The Cruise of the Merriment – Norfolk Broads August 1919

I was busily writing a blog post to accompany the set of 1880s photographs of the Norfolk Broads which I’m working to get on to Broadland Memories at the moment, when a lovely surprise popped up in my email inbox on Monday. It was the third instalment in the series of original Norfolk Broads sailing logs written by Edward Leslie Champness, this one dating from August 1919.

I downed keyboard immediately so that I could read the log which, given previous instalments, I knew would be an entertaining read. The two week trip took place a year after their honeymoon on the Broads and nine months after the end of the First World War,  Leslie and Rowena Champness being accompanied this time by four friends. The log has been transcribed, researched and laid out in PDF form once again by Bruce Robb, the couple’s grandson. The Cruise of the Merriment is slightly different in that each of the crew members, having been given suitable nautical nicknames, took it in turns to write up the log at the end of the day. It gives the log a different slant and is a very amusing and charming account of the adventures that the friends got up to along the way. Having splashed out on a hamper of provisions which was delivered by Harrods, instead of relying on Roys of Wroxham as they had on previous holidays, I was relieved to discover that Bovril and potatoes (which had been a staple during their 1918 trip) were still on the menu on day one! The group covered most of the northern rivers during their fortnight and attended the Potter Heigham and Ludham Regatta, one of the female members of the crew even won the ladies open swimming race. The log includes an original hand bill from the regatta along with numerous photos of the event and from the rest of the holiday.

A misadventure involving their boom and the trellis of a riverside bungalow at Potter Heigham led to them to seek the services of a “Walter” at the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company for repairs to Merriment. It is very likely that “Walter” was none other than Walter Woods, father of Herbert Woods. The crew then bought  wood and paint to make good the damage to the trellis themselves.  Different times!

This really is such a joyous read and you can find The Cruise of the Merriment on the main Personal Memories page of the Broadland Memories website.

In 1919, Leslie Champness was an Assistant Constructor in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, prior to the war he had qualified as a naval architect at Armstrong College in Newcastle. Mordaunt Mauleverer Parker, who was a fellow crew member on this trip, had been at Armstrong College with Champness and was also in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors during the war. Bruce added the following information about his grandfather’s career in shipbuilding; “He was Assistant General Manager at Palmers in Jarrow and Hebburn on the Tyne in 1933 when the company went under – throwing most of the Jarrow out of work and leading directly to the Jarrow March. He (probably with the aid of others but family legend says he was the prime mover) managed to rescue the smaller Hebburn shipyard by getting Vickers-Armstrong to take it over and was Managing Director there up until his retirement in 1953.

My thanks once again to Bruce Robb for taking the time to transcribe the log and for allowing me to share it via Broadland Memories.

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Charles Hannaford Paintings

Regular visitors to the Broadland Memories website will have no doubt seen the first few sets of photographs from the Charles Hannaford Collection which I’ve uploaded over the last couple of months. The photographs are a wonderful record of both the Broads Tours business at Wroxham which was owned by him, and also of Broadland in general between the 1920s and 1960s.

There are still quite a few photographs from the collection to add to the website which cover various subjects including some of the Hannaford family photos, images of wherries, mills and sailing on the Broads. As many will remember, Charles Hannaford was also an accomplished watercolour artists and there will also be a section devoted to this aspect of his life. I touched on it briefly last year in the blog post Art, Photography & The Charm of the Norfolk Broads, in which I mentioned the fact that a large number of the photographs he had taken were for use as subject matter for his paintings, many of which were sold via the Broads Tours tearooms. It has been fascinating to be able to match up some of those photographs to his illustrations and paintings as I’ve gone through the collection. Hannafords great-nephew, William Allchin, remembers that Charles was very regimented about his painting and would tour the boatyard on his bicycle in the morning and then return to his studio above the tearoom at 11am on the dot every day. He would have hot milk and rum and then sit and paint for an hour.

I was recently contacted by Neil Witt who told me that his father, Tony, knew Charles Hannaford who regularly sent him a small painting at Christmas time. He sent me photographs of those paintings and has kindly allowed me to share them on Broadland Memories.

