Personal Memories of Broads Tours

Is it September already? Where on earth did August go! Autumn seems to have arrived with sudden gusto this week but it has at least given me the opportunity to sit down for an afternoon to take stock of where I had got to in tackling the website backlog, and to review the new submissions I’ve received over the last few months. More on that will follow, but some exciting recent developments on the Broads Tours front has prompted me to have a final roundup on that story before moving on to new topics!

Personal Memories of Broads Tours by Geoffrey Peek

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to be given a copy of a new book which has been written by ex- Broads Tours managing director Geoffrey Peek. Personal Memories of Broads Tours covers the story of Broads Tours from the 1920s to 1986 and answers so many of the questions that I’ve posed on  the blog since I began digging in to the history of the company and its passenger launches in March 2012. Over the years, Geoffrey has amassed a large collection of photographs, postcards and other ephemera relating to Broads Tours, much of which is included in this picture heavy book. I have not had the chance to sit down and read the book properly yet, but my copy has certainly been very well thumbed already just for the picture content alone! What it has done is confirm that William Littleboys fleet of passenger launches was indeed amalgamated into the Broads Tours fleet when Charles Hannaford took over the company in the late 1930s, but interestingly it seems that members of both the Smith and Littleboy families continued to have a role within the new company. It has also enabled me to update some of the  information on the set of postcards I featured in my last blog post on early 20th century Norfolk Broads passenger launches.

Ex Admiralty steam pinnace conversion at Wroxham c1920s

Firstly, I will return to the postcard which showed the view looking upstream to the rail bridge at Wroxham which I had dated to c1915. It seems that it may well be a little later than this due to the boat seen in the foreground on the right in that original image, which regular correspondent Vaughan Ashby has identified as being a home conversion of an ex Admiralty WW1 steam pinnace. That being the case, it seems unlikely that it would have been decommissioned and converted until after the end of the Great War, so a revised date of the early 1920s seems more appropriate. I’ve cropped in on the boat in question in the image you see above right – the original postcard can be seen in my previous blog post linked to above. May thanks, as ever, to Vaughan for getting in contact. Vaughan also believes that the motor cruiser seen in the late 1920s postcard of Wroxham (4th down on that page) was one of H.C. Banham’s fleet due to the distinctive, oval shaped badge seen on the bow. I’ve not had the chance to go through the old brochures to try to confirm this yet ….. but when time allows …. !!

Another of the postcards featured in my last blog post showed the passenger launch Sombra at Ranworth c1920s. It was a name which I hadn’t heard of in relation to either George Smith’s or William Littleboy’s fleets, but the book has confirmed that it was indeed one of Smith’s launches.

On to some new additions to my own Broads Tours collection now. The postcard below is an interesting one and shows the passenger launch Lyndhurst at Ranworth Staithe c1910.

Once again, this was a name which I hadn’t come across before but Geoffrey’s book contains another postcard featuring Lyndhurst moored alongside the Kings Head Hotel in Wroxham which was posted in 1910.  That particular card states that the launch was owned by Messrs Rounce and Wortley who were apparently a Cromer based printing company and Geoffrey suggests that it was possibly used for staff jollies rather than being available for charter by the general public. It then struck me that this appears to be the same steam launch which is seen moored alongside the Kings Head in the first postcard on my previous blog post, also dated to c1910. Incidentally, the steam launch seen heading upstream in the foreground of that Wroxham postcard was called Vivid and was owned by Ambrose Thrower whose boatyard stood just upstream of Wroxham Bridge.

The hand coloured postcard above is another new addition. Captioned as being the River Bure near Coltishall and dating from c1915, it also features a steam launch which looks as though it may well be be the Lyndhurst once again.

Finally, I’m going to return to the boat which sparked my initial interest in the ex Broads Tours launches and the history of the company itself – Vanguard 2 (now Princess Royal and operating as a waterbus in Cardiff). Geoff’s book has confirmed that Vanguard 1 and Vanguard 2 were built by Jack Powles in 1950 and 1952 for Seagull Coaches who were based in Great Yarmouth. I recently came across a copy of a 1953 Seagull Coaches brochure for sale on a certain online auction website and the following two images show the pages from that brochure which relate to the combined coach trips and Norfolk Broads river cruises on the Vanguards which the company ran. Both launches were apparently bought by Broads Tours in 1967.

Personal Memories of Broads Tours by Geoffrey Peek is published by Avalon Associates of Chelmsford (ISBN 978-0-9529440-9-6) and copies can be purchased from Forrest’s newsagents in Stalham, priced at £20.  It’s quite expensive for a paperback, but has presumably been produced in a very limited run and is likely to become a collectors item in future years! It’s an absolute must for devotees of Broadland boat design and local history, packed full of fascinating photographs, news cuttings and the authors memories of the company. I suspect that this whole Broads Tours thing will continue to run and run …. until the next update, Geoff Peek’s book is a most highly recommended read!

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