Zenobia and Olive May

An interesting set of vintage magazine articles relating to Broadland boatyards including Harvey Eastwood, Sandersons, Eastick’s, Landamore’s and Royall’s were added to the Broadland Memories website a couple of weeks ago. Amongst them was a brief history of the Rowan Craft yard at Geldeston which included mention of the wherry yacht Olive May. The article reminded me that I had a couple of photographs and a few notes relating to Olive May lurking within the archives.

Olive May was built in 1910 by G. Bunn of Wroxham for the Spashett family of Oulton Broad. She was apparently quite distinctive with her long, flat counter stern. In his 1953 book “The Norfolk Wherry”, G. Colman Green mentioned that, internally at least, Olive May was said to have been a replica of the pleasure wherry Zenobia which was owned at that time by Green. Zenobia had begun life as the trader Olive Branch, built by Allen’s yard at Coltishall and owned for part of it’s trading life by George Applegate senior of Potter Heigham. When the river trade began to dry up, like many others, The Olive Branch was converted for pleasure use. Alfred Collins was apparently responsible for that conversion which included two saloons, two side cabins, a W.C. and bath plus a full size piano. At a later date, a counter stern was added by Peed of Oulton Broad, along with a foresail and a mizzen, giving rise to her being dubbed a “wherry yawl”. It is said that Zenobia once made the trip by sea down the coat to the Thames. I don’t think I’ve come across any photographs of Zenobia, but the illustration below was from a 1952 oil painting by Colman Green himself.

Turning attention back to Olive May, there is a wonderful transcription of an original log written during a holiday taken aboard her in September 1919 by a guest of the Spashett family. You can find that account within the online archives of the Norfolk Wherry Trust in an edition of the Trust’s “Journal” magazine published in 2000 (link to PDF version via the NWT website). It includes a lovely photograph of Olive May at Geldeston, believed to have been taken in the 1960s. Olive May was also leased out for hire, as the entry from the 1916 edition of Blake’s Norfolk Broads Yachting List below shows.

Olive May can be seen in the photograph below too which belongs to a set dating from the 1920s. She is seen here on her swinging mooring just outside the harbour master’s office at Oulton Broad.

There is no evidence of Olive May in the next earliest Blake’s brochure I have from 1929, or subsequent editions. The next time she pops up within my archives was in the rather sad photograph below which was taken in the 1960s at Geldeston, presumably soon after being recovered by Rowan Craft from the dyke at St Olaves where she had previously sunk. It would appear some restoration work took place, including the repair of her leaky bottom by Richards of Lowestoft. She was then sold and taken to the Thames by sea to be used as a houseboat. Clearly, little was done in the way of further maintenance as the 1981 article mentioned that she was in a rather derelict state by then, lying on a mud berth somewhere on the Thames. It’s too much to hope that anything survives of her now and she was probably broken up not long after this. Zenobia also ended her days as a derelict and was eventually broken up, a fate which befell far too many of these once magnificent vessels.


If you have any further photographs or information to add about Olive May or Zenobia then, as always, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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Norwich and The Norfolk Broads in the 1940s

The first new update for a while, but I hope that I finally have some free time once again and can start to work my way through some of the backlog of new material waiting to go on the Broadland Memories website. The first offering is a lovely little black and white cine film which was shot on 16mm filmstock.

I am not certain of the exact date, but it looks as though it was probably taken just post WW2, so late 1940s. It starts with a little bit a footage taken from a train as it approaches the station at Norwich. There are a few scenes of the city itself before it switches to the Broads. The film includes its original captions and follows a young couple on a small sailing cruiser around the northern rivers. Wroxham, The River Thurne and Horning all appear along with some familiar landmarks such as Dydler’s Mill. At the end of the Horning footage is a scene of the young lady pulling herself across the river by chain on a foot ferry. Was this indeed Horning and, if so, is that the bombed out remains of the Ferry Inn in the background? It’s another interesting addition to the archive and there will be more to come. Whilst I may not have been active online of the previous few months, I have still been gathering new material for the archive. This includes some very interesting collections of photographs which span c1900 to the 1950s, plus a few more cine films which I am hoping to get digitized very soon. Among these are a 16mm colour film from the 1950s or 1960s which appears to have been taken aboard Delight XI from Herbert Woods, and also what I believe may be a very early Blakes promotional film from the 1930s which is on 9.5mm Pathe film. These are all unseen so far, so I am dying to see what I’ve actually got. I look forward to making the films, and all of the new photographs waiting in the wings available to view online.

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Jollidays – Herbert Woods in the early 1930s

I’m always on the lookout for old books and other Norfolk Broads related items to add to my own collection and a recent birthday present to myself was a rare copy of a 1934 yachting list produced by Herbert Woods. The “Jollidays” booklet not only includes photographs and descriptions of the various classes of motor and sailing cruisers available for hire, but also contains some wonderful photographs taken around the Broads-Haven yard at Potter Heigham.

I’m not sure how many editions of the Jollidays brochure were produced, but copies rarely come up for sale, so I was extremely lucky to come across this one. The 60 page booklet is predominantly a showcase for the Broadland “Light” Cruisers developed by Woods from the late 1920s onwards. As such, it gives far more information about the fleet and their design than Harry Blake’s Yachting Lists of the same era, who also represented Herbert Woods amongst his roster of Broadland boatyards. I have previously covered the incredible innovation shown not only in the design and powering of the Woods craft, but also the way in which they were fitted out and equipped. Herbert Woods can quite comfortably lay claim to being the godfather of the modern day hire fleet – the build materials and technology may have changed, but the modern motor cruiser is not a million miles away from the fleet he built at Potter Heigham during the 1920s and 1930s. As Herbert himself put it: “The main item of a holiday afloat is the boat. It is essential that this should be comfortable, well found, and of ample room for the party living thereon. It must be handled with confidence and ease, so that the greatest benefit of this fresh-air recreation can be obtained without anxiety to the helmsman, or anything but enjoyable content to his friends.