There are some very familiar scenes which I recognise as having been drawn from some of the photographs I have.  The above painting shows the footbridge at the entrance to the Porter and Haylett boatyard at Wroxham which stood on the opposite side of the river to the Broads Tours base. The character walking across the bridge and the yacht beyond have been added for more interest, but the inspiration appears to have come from the photograph below.

This is a beautiful little study of a river scene on the Norfolk Broads.

Reflections of a drainage mill in the water. Charles photographed many mills, bridges, boathouses and typical Broadland scenes as props for his paintings.

An atmospheric study showing the view from inside a boat house.

Wherries also featured often in Hannaford’s artwork and in his photographs, both traders and pleasure wherries. More of those to come in future uploads to the website.

My thanks to Neil and Tony Witt for allowing me to share the paintings on here.



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The Norfolk Broads in the 1970s

There have been several new additions to the Broadland Memories website over the last couple of months including the second part of the Charles Hannaford Collection of photographs, a rather nice sets of images from a 1948 holiday on the motor cruiser Valiant, another 1970s cine film and a couple of interesting sets of photos from the 1960s. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a rather extensive collection of 35mm colour slides from the 1970s which provide a wonderful record of Broadland during that decade.

As much as I love historic images of Broadland from the early part of the 20th century, it’s always photographs from the 1960s and 1970s which prove to be most popular. It’s within living memory for many, and it’s also when quite a number of regular Broads visitors first discovered the joys of a boating holiday in the area. In September 2016, I purchased three carousels of slides of the Broads for the archive dating from the 1970s to the 1980s. Sadly, these are an orphaned collection once again which came with no background information. They document one family’s holidays in the area, initially on a houseboat at Wroxham in 1971, followed by the hire of two of the Emiline class of motor cruisers from Porter and Haylett, before moving on to sailing holidays on various craft. The photographer was clearly a very keen amateur and, by the way the slides were arranged and labelled in some instances, I think he may have been a member of a local camera club. One vital piece of information I do have is his name and address at the time, courtesy of stickers on a couple of the slides. Whilst I can’t tell you anything about him, or the family, it is nice to at least be able to attribute the slides to D.H. Barber who hailed from the Farnborough area of Hampshire.

There were getting on for 400 slides from the 1970s alone. I’ve whittled them down to around 150 to add to the main website, the first half of which are now prepared and ready for me to caption once I’ve finished the necessary research.  It’s quite a large batch to process in one go and will probably take me a week or two to caption, so I thought I’d preview a few choice slides on here to whet your appetite!

barber71_houseboat01This was the houseboat in which the Barber family holidayed in 1971, moored alongside the Kings Head Hotel. This particular houseboat doesn’t seem to appear in either Blake’s or Hoseason’s brochures in 1971, but similar, four berth houseboats cost between £20 – £36 per week depending on the time of year. In the background you can see The Horse Shoes pub which the 1974 edition of “The Broads Book” guide described as; “A big Watney Mann house built in 1962. English cooking, full lunch and dinner; snacks and sandwiches available. Bars and restaurant overlook the river. There are pleasant lawns, a large patio and rides for children.

barber71_wroxham03The view looking downstream from Wroxham Bridge in 1971. This is a wonderful illustration of just how much the riverside at Hoveton and Wroxham has changed over the last fifty five years. It must have been taken just before the boat sheds on the left, belonging to Jack Powles, were demolished to make way for the Hotel Wroxham.

barber71_sundogThe pleasure wherry Sundog seen moored on the River Bure near Wroxham in 1971. Built by Daniel Hall at Reedham in 1906, she was originally named Ecila (Alice spelt backwards). Jamie Campbell provided the following information; “Sundog was owned by H.A.Morris (father of Stewart – the most successful dinghy sailor of his generation). HAM was a London hop wholesaler and the founding commodore of the Norfolk Punt Club. The family spent entire summers on Sundog following the Broads regattas. Their boatman was Cubitt Nudd (formerly boatman to Emma Turner and latterly rigger at Herbert Woods) Herbert Morris died in 1935, when the Morrris family fleet was dispersed.” Sadly, just nine years after this photograph was taken, Sundog was photographed in a very sorry state, hauled out of the water onto dry land at Geldeston. A botched attempt at restoration saw her collapse and she ended her days as firewood.

