had come before it and was therefore better suited for use by hirers.

The “Light” class of boats were also designed to be spacious, comfortable and equipped with everything one could need to make it a real home from home. Herbert also had ambitious plans to develop the yard at Potter Heigham and, in 1929, plans were approved for a 6 acre site which he christened “Broadshaven”. In 1930 work began as a two acre basin was dug out of the marshland by hand to a depth of 8-10 feet, creating 1800 square feet of quay heading for his hire fleet. New boat building and mooring sheds were also constructed along with garaging for his clients motor vehicles. Over the next few years the site was developed further with the building of a shop and the famous Woods water tower which he disguised by surrounding it with offices and flats for his employees. Herbert’s boats and the Broadshaven yard were to set the standard by which all Broadland boatyards would later operate.

Herbert Woods Dancing Light c1931

Herbert Woods “Dancing Light” c1931

By the late 1920s Broadland was attracting more and more visitors as transport links increased and cheaper holiday options opened up the market to a wider section of the population. Most businesses were now adapting to accommodate the needs of the tourist during the summer months, both those who took cruising holidays and those who were land based. Many village shops offered provisions lists to boating parties from which they could pre-order their holiday goods to be delivered to the boatyard on the day of arrival, some enterprising boat owners and stores were even converting boats into floating provisions stores which would then trade along the rivers.  The shops were also stocking more specialist items aimed squarely at the tourist market such as London daily newspapers and Kodak films. Other riverside businesses also recognised the opportunity to expand their trade, many of the pubs and inns had adjoining “pleasure gardens” where afternoon teas could be taken and often other recreational activities were on offer. The Swan Inn at Horning provided lawn tennis, fishing and boating, the Kings Head Hotel at Wroxham advertised motor boats, rowing and fishing boats for hire by the day or week. Tearooms were opening in many of the popular villages and also offered takeaway services to those on boats. The Riverholm Teagardens at Horning offered “luncheons, teas, any meal cooked to order. Hot or cold home reared fowls and ducks, eggs, milk and cakes”. Interestingly they also offered the facility to have hot baths, a service which many other riverside establishments also provided.

Numerous holiday guides were being published at this time, some of which give a fascinating insight into how the holiday industry was developing and also of the trends of the era. “Everybody’s Broadland” written by William Leslie Rackham in 1927 gave detailed information for cruising the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads with guides to the villages and facilities on offer. Of Acle he wrote; “during the season the river here presents a scene of animation. Yachts, motor boats, wherries, etc., are continually up and down and the banks are lined with craft” and of Oulton: “on no other Broad will you see such an assembly of boats as here”. He mentions the fine shopping that Norwich offers and of Yarmouth, which he refers to as “Bloaterville”, he tells of the “new swimming pool, handsome shops, Old Toll House museum and endless amusements”. The amount of holiday homes being erected around Broadland did not escape his notice either as of Potter Heigham he says “This may fairly be termed as ‘Bungalow Land’, riverside residences extending a considerable distance before coming to the bridge”.

One of the most interesting features of Rackhams book though is the wonderful little items that are so evocative of the era. His list of “don’ts” for holiday cruising include the following amusing warnings;

DON’T call the skipper ‘Mr.’ it may hurt his feelings!

DON’T mistake the roof of a houseboat for a dancing floor. It may not give way, but it is not really intended for Jazzing or the Charleston.

DON’T make your UKELELE or BANJULELE your sole pastime. These are pleasant to hear at times, but some people are charmed more with ‘the concorde of sweet sounds’ and dislike being ‘UKELELED’ from 7a.m. until 11 p.m.”