The above photograph was taken from the Jollidays booklet and shows Duchess of Light at Horsey Staithe. The largest class in the fleet, Duchess and her sister ships, Countess, Empress, Princess and Peeress, were 42 feet in length and slept up to eight people in three cabins. The spacious saloon was entered via the wheelhouse, a galley forward of which led to the front cabin, passing a toilet closet and bathroom opposite in which you would have found a full size bath. At the rear of the boat was another two berth cabin and a second toilet. Woods equipped all of his light cruisers with Morris Marine engines and the Duchess class came with an 18 hp, 6 cylinder “Commodore” motor with self starter, the dynamo supplying power to charge the large batteries needed for the electric lights on board.

The interior shots for the Duchess class (above) show the attention to detail and the quality of the fit-out for the Light Cruisers. The Jollidays booklet gives the following description: “The comfort of the party has been studied in all matters, and the equipment is in every case of extremely good quality. The sleeping berths are all fitted with patent ‘Somnus’ spring mattresses, ‘Osman’ sheets and pillow cases, pure wool rugs etc. The saloon mattresses are all of the box spring type, and all berths are much larger than those usually found aboard private or hire craft.” Note the cushions in the saloon which were made by the company in white fabric emblazoned with the Woods blue star. Just imagine stepping down into the saloon and wandering through your holiday boat for the first time. The smell of freshly varnished woodwork, the highly polished brass fittings glinting as the sunlight streams in through a window, colour co-ordinated fabrics and furnishings adorning every cabin and the gleaming pots and pans hanging in the galley.  The Light Cruisers were the absolute height of modernity and luxury in motor powered craft.

The Broadland Memories DVD “Boating on the Norfolk Broads in the 1930s” follows one family taking two holidays aboard Herbert Woods cruisers in 1932 and 1933, the second of which was aboard Countess of Light. It’s quite nice to think that they may have planned their trips from one of the Jollidays brochures.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Jollidays also contains a number of photographs which show the Broads-Haven yard. Shots of the mooring basin from this era are always nice to see, but of real interest are the behind the scenes images that most holidaymakers were unlikely to see. Alongside the many skilled boat builders, engineers and general maintenance and yard staff, there was an army of female workers who were responsible for ensuring that all the boats were clean, equipped and ready to go out on hire.

The photograph above shows the mattress and bedding store with the lady in the foreground busily hoovering one of the box spring saloon mattresses from the racks behind her. In the background you can see various piles of the Somnus mattresses, woolen blankets, pillows and sheets. How smart they all look in their uniforms!

This was the Equipment Store where the pots and pans, crockery, glassware and cutlery were cleaned and prepared for the cruisers. Everything was taken off the boat after each hire, carefully washed and then returned for the next holiday party. “Cutlery is, of course, of the stainless variety, the blue and white china is attractive in style and of far better quality than the hirer usually expects to find. Tablecloths, etc., being also of blue and white, with curtains harmonizing, the general scheme of decoration throughout the fleet is very attractive, and particularly appeals to the ladies of the party, who are generally more discerning in these matters.

Much of the enjoyment of this type of holiday depends on whether the equipment for use in cooking, eating and sleeping is good, bad, or merely indifferent. Those who know Mrs. Herbert Woods, who is in sole control of these items, are prepared to leave this matter in her capable hands, realising that even the best is scarcely good enough when equipping the ‘Light’ Cruisers.

This was captioned as being the ‘Building Shop’ where the Light Cruisers were constructed and maintained. It gives a real sense of just how large scale the operation was at the Broads-Haven yard.

The view looking across the Broads-Haven mooring basin at Potter Heigham towards the footbridge across the entrance, which leads out onto the River Thurne.

Another view of the mooring baain from Jollidays, looking back towards the sheds. Note that the now familiar water tower had yet to be built when this photograph was taken. Holidaymakers who arrived by motor car were able to drive right up to their holiday cruiser and the car was then parked in one of the garages for the duration. “The staff at ‘Broads-Haven’ will always be found willing and anxious to do everything in their power to add to the enjoyment of our clients, and the heavy stock of spares and equipment always on hand ensures a degree of service highly appreciated. A unique feature is the hot soft-water baths always available, and the day and night attention to be inaugurated for the coming season will add still further to the usefulness of the establishment.

New for 1934 was the opening of the Broads-Haven Stores over the Whitsun holiday Previously, provisions were ordered in from outside sources which, according to Jollidays, had often caused delays in the holiday party getting underway. Herbert Woods wanted to offer a complete, in house service to his clients: “It will be our endeavour to make this store up to date, with all goods at fair and reasonable prices. Fresh fruit and vegetables will be grown on our own land close to these premises, and supplied as required.

Although at the forefront of the development and building of modern motor cruisers, would be Broads yachtsmen were not forgotten. “As a member of the third generation of Broadland builders of sailing boats, and as one who annually wins more prizes in sailing races than any other builder on the Broads, I am in a position to offer a number of yachts which, of their type, are particularly well suited for sailing on these comparatively shallow rivers and Broads.” The two berth, single cabin Winsome and Welcome were recommended for novices, whilst those requiring something a little larger and more powerful would be better suited to the Smuggler with: “the fine lines and balance of a racing cruiser, and to those who put sailing qualities before cabin accommodation this crack of the Broads letting fleet will strongly appeal.” Also within the fleet were the double-cabin yachts Bootlegger and Filibuster and the 34ft Wayfarer class.

Jollidays is a remarkable glimpse into the pioneering years of motor cruiser development and the modern Broads boating holiday. There are still a number of the original ‘Light’ Cruisers and yachts out there which is testament to the build quality, the ongoing maintenance whilst still in hire, and the dedication and devotion of the subsequent owners of these beautiful craft. The Herbert Woods boatyard recently brought Spark of Light back into their fleet and, after careful restoration, she is now available for day charter from them. Water Rail, the former Delight VII, can be hired for three or seven nights via the Little Ships website. The yacht Bootlegger is also still on hire, available from the Eastwwod Whelpton boatyard at Upton. The magnificent Countess of Light has also undergone a lengthy and thorough restoration and has recently been re-launched. You can follow the latest updates from her owners via the Countess of Light Facebook page or Twitter account.

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Kia Manzi and the Daisy Broad Villas – the story so far

Back in 2012 I posted an old photograph showing the three identical villas which once stood on Daisy Broad at Hoveton. The postcard was believed to date from the 1930s, although the buildings themselves looked rather more modern than that date suggested. So began the story of Kia Manzi and the Dasiy Broad villas.