barber70s_em1_boat01Moving on two or three years, the family returned to the Broads for two holidays aboard the Emiline class of motor cruisers, built by Porter & Haylett at Wroxham. This shows the family with Emiline 1, a four berth cruiser which cost around £79 to hire for a week during the summer of 1973. There were two single berths in the forward cabin, a saloon with extending dinette double berth behind the central wheelhouse, a galley and WC aft. There was no shower on board. The family would have made use of showers at yacht stations and pubs around the Broads.

barber70s_em_lud01It’s always fascinating to see how much the villages around Broadland have changed over the years and there are a nice set of photographs taken in Ludham during the early to mid 1970s. Whilst the buildings seen above are very familiar, with the Kings Arms just seen on the left, the Corner Cabin and Barclays Bank are no more and are now private residences.

barber70s_em_ph02This was the much loved Bridge Hotel at Potter Heigham, pictured c1975. It was a magnificent structure which replaced the earlier Waterman’s Arms pub, seemingly in the late 1880s following information uncovered after finding an early photograph amongst a set I purchased for Broadland Memories. The Bridge Hotel had been owned by the Bullards brewery, but by the time this photograph was taken it had become part of the Watney Mann Group. The hotel was destroyed by a fire in September 1990, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. I posted a very sad photograph of the hotel in the aftermath of the fire in a 2011 blog post, it’s scant remains propped up by scaffolding. The site is now used as a car park by the residents of the Thurne bungalows, the only hint of it’s former use being the remains of old floor tiles from the hotel making up part of the surface of the car park, a ghostly footprint of this once popular watering hole.

barber70s_crestanova07The final preview of the collection shows Mrs Barber and one of their daughters on board Cresta Nova c1976 I would imagine. Built by Martham Ferry Boats c1970 and sleeping four to five, the 28ft Cresta Nova cost between £75-£105 to hire for a week in 1976. It was described as; “A modern motor-sailer with exceptional sailing qualities that you will appreciate. Built of glass fibre with an alloy mast mounted on the cabin top and easily lowered by winch.” The family also hired one of the Cresta class from the same boatyard during the 1970s and several river cruisers from Herbert Woods too.  It is an interesting collection which should hopefully start appearing on the main Broadland Memories website within the next week or two.

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Meeting Bert Weedon

Just before Christmas, a CD arrived in the post which contained a collection of images from the Taylor Family archives. The first photo on the disc was titled “Meeting Bert Weedon” – it’s an absolute gift of a blog post title, and a great photo too, so I couldn’t resist!

Janice Taylor-Barton had previously sent me a couple photos via the Broadland Memories Facebook page and kindly scanned the rest of the family collection, which were taken between the 1960s and the 1990s.The photo below shows Bert Weedon and his wife in the garden of the Bridge Inn at Acle with Janice (being held) and her sister.

taylor60s_bertweedon_smlThe name Bert Weedon will be familiar to many people over a certain age. Having already become an established session guitarist, playing with various big bands during the 1940s, and joining the BBC Show Band in the 1950s, Bert Weedon began releasing singles under his own name in the late 1950s. Chart success followed with hits which included Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Apache and Guitar Man.

weeedon_playinadayIt is perhaps his Play in a Day guide to modern guitar playing for which he became most well known. First published in 1957, and encouraging kids all over the world to pick up a guitar and do just that, Play in a Day has since been republished several times, and is still available to this day.  It’s impossible to say how many millions of guitarists learnt to play using his technique but there are some very hallowed names amongst them, including Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Jimmie Page, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Mark Knopfler and Mike Oldfield who have all been cited as having started playing using the Play in a Day book . He continued to release singles over the next three decades and played on thousands of recordings with other musicians and singers during his lifelong career. He sadly passed away in 2012 aged 91 years.

