Jollidays – Herbert Woods in the early 1930s

I’m always on the lookout for old books and other Norfolk Broads related items to add to my own collection and a recent birthday present to myself was a rare copy of a 1934 yachting list produced by Herbert Woods. The “Jollidays” booklet not only includes photographs and descriptions of the various classes of motor and sailing cruisers available for hire, but also contains some wonderful photographs taken around the Broads-Haven yard at Potter Heigham.

I’m not sure how many editions of the Jollidays brochure were produced, but copies rarely come up for sale, so I was extremely lucky to come across this one. The 60 page booklet is predominantly a showcase for the Broadland “Light” Cruisers developed by Woods from the late 1920s onwards. As such, it gives far more information about the fleet and their design than Harry Blake’s Yachting Lists of the same era, who also represented Herbert Woods amongst his roster of Broadland boatyards. I have previously covered the incredible innovation shown not only in the design and powering of the Woods craft, but also the way in which they were fitted out and equipped. Herbert Woods can quite comfortably lay claim to being the godfather of the modern day hire fleet – the build materials and technology may have changed, but the modern motor cruiser is not a million miles away from the fleet he built at Potter Heigham during the 1920s and 1930s. As Herbert himself put it: “The main item of a holiday afloat is the boat. It is essential that this should be comfortable, well found, and of ample room for the party living thereon. It must be handled with confidence and ease, so that the greatest benefit of this fresh-air recreation can be obtained without anxiety to the helmsman, or anything but enjoyable content to his friends.

The above photograph was taken from the Jollidays booklet and shows Duchess of Light at Horsey Staithe. The largest class in the fleet, Duchess and her sister ships, Countess, Empress, Princess and Peeress, were 42 feet in length and slept up to eight people in three cabins. The spacious saloon was entered via the wheelhouse, a galley forward of which led to the front cabin, passing a toilet closet and bathroom opposite in which you would have found a full size bath. At the rear of the boat was another two berth cabin and a second toilet. Woods equipped all of his light cruisers with Morris Marine engines and the Duchess class came with an 18 hp, 6 cylinder “Commodore” motor with self starter, the dynamo supplying power to charge the large batteries needed for the electric lights on board.

The interior shots for the Duchess class (above) show the attention to detail and the quality of the fit-out for the Light Cruisers. The Jollidays booklet gives the following description: “The comfort of the party has been studied in all matters, and the equipment is in every case of extremely good quality. The sleeping berths are all fitted with patent ‘Somnus’ spring mattresses, ‘Osman’ sheets and pillow cases, pure wool rugs etc. The saloon mattresses are all of the box spring type, and all berths are much larger than those usually found aboard private or hire craft.” Note the cushions in the saloon which were made by the company in white fabric emblazoned with the Woods blue star. Just imagine stepping down into the saloon and wandering through your holiday boat for the first time. The smell of freshly varnished woodwork, the highly polished brass fittings glinting as the sunlight streams in through a window, colour co-ordinated fabrics and furnishings adorning every cabin and the gleaming pots and pans hanging in the galley.  The Light Cruisers were the absolute height of modernity and luxury in motor powered craft.

The Broadland Memories DVD “Boating on the Norfolk Broads in the 1930s” follows one family taking two holidays aboard Herbert Woods cruisers in 1932 and 1933, the second of which was aboard Countess of Light. It’s quite nice to think that they may have planned their trips from one of the Jollidays brochures.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Jollidays also contains a number of photographs which show the Broads-Haven yard. Shots of the mooring basin from this era are always nice to see, but of real interest are the behind the scenes images that most holidaymakers were unlikely to see. Alongside the many skilled boat builders, engineers and general maintenance and yard staff, there was an army of female workers who were responsible for ensuring that all the boats were clean, equipped and ready to go out on hire.