A couple of months later I was contacted by Chris Raynor whose grandfather had owned one of those villas, Kia Manzi in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Chris had many fond memories of holidays spent there and sent me a wonderful collection of photographs which you can find here on the main Broadland Memories website. An updated blog post duly appeared to accompany Chris’s contribution to the story but we were no nearer to establishing when the villas were actually built.

The original c1930s postcard of Daisy Broad can be seen above. The villas appeared on the 1938 ordnance survey map of the area but they had yet to be built when the photograph below was taken. I had originally dated the postcard it came from to the 1920s or 1930s, but there were no real clues to provide a definitive date for it. It shows the entrance to Daisy Broad with the building which later became the Beehive Stores on the left. Postcard manufacturers were well known for reusing photographs which were taken years, and sometimes decades earlier, which meant that this could possibly date from the early years of the 20th century. A more solid clue came when I spotted the villas in a film held by the East Anglian Film Archive which appeared on the BFI’s Britain on Film Project. The Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk is dated to 1920 which meant that the villas were probably built just after the First World War.  I received a little more information regarding the un-named architect who designed and built the villas. Apparently, he was mortified when shortly after the villas were built, they began to sink into the marshy ground and is alleged to have taken his own life as a partial consequence. It’s an extremely tragic tale if true.

A few months ago I was sent another photograph which featured Daisy Broad and the three villas by Linda Gowans (seen below). She found it among a collection of others which spanned the years between 1926 to 1938. The photographer is unknown, and this was the only image taken in the East of England, the remaining photos being of the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Merseyside.

Kia Manzi can be seen on the left of the photo and the chap in the foreground appears to be standing in the aft well of a wherry. I would guess that a date of the early 1930s looks about right. My thanks to Linda for allowing me to share the photograph on here.

In the early stages of looking into the history of these distinctive buildings, I came across evidence of the subsidence problem via brochure entries from the 1950s and 1960s for the other two villas, then named Southernholme and Broadwaters. The 1958 entry for Southernholme in the Hoseason’s brochure of that year showed that it was noticeably lower than it had been in the 1930s postcard. Linda’s photograph really illustrates that difference quite clearly. Just two years later, the ground floor had obviously become unusable and the upper floor was now a single level holiday flat.

By the early 1970s, what remained of the former ground floor storey of both Southernholme and Broad waters had been removed and the upper floor now stood on stilts as the 1972 brochure entry on the right shows. Kia Manzi fared better than the other two villas and still retained both floors when Chris Raynor’s grandfather owned it, although Chris does remember having to walk downhill to patio doors from the river and that it always seemed somewhat damp inside. Chris also told me that the name was given to the villa by a previous owner, an ex RAF officer. The photograph above is from the Raynor family collection and dates from the late 1960s. The power of the internet is sometimes a wonderful thing as, in January last year, I was contacted by the daughter of that former owner who confirmed that her father, who was Rhodesian, had christened it Kia Manzi which was the Matabele word for “house on the water”. Rosemary Misselbrook recalled the family remodelled the layout to move the sitting room upstairs and bought a little cruiser from the London Boat Show to use as a runabout. She couldn’t remember what the house had been called prior to her father buying it, but thinks that all three were owned by Dawncraft at that time. Rosemary also sent me another couple of photographs of Kia Manzi whilst under their ownership to add to the story including the image below which shows Kia Manzi during the notoriously harsh winter of 1963. That is the river in the foreground!

Southernholme and Broadwaters were both demolished in the mid 1990s and new properties were built in their place. Kia Manzi survived for a few more years, but it too was eventually demolished and replaced. The photograph below, taken in May 2012, shows all three of the new houses with the new Kia Manzi on the left.

As always, if anyone can provide more information about the history of Kia Manzi and the Dasiy Broad villas, then please do get in contact via the main Broadland Memories website.

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Viscountess Bury – another mystery photograph

I’m going to try and tie up a few loose ends over the next week or so with some updates to previous articles on the Broadland Memories blog. The first concerns the passenger launch Viscountess Bury which featured in two previous posts.

There were two vessels which carried the name Viscountess of Bury and both spent some time at Oulton Broad during the early years of the 20th century. In the first article, The Enchantress and the mystery of Viscountess Bury, published in February 2012, I wrote about the ex Thames passenger launch which was eventually converted into the motor cruiser Enchantress by Leo Robinson in the early 1920s having previously been used for a while to run pleasure trips from Oulton Broad. I was contacted around 18 months later by Tim Sargeant who added a new twist to that story as one of the Oulton Broad postcards I had posted was actually of a different passenger launch bearing the same name. This was the original Viscountess Bury, designed at built at William Sargeant’s boatyard at Strand-on-the-Green, Chiswick in 1888. This Viscountess had been bought by H.C. Banham c1910 with the intention of running her as a passenger cruiser from his boatyard in Ely, Cambridgeshire. Banham also had a yard at Horning and it seems that his Viscountess spent a season or two at Oulton Broad before being moved round the coast and entering the Great Ouse at Kings Lynn and thence on to Ely where she was used for many years.

Viscountess Bury c1910

A couple of months ago I received yet another piece of the story in the form of a photograph which was sent to me by Peter Larter. It shows Sargeant’s Viscountess of Bury at an unknown location c1910. It was found amongst a batch of negatives featuring Norwich and was originally thought to have been one of the passenger launches which operated from Foundry Bridge during that era. The name Viscountess Bury is clearly visible on the name plate at the rear of the boat and an internet search lead Peter to my posts about her. I don’t think it looks right to be Norwich, but does this photograph actually show her at Oulton Broad? There is a tantalizing glimpse of the edge of a sign on the boatshed to the left. Sadly, not enough to be able to attribute a name to the yard, but can anyone provide a positive identification from this small clue? One would assume that the chap with the beard and his hand on the rail is either the owner of skipper of the Viscountess at this time.

Please do get in touch if you can provide any more information and my thanks to Peter for allowing me to share the photograph on here.

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The Great Coypu Hoax of 1974

In 1974, the village of Horning was sealed off and motorists entering and exiting the village were stopped, questioned and warned about an unknown disease which was wiping out coypus in the area. It caused confusion and mild panic among local residents and visitors, the news of the epidemic even reaching the national press in the following days. But all was not as it seemed …. this is the story of The Great Coypu Hoax.