It’s one of many celebrity visits and holidays on the Norfolk Broads which have been recorded over the years. One of the earliest blog posts I published was about famous fans of Broadland that included entertainer George Formby, comedian Dick Emery, TV magician David Nixon, Shadows guitarist Hank Marvin and various members of the Royal family. I recently came across  the mention of the legendary parties that were held at the Berney Arms Inn in the 1960s which attracted several of the stars of the day who were performing at Great Yarmouth for the summer season including Freddie & the Dreamers, Jimmy Tarbuck, Adam Faith and The Searchers.

I’m currently working on a very nice batch of colour slides from 1961 which will hopefully be uploaded later this week, but the 1960s set from the Taylor Family are next in line to add to the main Broadland Memories website. The rest of that collection will follow at intervals over the next few months. Many thanks to Janice Taylor-Barton once again.

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Kia Manzi – the story continues

You’ve got to love internet search engines. Once again, a casual conversation and reminiscences about the past has directed someone to the Broadland Memories blog, and with that has come an update to the Kia Manzi story. Kia Manzi, you may remember from an earlier blog post, was one of the three, distinctive, flat-roofed villas which were situated in Daisy Broad at Hoveton.

Further information and photographs of Kia Manzi were later provided by Chris Raynor whose grandfather owned the property in the 1960s and 1970s and this was covered in an update in April 2012. Since those original blog posts, I have found a number of photographs showing the villas over the years and, whilst I’ve still not been able to pinpoint the exact date that they were built, evidence found so far puts them at being considerably older than I first thought. The most recent discovery was a glimpse of Daisy Broad and the villas on a film from within the East Anglian Film Archive collection which dates from 1920 and can be viewed via the British Film Institute website as part of their Britain on Film project. The Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk is a great little travelogue, well worth watching, and The Beehive and Daisy Broad villas can be seen about one minute into the film.

Back to the latest update to the Kia Manzi story. Just before Christmas, I was contacted by Rosemary Misselbrook whose father owned Kia Manzi in the early 1960s. It was he who actually renamed the villa. Rosemary kindly sent me a couple of photographs dating from that time and provided the following informations:

My Parents bought the house early 60os, and my Father a retired RAF Officer, was still working in London, and they used it as a holiday home. My Father who was Rhodesian, named the house Kia Manzi which my Brother tells me is Matabele for Water House, or house on the water.  We changed the layout and put the sitting room upstairs.  Bought a little 2 berth cabin cruiser from the London Boat Show – called Clara, which was fibreglass – which took a few frowns from the old hands.  We also had a little Duckling dingy.  It was a great fun house with lots of visitors. I can’t remember what the house was originally called, but I think the three of them belonged to Dawn Craft, certainly later, and the other two were rented out in the summer.

misselbrrok63_kiamanzisnowThe photograph above shows Kia Manzi and a frozen Daisy Broad during the winter of 1963, one of the most notoriously harsh winters on record.

misselbrook60s_kiamanzialbionThe second of Rosemary’s photographs shows Kia Manzi during the summer with the wherry Albion, which was hired for a party, moored alongside.

It was lovely to discover the meaning of the name Kia Manzi and how appropriate it was. It would be interesting to know what the villa was called before the name change, but I’ve found no references to that so far. My thanks to Rosemary for getting in contact and for allowing me to share her photographs on here.


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Norfolk and The Broads 1970 – A Landlubber’s Holiday

Whilst many regular readers of the Broadland Memories website will be long term boaters, there have always been plenty of visitors to the region who have (and still do) prefer a land based holiday. Most of the films, photographs and holiday tales found within the archive do indeed document boating holidays, but the latest addition is an interesting amateur cine film taken during a land based holiday in Broadland.

Shot in 1970, the film is very much Broads centred as the film-maker appears to have stayed at the Broadside Chalet Park at Stalham which is seen in the opening footage. Situated opposite Richardson’s, the cameraman popped across the road to film the boatyard too. There were several day trips on the rivers, taken from various locations, but the holiday party also ventured further afield in Norfolk with visits to Holkham Hall and Blickling, a boat trip at Blakeney and a wander around Elm Hill and the cathedral in Norwich. It’s actually filmed very nicely and is another super addition to the archive.

