Pauline of Oulton Broad

During the 1920s and 1930s, the popularity of boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads began to increase and new craft were being added to the hire fleets at a rapid rate. Sailing was still the way that most people experienced the joys of life afloat, but the numbers of motor cruisers available for hire also began to grow, catering for those who fancied a holiday afloat without the restrictions imposed by wind and tide! Whilst brand new motor cruisers were appearing from some of the many boatyards across the system, there were also a number conversions of older, and sometimes more unusual craft.

Pauline pictured alongside Acle Bridge Inn c1930

I mentioned one such vessel in my previous blog post – the motor cruiser Pauline which was owned by Miller’s boatyard at Oulton Broad. Pauline began life as the Thames spritsail barge Federation No: 113707 which was built at Rochester in 1901 for the Thames and Medway Cooperative Barge and Carrying Society Ltd. She was bought by Frederick Miller in the early 1920s and converted into a luxury, floating hotel upon which one to three week, fully inclusive tours of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads were conducted. A crew of three – the skipper, a steward and stewardess, were in attendance throughout the holiday and places on board could be booked as an individual or as a group. There were six single cabins, two double berth cabins and one with three singles which were all fitted with a wash basin. There was a large galley and spacious saloon which seated the whole party for meals which included breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner and consisted of “good homely catering” according to contemporary adverts. It was also noted that evening dress was not expected to be worn by guests! Pauline was fitted with electric lights throughout and a “good wireless set” was provided. In 1933 the terms, including board and attendance, were between £4 10 shillings and £5 10 shillings per person, per week. Fred Miller ran Pauline until the outbreak of  WW2 in 1939 after which she was sold to a family who lived on board at Oulton Broad for a while. She apparently ended her days being used as staging on Barton Broad. Her remains can still be seen near the the entrance of the cut that leads to Wood End Staithe.

She was one of the largest motor cruisers on the Norfolk Broads and crops up in numerous photos and postcards from the era.  The image below was a promotional postcard for Pauline which dates from the early 1930s.

This was the entry for Pauline in Blakes 1933 brochure:

As had been the case with a number of our old trading wherries, the Federation found a new lease of life by exchanging cargo for people, and must have provided happy holidays for hundreds of visitors during the fifteen or so years that she spent at Miller’s boatyard. She ended her days consigned to a watery grave on Barton Broad, but she certainly must have been an imposing sight on the Broadland rivers in her heyday.

There are lots of wonderful photographs of Pauline along with more information and memories from Philippa Miller in the book Norfolk Broads – The Golden Years which was published by Halsgrove in 2008. Philippa, an artist and teacher, was the daughter of Frederick Miller and the book its full of fascinating photographs and memories of life on the Norfolk Broads during the first half of the 20th century. Another highly recommended read!


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