On the Norfolk Broads 1932

Holiday group on the Norfolk Broads 1932

In Blakes 1930 edition of his “Holidays Afloat” brochure the number of motor cruisers had increased dramatically to cover 74 pages as boatyards began to concentrate on producing more and more motorised craft.  The average cost of a two week boating holiday was given as £7 10 shillings, a reduction on the post World War 1 estimate in 1920 of £8 12s 6d. He made the strong recommendation that clients hiring a boat without an attendant should take out insurance to cover the boat in the event of accidents and stated that “beginners must not engage yachts over 21ft and motor craft over 22ft” The wherry yacht “Olive” was by now fitted with a Thornycroft 2 cylinder petrol engine and was priced at between £18 10s and £28 5s per week including the two attendants. The 38ft, 6 berth, “Blue Diamond” cost £9 10s to £14 and the smaller “Frolic”, £5 10s to £8 for a weeks hire. Of the motor cruisers listed, one of the largest and most famous was “Enchantress” from Oulton Broad at 60ft in length which was hired out complete with two crew members. She was luxuriously fitted out inside with teak throughout, had 3 double cabins and one single, plus a bathroom with a full sized bath with hot and cold running water. Wicker armchairs and a table were provided for having tea on the upper deck and mosquito nets were supplied for protection at night. The hire price varied from £19 10s a week up to £30 10s during August. Herbert Woods “Speed Of Light” 6 berth cruisers were charged at £12 to £17 a week whilst the smaller “Morning Light” class vessels cost between £10 and £14 to hire. Smaller and cheaper options available included the 2nd class motor cruiser “Ada” a 24ft, 2 +1 berth from Brundall which cost £6 at its lowest rising to £8 per week in August. There were also 20 houseboats and 15 bungalows listed which were available for holiday let, prices ranged from £2 10s up to £12 per week depending on size and the season.

Despite the rise in production of motor cruisers, sailing holidays reached their peak in the 1930s with a wide selection of boats for hire priced to suit many pockets. Percy Hunter had been the manager at George Applegates yard in Potter Heigham, his sons were both boatbuilders too. By 1931 he felt that they had enough experience to set up their own boat yard and began searching for a suitable site on the Northern rivers. He was, however, short on funds and felt that the only way he could start his own business would be to buy a piece of land and build the yard from scratch. In February 1932 he purchased a piece of farm land adjoining the river at the end of Horsefen Road in Ludham overlooking Womack Water. Working to a tight schedule, the connecting dyke was dug out by hand, a temporary boatshed was erected and the first 2 sailing cruisers, “Lustre” and “Lullaby”, were built in that first year. For the building of his third boat “Woodruff”, Percy commissioned the services of Alfred Pegg at Wroxham. The first proper boatshed was constructed in 1933 and the second was built in 1935. Over the next few years, the Hunters built up their fleet of sailing cruisers and half deckers, hiring them out through Harry Blakes agency. This beautiful fleet of boats, distinctive with their varnished mahogany finish, survive today as the Norfolk Heritage Fleet still operating from their original base at Womack.

Oulton Broad was still a renowned and popular sailing centre on the Southern Broads in the mid 1930s, but another form of racing was also drawing in the spectators. The Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club was formed in 1933 although motor boat racing had actually started there as early as 1905 when the very first race was won by a Mr F. Shephard in his 19ft launch “Betty” powered by a 20hp engine made by Lowestoft firm J.W. Brooke. Offshore racing continued up until the outbreak of the First World War and did not resume until 1929. With the forming of the Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club, racing returned to the Broad itself in 1936 where it has been held ever since.

Speedboat racing at Oulton Broad

The holiday boom had now well and truly arrived as is evident from reading some of the holiday guides to Broadland from that time. The motor car was now bringing more people to the region and caravans were starting to become popular. In the late 1930s many riverside pubs, boatyards and farms had camping and caravanning sites, and it seemed that outdoor, sporting pursuits were the order of the day. Sutton Staithe hotel advertised boating, fishing, shooting, tennis, bowls and a putting green to clients and were just one of many to offer such recreational activities to holidaymakers. Businesses were diversifying in many other ways too in an effort to compete to take the tourists shilling. Dancing was another pastime which had grown at an astonishing rate. Many villages had buildings where regular dances were held during the summer season, often several times a week. The 1937 edition of “What To Do On The Norfolk Broads” contained many advertisements for these events alongside the adverts for tearooms, B&Bs and stores that were catering for visitors. At Potter Heigham, Gerrards Bridge Stores held “jolly dances” in the assembly rooms adjoining the café restaurant. They also had riverside bungalows to let from 3 – 10 guineas a week and yachts to hire At Ranworth dancing was held in the village during the summer season, visitors were asked to check the notice board on the quay for announcements of days and times, the Swan Inn at Horning also held regular dances too and provided hot baths for a shilling.