Rag Societies have long been a fixture of universities, a term given to fund raising bodies run by the local Students Union. An annual “Rag Week” provided the perfect excuse to have a bit of fun whilst raising money and elaborate pranks were often part of the week long series of events. In 1974, the students of the University of East Anglia brought the village of Horning to a standstill with one such prank as they set up roadblocks, supposedly as part of a coypu control exercise. Claiming to be from the Department of Bacteriological Research at Porton Down in Wiltshire, the team stopped all vehicles passing through the village asking whether they had seen any dead coypu in the area within the last few months. The coypu, they informed people, were suffering from an unknown disease which seemed to be centred around Horning. It was stressed that the germ was not dangerous to humans, their pets or livestock, vehicle tyres were sprayed with disinfectant and the motorists were sent on their way. Local villagers were interviewed and even the local bobby tuned up in his police mini and was, rather embarrassingly, taken in by the official looking nature of the survey, although was apparently somewhat surprised that he hadn’t been informed about it. The students were eventually rumbled, and the story made the local news the following night.

Coypu, were large, herbivorous rodents which were native to South America. Growing to around two feet in length (minus the long, rat-like tale) with bright orange front teeth, coypu were brought to the UK in the 1920s to be farmed for their fur. One such fur farm was established at East Carlton Manor to the south west of Norwich. Following the collapse of a roof, a large number of coypu escaped from the farm in 1937 and, within a few years, had spread throughout the Broadland district causing widespread damage to the riverbanks as they voraciously chomped their way through the reed beds. And so a long running campaign to eradicate them from the Broads began, a bounty being placed on the head of each coypu caught and handed in at one point. There were those who felt that the coypu were actually helping to keep the waterways clear and open, and others who feared that the creatures would suddenly start attacking passing boating parties. The coypu control programme continued and the last survivor was believed to have been caught in the late 1980s, some 50 years after they first began to colonise the waterways.

The Great Coypu Hoax of 1974 was filmed by the UEA and it has recently been uploaded to YouTube by Derek Williams – persevere to the end and the Look East TV news report and interview about the stunt. It included a little gem about a previous hoax at Horning a few years before when the local vicar apparently crowned and kissed the winner of the annual village beauty concert only to discover later that it was actually his teenage son in drag!

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A Boys Own Adventure – The Norfolk Broads in the 1920s

The latest uploads to the Broadland Memories website are a pair of Norfolk Broads related magazine articles from the early 1920s, published in what was probably one of the longest running, and most iconic boys magazines in Britain.

The first edition of the Boys Own Paper appeared as a weekly publication in 1879 and by the time the final copy hit the shelves in 1967, over 2500 issues had been published. Originally produced by the Religious Tract Society, the Boys Own Paper aimed to encourage boys and young men to read whilst instilling christian values via adventure stories and articles on the natural world, science, sports and other leisure pastimes. In 1913 it became a monthly publication, its ownership passing through the hands of at least three other publishing companies until its demise.  Some illustrious names contributed articles and stories over the years too, including W.G. Grace, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Issac Asimov and astronomer Patrick Moore.

I recently came across two copies of the paper which contained articles about the Norfolk Broads that also feature some rather beautiful cover artwork. Both were written by l. Warren Rimmer, about whom I can find very little other than he also contributed articles on crag climbing in Britain and caravan holidays to the same publication in the 1920s and 1930s. The June 1921 edition included a two page write-up entitled “A Holiday on The Broads – How to spend an enjoyable summer fortnight” but it was the cover which first caught my eye as it is so evocative and typical of the era. It bears the signature of T.M.R. Whitwell who, it turns out, provided the illustrations for the covers for some of P.G. Wodehouse’s earlier books.  He also produced artwork for a number of other boys magazines and story books during the late 1800s and through the first quarter of the 20th century. The Norfolk Broads article includes several photographs, one of which shows a crew member “surf-riding”. or being towed along in the behind the boat, clinging on the a plank of wood attached to a rope. Some things never change!

In July 1922, The Boys Own Paper published a follow up piece written by L. Warren Rimmer. “Sailing on The Broads – How to spend an enjoyable summer holiday”, is a four page instructional article aimed at encouraging novices to try sailing on the Norfolk Broads. It was an era when such holidays were beginning to become an option for a wider section of society, having previously been the preserve of  those with means. The author wrote: “Of course you will say that yachting is a pastime only to be indulged in by the moneyed classes; but let me explain, dear reader, that a holiday on The Broads will call for infinitely less monetary support than you have been accustomed to give when spending previous holidays at a formal seaside resort.” Indeed, Harry Blake included a breakdown of the cost of a typical Broads holiday in his annual yachting lists which, for 1929, worked out at around £7 10 shillings per person for a party of 6. That is a grand total of £45 which includes includes £24 for the hire of a yacht, £18 for provisions, £2 for sundries and £1 for a meal at an inn before going on board. It’s still quite a considerable sum compared to the average weekly wage of the time, but I think that the Boys Own Paper was aimed very squarely at the middle classes. Once again, the magazine sported a very striking piece of artwork on the cover to illustrate the article within. Although unsigned, it does look  very similar in style to the previous cover – is this another example of Thomas Whitwell’s work I wonder? It’s all very Ripping Yarns stuff.

The two articles can be found in PDF form in the Newspaper and Magazine cuttings section of the Broadland Memories website: 1920s News Articles


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Broadland Memories 2018

Regular visitors to the Broadland Memories website and blog will have no doubt noticed that things have been a little quiet for a while. I must apologise for the lack of new additions and thought I’d better update the blog with a little explanation – fear not, I’m still here and very much looking forward to getting back to work on the archive.

As many are aware, Broadland Memories is pretty much a single handed affair and something I fit in when I can. 2017 was an absolutely horrendous year on a personal level for me and finding the time or drive to get work done on the website was difficult. I lost my mum in June after she had spent a lengthy spell in hospital. It was a difficult time, not helped by then being diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the summer. The resulting surgery was seemingly successful (fingers crossed) but the operation, followed by a course of radiotherapy really knocked the wind out of my sails. I keep being reminded that it will take time to recover, both physically and mentally, and I am getting there.