The photograph above shows the mattress and bedding store with the lady in the foreground busily hoovering one of the box spring saloon mattresses from the racks behind her. In the background you can see various piles of the Somnus mattresses, woolen blankets, pillows and sheets. How smart they all look in their uniforms!

This was the Equipment Store where the pots and pans, crockery, glassware and cutlery were cleaned and prepared for the cruisers. Everything was taken off the boat after each hire, carefully washed and then returned for the next holiday party. “Cutlery is, of course, of the stainless variety, the blue and white china is attractive in style and of far better quality than the hirer usually expects to find. Tablecloths, etc., being also of blue and white, with curtains harmonizing, the general scheme of decoration throughout the fleet is very attractive, and particularly appeals to the ladies of the party, who are generally more discerning in these matters.

Much of the enjoyment of this type of holiday depends on whether the equipment for use in cooking, eating and sleeping is good, bad, or merely indifferent. Those who know Mrs. Herbert Woods, who is in sole control of these items, are prepared to leave this matter in her capable hands, realising that even the best is scarcely good enough when equipping the ‘Light’ Cruisers.

This was captioned as being the ‘Building Shop’ where the Light Cruisers were constructed and maintained. It gives a real sense of just how large scale the operation was at the Broads-Haven yard.

The view looking across the Broads-Haven mooring basin at Potter Heigham towards the footbridge across the entrance, which leads out onto the River Thurne.

Another view of the mooring baain from Jollidays, looking back towards the sheds. Note that the now familiar water tower had yet to be built when this photograph was taken. Holidaymakers who arrived by motor car were able to drive right up to their holiday cruiser and the car was then parked in one of the garages for the duration. “The staff at ‘Broads-Haven’ will always be found willing and anxious to do everything in their power to add to the enjoyment of our clients, and the heavy stock of spares and equipment always on hand ensures a degree of service highly appreciated. A unique feature is the hot soft-water baths always available, and the day and night attention to be inaugurated for the coming season will add still further to the usefulness of the establishment.

New for 1934 was the opening of the Broads-Haven Stores over the Whitsun holiday Previously, provisions were ordered in from outside sources which, according to Jollidays, had often caused delays in the holiday party getting underway. Herbert Woods wanted to offer a complete, in house service to his clients: “It will be our endeavour to make this store up to date, with all goods at fair and reasonable prices. Fresh fruit and vegetables will be grown on our own land close to these premises, and supplied as required.

Although at the forefront of the development and building of modern motor cruisers, would be Broads yachtsmen were not forgotten. “As a member of the third generation of Broadland builders of sailing boats, and as one who annually wins more prizes in sailing races than any other builder on the Broads, I am in a position to offer a number of yachts which, of their type, are particularly well suited for sailing on these comparatively shallow rivers and Broads.” The two berth, single cabin Winsome and Welcome were recommended for novices, whilst those requiring something a little larger and more powerful would be better suited to the Smuggler with: “the fine lines and balance of a racing cruiser, and to those who put sailing qualities before cabin accommodation this crack of the Broads letting fleet will strongly appeal.” Also within the fleet were the double-cabin yachts Bootlegger and Filibuster and the 34ft Wayfarer class.

Jollidays is a remarkable glimpse into the pioneering years of motor cruiser development and the modern Broads boating holiday. There are still a number of the original ‘Light’ Cruisers and yachts out there which is testament to the build quality, the ongoing maintenance whilst still in hire, and the dedication and devotion of the subsequent owners of these beautiful craft. The Herbert Woods boatyard recently brought Spark of Light back into their fleet and, after careful restoration, she is now available for day charter from them. Water Rail, the former Delight VII, can be hired for three or seven nights via the Little Ships website. The yacht Bootlegger is also still on hire, available from the Eastwwod Whelpton boatyard at Upton. The magnificent Countess of Light has also undergone a lengthy and thorough restoration and has recently been re-launched. You can follow the latest updates from her owners via the Countess of Light Facebook page or Twitter account.

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