Regular visitors to Hoveton and Wroxham will have seen the houseboat “Heather” lying on her moorings at the Kings Head but may not have realised what an historic vessel Heather actually is. She is quite a striking looking craft, although is often covered by an awning to protect her from the elements.
I was contacted this week by one of her co-owners, Chris Moffatt, who has recently started the houseboat Heather blog. Whilst currently focusing on the ongoing issues with the Broads Authority regarding her home mooring at the Kings Head, the owners are also hoping that the blog will generate more information about her past. Heather is believed to have started life as a flush decked work barge in the Netherlands c1900. Eventually finding her way to the Broads, she was converted to a houseboat for a gentleman artist in the 1920s by Ernest Woods at Horning. There had been a long tradition of converting all manner of craft into houseboats on the Broads, from the quirky little eel catchers houseboats which featured in so many Victorian and Edwardian photographs of the area, to the former Gorleston lifeboat “John Burch” which was converted initially into the motor cruiser “Crescent” by W.G. Johnson at St. Olaves just prior to WW1, but continued to be used as a static houseboat until the 1960s. If an old hull still floated then it could be converted into accommodation and there were some quite weird and wacky houseboats over the years!
In the 1950s, Heather became a holiday houseboat, hired out by Turner’s boatyard in Horning. The image on the left is the Blake’s brochure entry for her from 1966 when she could be hired for a week in August for £5 12 shillings. Heather could accommodate up to four people – two single berths in the aft cabin and a pull out double in the saloon. Heating was provided by a Courtier solid fuel stove and the galley was, by this time, fitted with a mains electric cooker. Along with seeking more information about Heather, the owners are also trying to locate period fixtures and fittings to complete her restoration including an original Courtier stove (see the blog for further details). This summer has seen Heather undergo quite a change in appearance as part of the restoration programme which has seen the aft cabin sides removed to create an open sun deck area, along with having new gunnels, rubbing strakes, a hull repaint and fresh antifouling. The work was carried out by Royall’s boatyard snd more details and photographs of that work can be found on the Royall’s blog – scroll down to the bottom of that page. I think it’s really given her the character of a 1920s gentleman’s launch and she looks very smart!
If you can provide any more information about her past, or remember holidaying on Heather whilst she was at Turner’s yard in Horning, or have any old photographs, then Chris and co-owner Andrew Nicholson would be delighted to hear from you – contact details can be found on Heather’s Blog.