Sadly, Broadland Memories had to be put on the back burner throughout all of this, bar a short flurry of new additions I managed to make between the operation and radiotherapy. Despite that, I have still been adding to the archives collection with purchases of new photographs and films which will be added to the website in due course. The new films include what I think is one of the 1930s promotional films made by Harry Blake to advertise boating on the Broads via his yachting agency. It’s on 9.5 mm Pathe film so it’s unseen as yet until it’s been digitized. I will endeavour to get those sorted as soon as I can. There are some very interesting photographic collections too including a large set which document annual youth sailing holidays taken by a church group between 1946 and 1953. The three albums you can see in the photograph on the left were from different sources, but all date from around 1900 to 1917. Two featuring sailing holidays, but the smallest album you can see is rather special.

It is dated on the cover, although it’s difficult to read whether it says 1910 and 1911 or 1916 and 1917, but it documents holidays taken aboard the motor cruiser Ibis by a couple. As a very early example of a motor cruiser on the Broads, Ibis is a stylish craft with a small aft cabin featuring oval windows. I haven’t found any reference to Ibis in the early brochures I have, but it may well have been a private boat or not affiliated to Blake’s agency.  Having spent a day scanning last week, it’s always exciting to be able to study the digitized images in greater detail. I look forward to doing a bit more research on these and the other new photographs before uploading them to Broadland Memories.

I hope to get the odd item onto the website over the spring, but we are currently in the middle of finishing renovations on our cottage with the intention of finally being able to put it on the market and make the much needed move to a larger house which will provide me with the study/office space that I so desperately need for Broadland Memories. That work should be finished by the early summer, giving me some free time once again to catch up with the ever growing backlog of new material for the website. I’ve also got some catching up to do with website emails – my apologies if you have contacted me in the last couple of months and I haven’t replied yet.

I’m still very much at the helm, and still as passionate as ever about preserving the historic photographs, films, ephemera and memories of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads that I’m able to acquire or are sent to me. I do feel very sad that I haven’t been able to devote the time needed to maintaining and updating the archive and website, but I’m sure you can appreciate that circumstances have made that very difficult over the last twelve months. Please bear with me, and do keep checking in to the website and blog as I will do my best to add a few new items as and when I can grab a few spare hours.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their continuing interest and support for Broadland Memories. It’s always good to know that others get the same sort of enjoyment I do from this stuff.

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Ring of Light 1960s – new cine film

It’s been a little while since I last uploaded a cine film to the Broadland Memories YouTube channel, but the latest addition has been uploaded this morning. Filmed in the early to mid 1960s, this 24 minute offering follows a holiday on board the Herbert Woods motor cruiser Ring of Light and covers both the southern and northern rivers of the Norfolk Broads.

The film wasn’t in the best condition, but it is still very watchable and, as ever, was kindly digitized for the archive by the nice folk at Video Impact in Loddon. The start of the film throws up a bit of a puzzle though as the cruiser from which the film is being shot as they pass through Great Yarmouth is not Ring of Light, which features during the rest of the holiday. It has a Landamore’s burgee on the front and has been identified for me as being one of their Vesta class. Did the holiday party have two boats? Dis they encounter problems with the Vesta and were swapped onto a boat from another yard? We will never know!

I’ll leave you to spot the locations, but a couple of things stood out on my first viewing  – look at the amount of foam coming from the sewage works at Whitlingham as they pass, and how many swans were there on Hickling Broad? It’s another great addition to the film section of the archive and is the latest in a flurry of activity of the website due to an enforced rest on my part. If you missed them, recent uploads include a n interesting set of photographs from the early 1920s, a wonderful set of glass lantern slides documenting a holiday on the converted ex-Thams barge Pauline just before WW2, and beautiful album of photographs dated to August 1895 which feature a family cruise on the Robert Collins yacht Mayflower.

I’ve got another three films in the wings to edit, and another two to be transferred including what appears to be early Blake’s promotional film. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy “The Norfolk Broads – Ring of Light 1969

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The Norfolk Broads Through Glass

There is something rather magical about glass lantern slides. The quality of photographs reproduced in this way just seems to have that extra clarity and sparkle. The romantic side of me me also likes the fact that it’s was a form of entertainment which harks back to a pre-televisual and pre-cinematic age where there would have been a certain amount of awe and excitement that accompanied a trip to your local theatre or public hall to see the wonders of the world or the beauty spots of Britian projected onto a large screen before you.

It was a technique that was apparently introduced in the 17th century. These were originally hand painted images on glass which, as a set, often portrayed a narrative which could be told as the slides were shown. As photography developed in the latter half of the 19th century, photographic images began to be printed onto glass, hand tinted in some instances to give colourised views to engage the audience. It wasn’t long before magic lantern slides were being mass produced with a range of subjects from topographical views to bible stories. There would have been many one off lantern slides too, created by both professional and amateur photographers, either for local, public showing or their own private viewing. It was a medium that continued well into the first half of the 20th century until the modern slide projector with a smaller, more affordable format became widely available.

There are a handful of lantern slides and glass negatives on the Broadland Memories website, but I was absolutely thrilled to be able to purchase a complete, boxed set of lantern slides for the archive earlier this year. I knew they were special when I saw them, but subsequent research over recent weeks has made them very interesting indeed. They are quite late compared to most lantern slides which come up for sale. The set of 48 slides date from July 1938 and document a rather different holiday on the Norfolk Broads aboard the large motor cruiser Pauline, a floating hotel converted from the ex-Thames spritsail barge Federation by Frederick Miller at Oulton Broad in the early 1920s.

I wrote a blog about Pauline in 2013 which included photographs and background information about her time on the Broads. A short while after purchase, I discovered that an almost identical photograph to the slide above appeared with the entry for Pauline in Blake’s “Norfolk Broads Holidays Afloat” brochure in 1939. It appeared to be the same crew and holiday party on board, taken at a slightly different location on Oulton Broad.  It seemed likely that our photographer had sent one of the slides, or a print, to Miller’s boatyard.

The images above show the girls of the holiday party on deck, skipper Dan Bedford at the helm as they enter Rockland Broad, and Pauline leaving Norwich with the old power station seen on the left.

