I’ve been finding further pieces of the Broads Tours history over the past few weeks, both by searching through the Broadland Memories archives and other online resources, and via a couple of very interesting items which were loaned to me. I’ve mentioned many times that I tend to use the blog as a notebook, so it makes sense to collate the latest information together on here for my own reference and hope that I don’t bore too many people by doing so!
I’ve discovered several postcards within the archives which feature some of the Broads Tours passenger cruisers over the years and also a few which show the Broads Tours base at Hoveton. One of the most interesting is the postcard on the right. This aerial view of Hoveton and Wroxham has been on the website for a while and was the subject of a “Then & Now” post on the blog last year. I had it dated to the 1950s, but I now think that it could actually be a little earlier. The Broads Tours base can clearly be seen at the bottom, left of the image, adjoining the railway line. As you can see, it was spread over a sizable plot of land and incorporated riverside gardens amongst the boat dykes. Interestingly, this photograph appears to have been taken before the erection of the new Broads Tours building, seen in the 1950s photo of the entire fleet which I included in this earlier blog post. Most of the boat dykes seen in the old aerial photograph were later filled to create the extension to Roy’s car park, although the dyke nearest the river remains as part of Hoveton Riverside Park.
In that first blog post on Broads Tours, I made mention of the connection to George Smith & Sons, and how it seemed that when Charles Hannaford established his Broads Tours company c1935, he had purchased Smith’s existing passenger launch business and fleet. I met up with Chris Moffatt on the Houseboat Heather at Royall’s boatyard last week and he kindly loaned me two very interesting items of Broads Tours related ephemera which throw a little more light onto the subject.
The first is a four page leaflet advertising George Smith & Sons motor launch day trips which I believe dates from early 1930s – the centre pages can be seen on the left. The leaflet gives details of the full day, and afternoon trips which ran from G.Smith & Sons Boat Staithe and River Gardens adjoining the railway station. It seems likely that this must have been at the same location as Charles Hannaford’s Broads Tours which is seen in the aerial photograph above. The information I have indicates that George began hiring out boats and offering conducted tours of the Broads from the Horseshoes Hotel in Station Road whilst he was the licensee of the establishment from c1900 to 1912. However, the leaflet makes the claim that George Smith & Sons had been established for 50 years – if an early 1930s date is correct for the leaflet then that would put the founding of the company back to the 1880s. Were the claims exaggerated, or did George have some involvement in boat hire back then?
The second item loaned by Chris Moffatt is another leaflet from the same era advertising William Littleboy’s Conducted Tours of the Norfolk Broads. I’ve not come across the name William Littleboy before and can’t seem to find any reference to him. The leaflet says that the day and afternoon trips ran from Wroxham Bridge, mentions that there was an adjoining restaurant and that car parking was available for 300 cars. It’s got me rather intrigued as, apart from the name of the proprietor and start location, the leaflet is almost word for word identical to the one produced by George Smith & Sons. Did George Smith, or his sons, possibly buy out William Littleboy’s operation? And if so, was Littleboy’s actually based on the same plot of land as Smith’s Boat Staithe and riverside gardens? The back page of the leaflet advertises the motor launch Marchioness which could seat up to 120 passengers – Marchioness was also mentioned by Charles Hannaford in his Charm of the Norfolk Broads booklet as being one of the Broads Tours launches and I suspect that this was one and the same boat.
I scanned all of the pages of both leaflets and they were uploaded as PDF’s to the “Adverts & Posters” section of the Broadland Memories website earlier this week. Many thanks to Chris for entrusting them to my temporary care.
The postcard on the right was another recent find and it shows what looks very much like one of the Broads Tours launches moored alongside the Ferry Inn at Horning. I believe that the card dates from the 1920s or very early 1930s which means that the launch would possibly have been one of those owned by either George Smith & Sons or William Littleboy at the time. It’s interesting to note that the trip itineraries on both of the leaflets mentioned above included lunch or tea stops at Horning. The Ferry Inn had been a popular watering hole for many years and kept a visitor book which contained entries from some very illustrious names of late Victorian high society! The building, of course, has altered since this particular photograph was taken, having been rebuilt twice since the 1940s – firstly after being bombed during the Second World War and secondly after suffering a major fire in 1965. I covered both of these events in the article “Horning Ferry Inn – an eventful history” which I posted on the blog in October 2010.
Finally, (for now) I happened to stumble across the photograph on the left whilst browsing through Norfolk County Council’s Picture Norfolk archives. In the original blog post I mentioned the former Broads Tours launch The Prince which is now running as a passenger boat in Scotland under the name of Ratho Princess. The Prince had been built by Graham Bunn in 1924 for George Smith, and was later part of Charles Hannaford’s fleet. The accompanying information for this particular image says that it shows The Prince moored on William Smith’s land in Station Road and that it was built to carry 65 people. This presumably dates it to having been taken after the death of George Smith in 1927. As mentioned in my Broads Tours Update, it seems that William Smith became a director at Broads Tours when Charles Hannaford bought the business in 1935 – his experience in running a passenger launch business would have no doubt been invaluable during the early years of Hannaford’s ownership.
As I said, many of my blog posts tend to be a collation of information and photos received which I can refer back to at a later date and, as usual, there are quite a few unanswered questions and a lot of conjecture. I’m just thinking out loud! As always, I welcome corrections or further information on any of the above. It would be nice to eventually condense all of this into a coherent article for the main website. Many thanks to everyone who has responded via the blog, or contacted me to provide more information on some of the various topics I’ve covered on here recently. It’s very much appreciated ….. and it’s also nice to know that I’m not just talking to myself!