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The Waterman’s Arms

Every now and again, a photograph comes along which throws up a bit of a conundrum. It happened last week when I bought a small collection of late Victorian photographs taken on and around the Norfolk Broads, amongst which was a rather intriguing photo of Potter Heigham Bridge and the Bridge Hotel. It’s led me on a trawl through trade directories and contemporary Broads related books and sent me on a flying visit to Potter Heigham itself.

bm1880s_watermans_smlLooking back at old photographs and postcards of the iconic bridge and its surroundings, the Bridge Hotel was a prominent landmark. A quick search online search will tell you that the hotel replaced an old wherryman’s hostelry called The Waterman’s Arms, with most sources stating that the pub was pulled down and the new building erected at the turn of the 20th century. Here is where my photograph threw up not one, but two puzzles. What I purchased, were three pages of a photograph album showing what appears to be a family group on the counter-sterned pleasure wherry Gladys. The clothing and the hats are very much 1880s in style, the clincher for a date of mid to late 1880s being the presence of an invitation to the Norwich Angling Club annual dinner in December 1885. This appears to push the build date back by 10 to 15 years.

Studying the hotel a little closer, I noticed that the large sign hanging on the front reads Waterman’s Arms, meaning that the new building retained the original name when it was built. Interestingly, studying it further, I noticed that the building behind with the chimney had writing on the gable end. It too bears the name Waterman’s Arms. This is clearly the original pub, still in situ. I can’t make out all of the lettering but it reads Accommodation on the top line, followed by what appears to be something about Yachts or Yachting, then Good Sta…. (Staithe perhaps?) and , finally, Bullards Fine Norwich Ales, owners of both the original Waterman’s Arms and the new hotel. This led me on a quest to try to establish a build date. Was it newly built when this was taken, and when did the name change?

bm1880s_watermans_detailMy first point of reference was to haul every late Victorian Norfolk Broads book I have off the shelf and search for mentions of either the Waterman’s Arms or The Bridge Hotel. The earliest record I have in print come from George Christopher Davies who, in the 1882 edition of The Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk, wrote: “At the bridge is the ‘Waterman’s Arms’, where one or two bedrooms, and a small parlour, all scrupulously clean, are obtainable.” Incidentally, he also mentions the small thatched building you can see: “Just by the bridge, in a sort of wooden ‘Peggoty’s Hut’, lives Applegate who has good boats, sailing and rowing, for hire, stowed away in a remarkably neat boat-house.

The 7th edition of Ernest Suffling’s Land of The Broads, published in 1895,  lists the Bridge Hotel with William Knights as landlord. In his 1903 guide The Norfolk Broads, William Dutt wrote: “The old Waterman’s Arms has been pulled down and a new inn built, and it will not be surprising if before long something is said about building a new bridge.” I wonder if this is where the often quoted turn of the century date for the new hotel originates.

This gives us a date of somewhere between 1882 and 1895 for the new hotel being built and the old pub had seemingly disappeared by 1903. I turned to the local trade directories which can be found online via the county council’s Norfolk Resources website and also the 1881 and 1891 census returns. I was initially thrown by the fact that neither building was in Potter Heigham, they actually stood within the parish of Repps-cum-Bastwick. The 1881 census places Edward Laws as publican at the Waterman’s Arms, living there with his wife Ann. Kelly’s 1883 Directory also lists Laws at the pub as both victualler and boatman. Whether this means he was a waterman, or that he had boats for hire I don’t know. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to check Kelly’s 1888 directory, but William Whites History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk of 1890 shows that William Knights was now the landlord of The Waterman’s Arms. By the time the census was recorded in the following year, the name had been changed to the Bridge Hotel. William’s wife Elizabeth and two year old son Frederick were also living at the hotel.