Of Horning, the guide also says that it was “growing rapidly, having become most popular as a location of summer houses” and mentions that the Ferry View Estate was currently being developed as a site for holiday bungalows. Of these the author notes that “no corrugate iron roofs will be allowed and this rule is something to be thankful for”. An article on bungalow development in the same guide clearly shows the amount of building that was going on around Broadland at this time. “The bungalow is fast becoming a rival to the cabin cruiser in popularity. With quickened means of transportation people find the Broadlands not too far away for week-ends”. Large scale construction was happening at Horning and Wroxham but the guide also lists sites at Brundall, the Upper Ant, Womack Water, Ludham, above Potter Heigham Bridge, Thurne village, St. Olaves, Oulton Broad and Beccles amongst other places.

For those visitors staying on land there were plenty of opportunities to see the Broads via the rivers. Many more passenger cruisers were now operating day and evening trips, some of these were often part of a package arranged with local bus and railway companies. Broads Tours at Wroxham ran boats seating up to 125 people as well as self drive day launches and attended launches for smaller parties. Some of the large tour boats were operated in connection with the L.N.E.R. trains and buses, bringing in parties of holidaymakers who were staying at the seaside resorts. The site at wroxham had parking spaces for up to 1000 cars and also riverside tearooms and gardens whilst fares for their river tours were between two and five shillings. The Yarmouth and Gorleston Steamboat Company were running trips on their large steamers to all parts of Broadland and even had a new diesel engined vessel, capable of carrying up to 180 passengers, which had been added to the fleet in 1937. A feature of this service was that the outward trip, upon leaving North Quay in Great Yarmouth, took passengers along the River Bure to Wroxham Broad and village where a train or bus would then take them on to Norwich, the return trip to Yarmouth being made along the Yare.  Another interesting method of seeing the area was provided by the Norwich Municipal Airport who offered pleasure flights over the Broads for 10 shillings.

Broads Tours Launch 1930s

Broads Tours Launch c1930s

In 1938, another natural disaster caused destruction in parts of Broadland as, on February 12th, severe North Westerly gales caused high waves to batter the East coast destroying over 500 yards of sand dunes along the beach at Horsey. The sea water surged through this gap flooding 7,500 acres of low lying land, many cattle were drowned and farmland was destroyed, villages such as Horsey, Somerton and Hickling were left standing like islands in its wake. The resulting salt water surge along the rivers Thurne and Bure also led to the loss of thousands of the fresh water fish. The land took four months to drain but it was a further 5 years until the land could be farmed again.

In his 1939 brochure, Harry Blake proudly claimed that 100,000 copies had been printed as the boat hire industry continued to boom. As the season progressed though, the threat of war in Europe was looming and on September 3rd the announcement was made that war had indeed been declared. Blake none the less went ahead and had the 1940 edition printed but in June of that year holidaying on The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads came to a standstill as the entire system was taken over by the military and declared a no-go area. The threat of a possible German invasion led to the whole of Britain being turned into a fortress and the Broads were felt to be a major weak point that needed defending. Private and hire boats were requisitioned to form blockades on open stretches of rivers and broads to prevent enemy sea planes landing, or were sunk to prevent access to certain areas. Many of the old trading wherries sadly met their fate in this way. The boatyards now found themselves helping the war effort, many by building military vessels. This is a fascinating part of Broadlands history and a more detailed account of The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads during the Second World War is planned which will follow at a later date.

By 1943 the threat of invasion began to fade, restrictions were lifted and people were once again allowed to visit the Broads. The hire fleets, having been left moored out on the waterways were in no position to begin operating again as much refurbishment was needed, some boats had even sunk. In 1944 a new name entered Broadland history when he began hiring boats at Oulton Broad. William Ballantyne (or Wally) Hoseason had taken up the position of harbour master at Oulton for the Lowestoft Corporation in the early 1930s. In the summer of 1944 he began to arrange boat hire on behalf of owners by letting out moored cruisers as houseboats to families who had been evacuated from London.