This week, whilst preparing the slides for the website and doing my customary research, I discovered that another of the slides featured in the book “Norfolk Broads – The Golden Years,” a collection of Philappa Miller’s paintings, photographs and memories of Broadland from the 1920s to the 1950s, published by Halsgrove in 2008. When you purchase items via auction, they invariably come with no details of origin. Whilst I can piece together historic and topographical notes about the images, most of the time they are what I term as “orphaned” away from their original owners/photographers.  That is the sad part about what I do with the website., and it is always an absolute joy when I have some history about the person behind the lens. In this instance, it really has thrown up so many questions. Was the photographer connected to the Miller family of the boatyard? The hand painted, title slide below certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to Philappa’s illustrations. Were the photographs the work of Philappa herself? Were the slides produced for private viewing, or were they shown to advertise holidays aboard Pauline?

I may never know the answer, but the photographer left behind a unique glimpse into a week afloat on Pauline just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The full set of slides can now be found on the Broadland Memories website. As always, if anyone can provide further information on any of the images or the people seen, then please do get in touch.

Whilst working on the lantern slides this week, the opportunity arose to purchase another set of 24 lantern slides for the website. They are somewhat earlier, dating to c1900-1905, and were taken during a holiday on the wherry Naiade of Oulton Broad. These are just exceptional and are an extremely exciting addition to the archive. Lots of wherries and views of the very rural and undeveloped Broadland of that time. I’ve only taken rough photographs of the slides for now, but they give a good illustration of what’s to come.

This was Naiade at Ludham Bridge. She is clearly a conversion of a trading wherry and still has her black sail. I haven’t been able to find any further information about her from my usual sources as yet.

Another of the lantern slides from the new set. This is one of two images which show the interior of Naiade and it is so evocative of the era, from the straw boater lying on the side, to the sheet music for the music hall favourite “The Miners Dream of Home” sitting on the piano.

I look forward to getting these onto the website in due course, but next in line is the album of photographs of the Broads taken by a Mr Brading in 1895, a couple of photographs from which were previewed in an earlier blog post – A Very Victorian Cruise On The Norfolk Broads.

Just a quick mention before I leave – the title of this post is a nod towards Nick Stone’s excellent Invisible Works blog where, along with many superb articles on local history, landscape and heritage (plus some great photography), you’ll find his “Through Glass” series of historic images of Norfolk. Well worth a look.


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Four men in a skiff – Ely to Kings Lynn 1901

Whilst I usually concentrate on photographs and history of the Norfolk Broads, this is a little curio which I picked up for next to nothing recently and thought might be of interest. These were a few pages which had been torn from a personal journal of an unknown diarist who, I think, may have been a university student. Dating from June 1901, the photographs on the pages relate to a boating trip taken in 1901 on the Great Ouse by four friends.

Quite probably inspired by Jerome K Jerome’s “Three Men In A Boat”,  this particular group’s adventure saw them rowing from Ely to Kings Lynn with overnight camping stops along the way.  Not the greatest quality images, but interesting none the less and reproduced in their entirety below.

No. 212, 3, 4, 5 taken on a boating trip from Ely to Kings Lynn June 1901 with H Vicker, E Lloyd & H.C Turner. By the Ship Inn, where the Tent was pitched the first night. Vicker & Turner.” There is a Ship in at Brandon Creek about 6 or 7 miles distance by river from Ely – could this have been their first stop?

The Tent at the Ship Inn

The shelter at Downham Market

Ely from the Ouse


As a footnote – I haven’t been at all active with the website of late as I’ve been coping with a family illness and bereavement during the last four months. It’s been a difficult few months and I’ve barely had chance to switch my computer on, let alone contemplate doing any work on it.  There is still so much to deal with, but I hope to be back at the helm of Broadland Memories soon.


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A very Victorian cruise on the Norfolk Broads

Followers of Broadland Memories on Twitter and Facebook will have seen mention of the recent purchases for the archive of two sets of photographs of the Norfolk Broads from the late 19th century. These fascinating images document family holidays during the early years of the boat hire industry, providing a wonderful snapshot of boating during that era, and they include some incredibly rare photographs of pleasure wherries and the Broadland landscape.

The first collection were bought as a group of three lots of loose pages from an album which had been split apart by a dealer. It’s always sad when that happens, but I was fortunate to be able to buy the three Norfolk Broads lots which means that they will at least remain together. Precise dating has been difficult, but researching the landscape scenes via contemporary guide books, census returns and trade directories, and the subtle changes in ladies fashions during the latter decades of the 19th century, led me to the conclusion that they are c1885-1889. The presence of a photograph of the 1885 Norwich Angling Club annual dinner menu also provided an initial starting point for that date. The collection features a very well to do, probably extended family group aboard two pleasure wherries and a larger steam ship called Phoenix. I think they they were possibly taken during more than one trip. Sadly, there are no names, or real clues to where they came from. Other photos from the pages I bought include three or four which were taken on the Dutch and Belgian Canals, plus a couple of London scenes.

The first wherry is named as The Eagle – not a wherry name that I have come across before, nor can find mention of in the usual book sources, but it looks to be a quite rough and ready conversion from a trading wherry. The family group are pictured aboard The Eagle in the photograph above. The second pleasure wherry (below) which accompanies the family clearly displays the name boards of Gladys, which Roy Clark lists as being a converted trader in his Black sailed Traders book. What is unusual about Gladys is that she has a counter stern, something you would be unlikely to find on a trading wherry, the fitting of which would have required quite a major rebuild. She is rather magnificent and a wherry, it seems, that hasn’t appeared in any previously published photographs, which makes this quite a rare find. The collection also features a photograph of Buckenham Ferry in operation with the now derelict Buckenham Drainage Mill seen clearly in the background, sails intact and painted white, like Thurne Mill. These have now been uploaded to the gallery pages of Broadland Memories and can be viewed here: http://www.broadlandmemories.co.uk/pre1900gallerypage4.html#bm_1880s

The second collection is a virtually complete photograph album, inscribed by the photographer as being “The Cruise of The Mayflower” and dated to August and September of 1895. Although I know nothing about the background of the photographer and his family, I do at least have a name – D.W. Brading. Mayflower was built by Robert Collins & Sons at Wroxham. Once again, it’s another beautiful set of personal photographs of a boating holiday on the Broads which will appear on Broadland Memories in the coming months. A couple of previews from the album appear further down in this article.  A massive thank you to those kind people who have sent donations to Broadland Memories over the last year which have helped towards the purchase of these incredible pieces of the local history which will now be available for all to view online, and will eventually be passed on to the Norfolk County Council Archives.