The Norfolk Pubs website gives dates of 1881 to c1888 for Edward Laws and 1890 to 1908 for William Knights at The Waterman’s Arms and Bridge Hotel. It also mentions that The Norfolk Chronicle of the 25th of August 1888 reported that Bullards had applied for a spirit licence. It was opposed by Morgans Brewery, who owned the nearby Falgate Inn, and the application was refused by magistrates. Would a small ale house have applied for a spirit licence I wonder. Perhaps this is the biggest clue in pinpointing the build date, with the brewery applying for a spirit licence for the new Waterman’s Arms hotel?

bowmandood_onthebroadsPerhaps the most interesting and enlightening mention of The Waterman’s Arms is to be found in Anna Bowman Dodd’s On The Broads which was published by Macmillan and Co Ltd in 1896. The holiday recounted in the book would probably have been taken at least a year or two before the publishing date, if not more. It paints a colourful portrait of  Potter Heigham during the summer, the old pub, the landlady (Elizabeth Knights?) and the clientèle. It clearly mentions the new, brightly painted inn and being led through to see the old parlour:

He (Renard) led us triumphantly onward, along the the river to the inn. This was a path as crowded as a city’s thoroughfare. Troops of strollers were abroad on the meadows; sailors, skippers, gentlemen, young girls, dogs and mature matrons passed us by. The inn’s timbered structure, close beside a three-arched bridge, was the rallying-point of this motley swarm of cruisers. As we came up to its low door, the babble of voices within made a strange discord. The rough jargon of the Norfolk dialect, the rich, boyish bass of Cambridge students’ tones, and sailors’ boisterous, guttural laughter, came out to us before we had caught a glimpse of the various assortment of figures and faces assembled within the taproom. Renard, however, had come to the inn to see, not the tapsters, but the landlady. She was a friend of his, he added casually.

‘A friend made since noon,’ maliciously explained Miss Violet.

‘The friend of an hour, but true as steel, as you’ll see,’ retorted Renard; and his boast, we found, was no vain one.

The inn landlady was as busy as a woman could be with ‘five dinners, a lawn tea, an’ ten to give beds to’; but she came forth with composure in her smile. There had been no mistake whatever in Renard’s estimate of her feeling on his behalf. White flour paste to her elbow, she was yet eagerly anxious to learn the wishes of the tall gentleman with the masterful ways.

Renard was merciful; he merely wished to engage in the agreeable traffic of a brief conversation. He had liked the looks of her kitchen, the old one, he remarked, with its dark interior and brown walls; he had bought his friends to see its fine colour. This was clearly a severe blow to the amiable landlady’s pride in the newer room beyond, ablaze with light and the whites of its new walls and ceilings. But she led us to the old chamber with a smile. Presently she sent her own eyes abroad on a quest of discovery. What indeed could there be to admire in this dark, dull room, with its high old settles and its worn deal tables! Two old men, with pipes in their mouths, sat motionless on the benches. Renard looked at them with a covetous eye. Such models as they would be, in their faded corduroys and dingy vests and kerchiefs, and in the rich gloom of this old kitchen, for – well, for a dozen pictures.

‘See, beyond, what a bit of perspective! Those lights, and the blonde girls, working about, and those bentbacks reaching for the brasses hung on the walls – that head there, rising out of the steaming pots on the range, and the yellow sun flooding the walls.’

He had found the perfect Dutch interior, one to his liking; and to retain his hold on the picture, he kept the landlady answering the questions which he artfully plied her.
‘Lonely in winter?
Oh no sir; its never lonely in this inn. What with being so near to the bridge, there’s such a lot of callin’, both winter an’ summer. Sometimes, perhaps, of a winter’s night, we’ve time to sit down, but never in summer.
Go to church at Martham?
We’re Heigham Parish. We goes to Martham once a year, at Christmas maybe. It’s a fine sight, Martham Church. It’s as big as a town. The noise out yonder? It must be the boys and the men at bowls.
‘Let us go and see the men at bowls1’ cried Renard, with characteristic faithlessness deserting an old picture for the sight of a new one.