Petrol was heavily rationed which meant that motor craft could not be moved, obstacles such as half sunken vessels still covered the system which meant that cruising would have been far too hazardous anyway. Hoseason produced his first holiday brochure in 1946 which covered just four pages but the company he formed would go on to become a household name for boating holidays and a major rival to Blakes agency. Harry Blake retired in 1945, aged 65, and his agency was sold to a group of boatyards and owners who were keen to gain more control over their holiday lets. The company name was changed slightly to reflect this, becoming Blakes (Norfolk Broads Holidays) Ltd., and H.F.“Jim”Brooker was appointed as General Manager. The first post war brochure was published in 1946 and was labelled as the “austerity edition” including a note that it was not as fully descriptive as they would like due to paper still being rationed. The rationing of some items, including fuel and certain foodstuffs, would continue to affect the whole of Britain until the early 1950s.

Wally Hoseason

Wally Hoseason 1940s

Blakes 1947 brochure was a more lavish affair containing colour photos and was the first to be produced in the upright format. The effects of the war were still evident though as clients were informed that petrol restrictions meant that cruising was limited to 120 miles a week. There were 33 boatyards represented and 400 yachts, motor cruisers and houseboats listed for hire, down on the 600 that had been listed just prior to the war. There were only 9 houseboats available, priced from £6 10s a week, but no bungalows for hire in this issue. The average cost of a weeks boating holiday, including hire, insurance, food, fuel and general expenses, was quoted as being £5 to £6 10s per person for a yacht and between £6 and £8 10s for a motor cruiser.

Two tier pricing made a re-appearance as the peak “A” rate was charged from the last Saturday in June to the second Saturday in September, all other dates were charged at the “B” rate.  The wherry yachts “Olive” and “White Moth” had by now risen to between £40 and £46 for a weeks’ hire including attendants. Hunters 3 berth “Hustlers” cost £12 to £14 per week and the 5 berth “Lustre” class were £16 10s rising to £19 5s. Amongst the motor cruisers listed, the smallest at 17ft was the 2 berth “Peter Pan” from Horning which would cost £14 to £16 per week, Herbert Woods 4 berth “Dancing Light” class of boats were between £23 10s and £27 10s and the large, 7 berth Fairwind from Wroxham could be hired for £30 and £35 for a week.

Ernest Collins boatyard 1907

In the late 1940s, Broadland had undergone very little in the way of change since the pre war years as development had ceased whilst the nation concentrated on the war effort. The tourist industry slowly started to pick up where it had left off, and the beauty of Broadland once again began to attract visitors to the area.  Comparing it to the pre war guide, the 1947 edition of “What To Do On The Norfolk Broads” shows very little difference in the shops, pubs, tea rooms and B&Bs, or the attractions and entertainment which were available to holidaymakers. The Bure Court Hotel at Wroxham was now advertising for business, as was The Broads Hotel who were offering full board to guests for 6 ½ to 7 ½ guineas a week. Mention was made of the “River Inspectors” who patrolled each of the rivers and whose duty it was to enforce the by-laws and lend assistance to craft. In addition there were also plain clothed and uniformed policemen to maintain order and “proper decorum”. There were water bailiffs too, who were employed to patrol the rivers to see that anyone fishing complied with the by-laws of “The Norfolk Fishery Board”.

By 1949 there were no trading wherries left under sail on the Broads. A group of local people were concerned that this traditional Norfolk vessel was going to become extinct and an advert was placed in the Eastern Daily Press in February inviting the public along to a meeting to discuss ways of preserving them. From this meeting The Norfolk Wherry Trust was formed whose intention was to purchase a Wherry and operate it as a trading vessel. It was suggested that the Trust have a new Wherry commissioned but the interim plan was to find a salvageable one and restore her. Within a few weeks the 50 year old wherry “Plane” had been found and made available to the Trust. Owned by Colman’s, she was moored outside the mustard companies’ factory in Norwich having had her mast removed, but she was a viable project as the hull was sound. The summer was spent restoring her and on the 11th October 1949 she sailed from Yarmouth to Norwich having had her original name of “Albion” re-instated.

Over the next two decades the hire industry was to grow and re-capture the post war holiday boom as boat numbers increased, major developments to craft design were made, and once again visitors flocked to the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

Wherry Trust meeting advert 1949

©  Carol Gingell 2006

Further Reading

The Collins Legacy - An article by Roger Wilson on the history of the boatyards of Robert, Ernest & Alfred Collins

Broads Hire Cruisers, The Evolution Of Their Design & Machinery  By Vaughan Ashby