Charles Hannaford – Art, photography and the Charm of the Norfolk Broads

The name Charles Arthur Hannaford will be familiar to many as an accomplished watercolour artist whose paintings of the Norfolk Broads are highly sought after. I’ve also mentioned Charles Hannaford here on the blog in the past as the owner of the Broads Tours Ltd passenger launch business at Hoveton. It was therefore a great honour to be offered a box of photographs for Broadland Memories which were taken by the man himself.

hannaford_photoboxHoused in an old shirt box, the collection appears to span the decades between the 1920s and 1960s, the earlier images being datable by the presence of the maltings at Horning which were demolished in the latter half of the 1920s.  William Allchin, who kindly donated the photographs, explained that Hannford (his Great Uncle) often used the photographs as a visual aid for his paintings.  There are images of wherries, mills, Broadland landscapes and boats, including some of the Broads Tours fleet. Having now had the chance to scan and begin to study them closer, there were several photographs which immediately drew my attention. I had intended to do a quick blog post just to give a sneak preview of one or two, but as I began to do a little research I discovered just what a truly wonderful piece of Broadland history this collection is.

hannaford_charlesCharles Hannaford moved to Norfolk in 1935 after retiring from his job in banking due to ill health. It’s clear from his early photographs that he already had a great love of the Norfolk Broads and presumably holidayed here. The move coincided with his purchase of the Broads Tours passenger launch business from George Smith & Sons at Hoveton, more of the early history of the company and the boats in the fleet can be found in a series of previous blog posts which began with Old Broads Tour boats never die. Follow the links at the bottom of that post for further updates on the story. Hannaford was the son of the renowned landscape artist Charles E. Hannaford and had himself studied at Plymouth Art School before choosing banking as a career. He continued to sketch and paint when he moved to Norfolk, his paintings being exhibited for sale in the Broads Tours office and restaurant. His artwork also appeared in a booklet produced as a souvenir for Broads Tours passengers entitled The Charm of the Norfolk Broads, a publication which first appeared c1949. There were several revised editions produced over the next 50 years and I have four different versions within my own book collection.

It was whilst browsing through an early copy of the booklet this week that I discovered something rather interesting. Amongst the photographs in the box I found one that Hannaford had quite obviously worked from to produce one of the illustrations in the The Charm of the Norfolk Broads. The photograph below shows Lower Street in Horning and it must date from the 1920s as it looks as though the maltings buildings are still standing. The sign for Shell spirits and oils on the left hung outside the boatyard of H.C. Banham and the view looks up towards the Swan Hotel. Below the photograph is the final illustration which appeared in the original booklet.



I can’t tell you how humbled yet excited I felt to be holding such a lovely piece of Broadland’s history in my hand. The box contains so many photographs which have grid lines drawn on them or ink scribbles where the artist had clearly been making notes for himself, such as drawing the missing cap and sails onto a derelict mill whilst composing a Broadland scene. As iconic features of the Broadland landscape, mills and wherries often appeared in Hannaford’s paintings and amongst the photographs he took.  I began to study the photographs and the various copies of the booklet a little closer and soon came across another match with the photograph below of a sailing dinghy. The final drawing shows the dinghy heeling over further and you can see how Hannaford changed the angle via the guide pencil marks on the photograph.  The Charm of the Norfolk Broads must have sold in the thousands over the years and there was me, sitting in my living room some 65 years later, staring at the original photos that were used for the illustrations.


The next photograph shows one of the ink notes that Hannaford made for himself. The wherry is unidentified, but it’s one of several images which feature both trading and pleasure wherries in various stages of use and decay. It is such a beautiful thing to see the way he worked. It has to be said that he wasn’t necessarily the greatest of photographers, but he recorded a Broadland that was changing rapidly in the decades preceding and following the Second World War. He captured the passing of an era, the old order being cast aside in favour of the new. He clearly saw the same artistic beauty in decay and dereliction that I often do.

hannaford_millscribbleAs I mentioned, some of the Broads Tours fleet also feature amongst the collection, from the magnificent passenger launches to the small, self drive day boats. In the box was yet another image which was worked into an illustration for The Charm of the Norfolk Broads. Below is Princess Mary in photo and sketch form. I wonder who the chap lurking behind the tree was.



hannaford_pat01Another interesting find in the shirt box was a photograph showing the passenger launch Princess Pat which had been bought from a rival firm c1940. Originally 40ft in length and able to carry around 40 passengers, in 1949 Princess Pat was hauled into the boat shed, cut in half and then lengthened by 12 feet. It wasn’t the first Broads Tours launch to have undergone such a transformation. Princess Mary had been built in 1922 by Alfred Pegg for George Smith and was lengthened in 1924 by Graham Bunn. An Eastern Daily Press article in July 1949 reported on the work done on Princess Pat: ” Mr Sidney Smith, who was responsible for the alterations, made a special cut in the keel and the fore part of the boat was carried forward 12 feet. Using seasoned oak from a tree grown at Belaugh, the new 12 foot length of keel was joined to the old wood by the butt-scarfe method. Planking and cladding completed the hull and a mid-section to the canopy was fitted.” The photograph below was taken during the lengthening process, the image above right shows Princess Pat c1960 by which time she was licensed to carry 64 passengers.


I’ve barely scratched the surface with this collection, these are just a handful of those which caught my eye. It’s going to take me a while to finish sorting through them as I still have two collections of photographs from 1915-1918 and a couple of albums from the 1950s to get onto the website, but they will be another interesting addition to Broadland Memories. My thanks to William Allchin for passing this unique and very lovely piece of Broadland’s history on to me. Charles Hannaford passed away in 1972 aged 85. He left behind him a wonderful record of a bygone Brodland with his paintings, and the Broads Tours name lives on to this day. I’ll finish with another of the paintings which appeared in the original Charm of the Norfolk Broads book, a rather lovely study of a trading wherry.


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