A bit of a garden and a longish strip of turf lay between the back of the inn and a low mass of shrubbery. On the greensward were a dozen or more rustics. A huge pitcher and some beer-mugs were at rest on the ledge of a side-porch; and over the beer-mugs three fair-faced girls, under broad-brimmed hats, were looking forth upon the rural gamesters. There was another group of cruisers close to the water’s edge, with their eyes on the game. To the stranger’s gaze and their comments, these players of bowls were supremely indifferent. Their cries and shouts filled the air; and each throw was greeted with groans or a salvo of applause.

I can’t recall seeing a photograph of the original Waterman’s Arms before. Searching on the Picture Norfolk website I came across the photograph of Potter Heigham bridge below, which was taken from the old rail bridge.  ( Image courtesy of Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service – enjoy thousands of images of Norfolk’s unique history at )

On the left, you can see the same, distinctive chimney which is seen behind the new hotel in my photograph. It is thought that this was probably the work of Acle photographer William Henry Finch and would have been taken c1870s when the Waterman’s Arms was run by Robert Miller. The holiday industry was in its fledgling years, the little boathouse on the right, beyond the bridge, was soon to become the first boat hire business in Potter Heigham under the ownership of George Applegate.

It seems, from photographic and documentary cross referencing, that the new Waterman’s Arms was built somewhere between 1882 and 1890, although a date 0f 1886 to 1888 seems most likely. Sadly, any further clues to help pinpoint it which might have been gained from an intact photo album disappeared when the dealer who sold them decided to break up and sell off individual pages to maximise profit. It’s a pet hate of mine. Photos are a valuable historic record, a snapshot of a time and a place. By orphaning photographs away from that album, you destroy the archaeology which could have provided so much important information as a whole. The date when the old inn was demolished is still unknown, but it sounds as though it may have stood for a few years.

The newly christened Bridge Hotel was obviously a popular watering hole for locals and holidaymakers alike in the 1890s. It’s popularity continued through the 20th century and there are many people who have fond memories of drinking in the bar or attending discos there in the 1970s and 1980s. The last pint was pulled in September 1990 when it was sadly destroyed by a fire, thought to have been caused by an electrical fault. The aftermath of the tragedy was captured by John Chesney in the photograph seen below.

The fire damaged Bridge Hotel at Potter Heigham, September 1990The remnants of the building were shored up with scaffolding and remained that way for several years until it was finally demolished. The land on which the hotel stood is now used as a car park by the owners of the riverside bungalows which line the banks of the River Thurne, but the footprint of the building can still be seen. You can make out rooms and corridors amidst the floor tiles on the surface of the car park, the curve of the entrance foyer. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the clack of bowls on the lawn, the clink of beer glasses behind the bar, and laughter from within the brightly painted walls.



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Broadland Memories – The first 10 years

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Broadland Memories website – it doesn’t seem possible! I thought I’d mark the occasion by highlighting some personal favourites from the website over the last ten years and to look forward to what will hopefully be coming up over the next few months.

Back in 2006 i happened to mention that someone ought to be gathering together some of the old photographs and personal memories of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads which were being posted on  an online chat forum dedicated to boating on the Broads. It seemed rather sad that they were getting lost amongst the chat, and there didn’t seem to be a website dedicated to the history of the area at that time. There was, and still is of course, the wonderful Museum of the Broads at Stalham, but their extensive collection isn’t available to view online. There were a few websites dedicated to individual villages, usually run by their local history groups, but nothing encompassing the wider area and boating on the Broads in particular. The answer I got was “Why don’t you do it then?”