As always, such photographs require a fair bit of research. My first port of call is usually the contemporary guide books and literature of  the time which give great insight into how a boating holiday was conducted at the time. The allure and attractions of the region were probably not that dissimilar to our own reasons for boating on the Broads today. The adventure, the tranquillity of the rivers, the stunning landscape, the wildlife, the history and architecture … and possibly the odd pub or two along the way. The client base for the boatyards was somewhat different, however, as boating was predominantly the preserve of the wealthy and professional classes. The advertised hire charge of £10-14  per week for a wherry may seem low by today’s standards, but when you put that into context with the extra £1 or so a week paid for the services of a skipper, a cut of which may well have been taken by the boatyard before his wages were paid, you can see that it was by no means a cheap holiday.  There were less costly options available to the Victorian boater, however.

At the bottom end of the scale, an open boat with an awning which could be erected at night plus a couple of mattresses, suitable  for “two young men roughing it“, could be hired for around 30 shillings. Moving up in comfort levels were the cabin yachts which varied in size from a small, two berth yacht with limited facilities up to a large counter-sterned, cutter-rigged yacht like Mayflower which included a foc’sle with berths for a skipper and mate and a stove upon which to cook, two main cabins, a W.C., and storage cupboards. Costs varied from between £3 to £10 depending on the size of the craft and the time of year.

To obtain the greatest amount of comfort it is necessary to hire a wherry, and a Norfolk wherry, let me say, is a wonderful craft;” wrote John Bickerdyke in The Best Cruise On The Broads, first published in 1895. He continued; “Wherries have for years been the trading craft of the district, but now a great many are luxuriously fitted up for pleasure parties, and on our cruise we see many happy family seated on a garden seat on the fore deck.”

Furnished with sprung berths, soft rugs, cushions and blinds, equipped with oil lamps and all the necessary crockery, cutlery, glassware and table linens one would need, the pleasure wherries certainly provided a good level of comfort, although on board facilities were still quite basic by modern standards. The saloon, according to Ernest Suffling in Land of the Broads, was; “nicely carpeted and painted, etc., with a large dining table, and, at the after end, the crowning glory – a piano. After dark, with lamps lighted, and the merry party gathered around this instrument, many a happy hour is passed away.” It should be noted that use of these small, wherry pianos was charged at an extra 15 shillings per week. He considered ladies to be “out of place” on small yachts, a separate cabin was essential, and the larger yachts and wherries were therefore best suited to mixed parties. There were lists of,  and advertisements for, boat builders and owners who would let boats within the pages of some of the tourist guides and one would have booked directly with them. Suffling also offered to act as an agent for procuring suitable yachts for prospective holidaymakers upon written request.

Having chosen your boat, signed the hire agreement and paid the deposit, it was time to turn your attention to planning what to take and how to provision your holiday craft. On the subject of payment, the balance was paid upon arrival at the start of your holiday, although in How to Organize a Cruise on the Broads, Suffling recommended withholding full payment until the end of the trip “until the agreement has been properly fulfilled on the part of the owner, or his representative waterman.

The usual suggested boating attire for gentlemen included flannel trousers, shirts, a blazer and cap or straw boater, rubber soled tennis shoes, two pairs of socks and a change of underwear. Oilskins or a mackintosh were recommended for wet weather … not that it ever rained on the Broads, of course. Little advice was given about ladies clothing, but it must be said that the long dresses, starched corsets and elaborate hats seen in contemporary photographs don’t look the most practical of garments for boating. Ernest Suffling was one who tentatively broached the subject in The Land of the Broads; “For ladies dress (I will say little here, or I shall get out of my latitude), nothing can compare with navy serge made up in a very plain manner, so as to prevent few folds as possible for boughs of trees, oars, etc., to catch in. A little bright colour in the trimming, if you please, ladies! and be sure and wear strong watertight boots in place of dainty, fancy French shoes.

I would add a plentiful supply of hat pins to the list in order to keep that head-wear secure during the sudden, and violent squalls of wind, known as “rogers”, which we were warned we may encounter on the Broads during the summer months.

The subject of food was covered well in the guide books and stocking up on a good supply of tinned meat was deemed to be essential. Fresh meat was difficult to source in all but the larger towns. Whilst villages may have had a butcher, the lack of refrigeration meant that the sale of meat was done rather differently. Orders would be taken for the various joints of meat and an animal would not be dispatched until the whole carcase was sold. A variety of weird and wonderful meats could be found in tins – Ernest Suffling recommended curried rabbit, ox-cheek, hare soup, spiced beef and Australian mutton. Fresh rabbits were one of the few things which might be readily found in the countryside! He also suggested recipes for any freshwater fish you might catch including baked pike, broiled bream and fried perch.  A warning about a certain breakfast staple though; “Bacon, as a rule, is not good in Norfolk; some of the ‘home-cured’ being really not endurable by town dwellers.

Fresh vegetables were difficult to find, but probably didn’t feature too highly on the priority list anyway. Potatoes, however, “must not be forgotten“, and 1lb per person, per day was thought to be sufficient. Bread, milk and eggs could be purchased quite easily from various sources. Another warning came from Suffling about buying cheese, who implored us to “remember that Norfolk is noted for bad cheese. So beware!” John Bickerdyke begged us not to grumble at being charged more for goods as a summer visitor than one would would normally expect to pay in the village shops; “The prosperity of which depends upon the summer influx of visitors.

The photograph above was captioned, “Returning with provisions from Stalham” and is one from the D.W. Brading 1895 album, taken on Barton Broad. Mention was made of shallow upper reaches of rivers and some broads, preventing passage by craft with deep keels, a dinghy was therefore rather essential and was included within the hire of as yacht or wherry. “See that a good dinghy or ‘jolly boat’ is supplied,” Suffling entreated us in How To Organize a Cruise on the Broads, “and that she is provided with a lug sail to fit her, and a good pair of oars; for a vast amount of pleasure is derived by small exploring excursions from the yacht, up dykes and cuttings. The ‘jolly’ is also useful to visit the neighbouring villages for renewal of food supplies, posting letters, and a hundred and one other small services.

The holiday party were not necessarily expected to cook for themselves – this was usually the job of the skipper, or the attendant if there were two crew – although more adventurous holidaymakers were free to join in with both domestic and sailing duties on the boat should they so wish. You were, however, expected to keep the crew in food, beer and possibly even tobacco for the duration of the trip. In Best Cruise on the Broads, John Bickerdyke’s thoughts on the subject were; “It is by far best to tell a man, or men, at the outset that you will give them so much a week in respect of these items, and let them find their own. If you provide them with beer, they will either drink too much, or have a grievance in respect of not having enough. Give them money and they will hardly drink anything.”

Fresh water supplies were sourced from a village well or hand pump. This was usually stored in large stone bottles, as seen above in a photograph which was taken at Ludham Bridge c1900. Bickerdyke noted; “The places where good water is to be obtained are few and far between. Most of the county lies below the level of the rivers, and the water, though plentiful, is not very good. It is as well to take a filter, so that the water, if of doubtful purity, may be both filtered and boiled. The difficulty is surmounted by laying in a stock of mineral waters.” He continued; “It is as well to see that the man really does go to some well for the water, and does not fill the jar out of the river. River water does well enough for washing purposes.

Other forms of liquid refreshment were of great importance too during your cruise. Whilst various riverside hostelries were recommended in the guide books (for the availability of a decent hot meal as much as the ale) you were advised to stock up on your favourite tipples before setting off as the local offerings may not necessarily be to your taste. “Beer, of the peculiar sweet flavour in vogue in Norfolk, but, nevertheless, pure and wholesome, may be had anywhere. Some of the inns keep an old ale in stock called ‘Old Tom. It is exceedingly intoxicating, and costs one shilling per quart.” wrote Suffling. But if you hankered for something stronger still, then take heed; “The denizens of the coast appear to like a new, fiery spirit, be it whisky, rum, gin, or brandy, and they get what they like. Some of the whisky is warranted to kill at any distance.

If you’ve managed to ward off scurvy due to the lack of fruit and veg, avoided succumbing to galloping consumption from drinking well water or eating the local cheese, and haven’t been left insensible (or worse!) by the Norfolk whisky, then you’ll probably be wondering what you can see and do whilst on your cruise.

Angling had become a popular pastime and prospective visitors were encouraged to bring along their tackle, with hints and tips for novices given within the guide books.  Photography too was gaining interest amongst those who could afford the equipment and you may have noticed that the wherry plan further above in this article includes a dark room on board. “The artist may find anywhere, everywhere, pictures ready for his canvas of scenery that is peculiar to Norfolk.” Suffling told us. “To the archaeologist and searcher into things ecclesiastic, there are no end of churches, priories, castles, halls, and old buildings, which will afford him a vast fund of delightful research. To the entomologist, ornithologist, and botanist, I would say ‘By all means take your holiday here, for you may bring back with you specimens wherewith to beguile many a long winter’s evening with your favourite pursuit’.

The Victorians seem to have had an enormous appetite for shooting and stuffing anything that moved. Guns could be brought along, but the guide book authors attempted to discourage such practices. In The Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk & Suffolk, George Christopher Davies appealed; “Let me earnestly entreat visitors not to fire off guns either at birds or bottles above Acle Bridge. The sport to the visitors is nil, while the annoyance to the riparian owners is extreme.” The Brading Family clearly ignored this advice as the photograph above shows. It is one of a series of the yacht Mayflower which were captioned as having been taken at Barton Staithe in 1895.

Ernest Suffling suggested that yachting parties bring lawn tennis and archery sets, quoits and cricket equipment with them to set up on the riverbanks, obviously with little concern for the landowners. George Christopher Davies dismissed such notions, telling his readers: “Pray don’t take such absurd advice, all riparian owners adhere strictly to their just rights.” For evening entertainment and wet weather days where the party were confined to the saloon, there were various recommendations. We’ve already mentioned the piano and, according to Suffling; “Frequently one of the party brings along his banjo …. He is usually the funny man of the party, the buffoon, the human ass..

Chess, backgammon, cards, book reading, sewing and “wool-work” were typical pastimes, along with compiling a scrapbook of your holiday. It was also suggested that you may use the time to take stock of the items you’ve collected during the trip for your botany collection. Various parlour games were included in the list too. In “Fill The Basket” one could make use of the abundant rations of potatoes which had been brought on board at the start of the trip. “Two players kneel on the floor opposite one another, three to four feet apart, in the centre a basket is placed, whilst in front of each player is placed a dozen of the largest, most ugly, and knobbly potatoes procurable.” Each player was then given a table spoon, or dessert spoon and by using only the spoon, the potatoes were transferred into the basket, the winner being the first to clear their pile.

Once your holiday had begun, there were a few “hitherto unwritten rules” of the Rivers and Broads from George Christopher Davies to adhere to:

Do not, in the neighbourhood of other yachts or houses, indulge in songs and revelry after eleven p.m., even at regatta times.

“Bathe only before eight o’clock in the morning, if in sight of other vessels or moored in a frequented part of the river. Ladies are not expected to turn out before eight, but after that time they are entitled to be free from any annoyance. Young men who lounge in a nude state on boats while ladies are passing (and I have known Norwich youths to do this) may be saluted with dust shot, or the end of a quant.

Do not throw straw or paper overboard to float to leeward and become offensive but burn, or take care to sink all rubbish.

Steam launches must not run at full speed past yachts moored to the bank, particularly when the occupants of the latter have things spread out for a meal.

Ladies, please don’t gather armfuls of flowers, berries, and grasses which, when faded, you leave in the boat or yacht for the unfortunate skipper to clear up.

You’ve made it to the end of your holiday and it’s time to depart. You may not necessarily be departing from the same place where you picked the boat up of course. A man with a horse and cart will collect your party and luggage and transport you to the nearest train station for your return journey home. In 1895, a return first class”Tourist” ticket from London to Wroxham Station (as seen above, photographed by Donald Shields) would have cost 34 shillings,  whilst a 3rd class ticket could be purchased for a more modest 20 shillings. The train journey would have taken a little over three hours.

The boats, the clothes and the availability of foodstuffs may have changed, but the appeals of the Broads and some of the advice given in the Victorian guide books still hold true today – with the exception of trying to sink your rubbish perhaps (lack of riverside rubbish bins notwithstanding). The facilities were somewhat basic, sourcing food and water needed greater patience and stamina and you made your own entertainment. But step on board your holiday craft, leave the cares of the world behind, cast off on your Broadland adventure and “one feels the glamour of it stealing over you.”

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