bm_mk1_compositeI really didn’t think I would be able to accomplish such a feat, having no experience whatsoever of web design, or design at all for that matter. I asked for advice and was pointed in the direction of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) software that basically worked like a desktop publisher and required no knowledge of the dark art of html coding. Eventually I settled on one that seemed to work for me. I did a lot of begging for photos and memories and spent the next couple of months creating the first version of the Broadland Memories website. Looking back at it now (and I still have a working version of that original site on my PC) makes me cringe because of it’s simplicity, hideous colour scheme and dodgy graphics. But everyone has to start somewhere, and it at least provided a portal which was discovered and added to by fellow Broads lovers. In all honesty, I was overwhelmed by the support it received from the start and over the last ten years it has evolved and grown into an incredible collection of photographs, films, memories and printed ephemera of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads from the 1870s to the 1990s, far beyond what I ever though it would be. This is largely down to the contributions which have been made by so many people, and I’ve been truly humbled by the access I have been given to some incredible, historic material. I always love receiving old photographs, films and memories of the area. Whether it be a 1960s holiday snap or a photo of a boating party on a pleasure wherry in the 1880s, there is always something of interest to see and it all catalogues our past, our social history, the way we holidayed,  the way the region evolved to cater for the holidaymakers and local boaters alike.

There have been so many fantastic contributions and finds over the last ten years – here are a few of my personal highlights.

shieldsd03_sailing09I can’t remember how I stumbled across some the beautiful photographs of the Norfolk Broads of which were taken by amateur photographer Donald Shields in 1903 and 1904. A small selection of an old photo album had been uploaded to Flickr by Donald’s great-nephew and when I contacted him to enquire whether I could add them to the website, I was stunned to find there were a lot more photographs from the same album. John kindly sent me higher resolution copies and gave me permission to use what I wanted, which turned out to be quite a lot of it!. Where do I start. It’s impossible to pick favourites because there are so many stunning images which capture a true era of elegance on the Broads. From ladies in long dresses with elaborate hats, to gents in crisp, white flannels and plus fours with waxed moustaches, dressing up was de rigueur. The collection features many shots of a group of friends spending high days and holidays on the rivers, larking about for the camera, enjoying the Broads in much the same way we still do today.

The Donald Shields Collection show an idyllic Broadland, a bygone era where the pace of rural life was slow, a holiday destination which which was largely only affordable to the middle and upper classes. The villages remained much as they had been fifty years previously, but the riverside had begun to change. Hotels were being built to cater for the growing tourist industry, the number of boats available to hire was steadily increasing and new boatyards were appearing. . For those with the means, riverside plots could be bought and luxury bungalows erected to your specification.

shieldsd04_gy_girls03Donald also photographed places and buildings which would soon be lost to progress and redevelopment including rare shots of the ice house which stood on Surlingham Broad and the Woods and Newstead boatyard at Cantley which was demolished when the sugar beet factory was built in 1912. The photograph above is one of a series he took at the Fish Wharf in Great Yarmouth. These are some of the herring girls who followed the fishing fleets around the British Coast, gutting and packing the “silver darlings” into barrels of ice for export and the home market. It’s a beautiful photograph capturing the girls during a rare moment of rest, knitting needles in hand.

A few years after I put the collection online, I was contacted by Kevin Millican who had scanned a set of glass negatives c1910 which had been found in a loft in Lowestoft by a friend. Looking through that particular collection, I recognised the faces of Donald’s brothers who featured heavily in his photographs. The style of photography looked very similar and, after contacting Donald’s great nephew, he concluded that they were indeed the work of Donald. How they had some to be in a loft in Lowestoft is a complete mystery, but how wonderful that they surfaced and could be attributed. More photographs from the Edwardian era cme via the Joseph Benson Collection, discovered by their contributor via a chance conversation on a cruise ship!

gucht08_harrylilyLand based holidays in the region were a more affordable option for many during the Edwardian era with numerous hotels and boarding houses providing accommodation for visitors, river trips on one of the passenger steamers giving some of those a taste of boating. This was the case in Notes From An Edwardian Seaside Holiday which is one of the most interesting and unusual projects I’ve worked on for the website. Pieced together in 2012 using notes scribbled on the backs of postcards by Lily Child in 1908 and 1909, her handwriting was frequently difficult to decipher and references were often hard to track down, but the research was absolutely fascinating. The photograph above shows Lily and her fiance Harry Caston on the beach at Yarmouth.

bm15_027_smlA more recent addition, in March of this year, was an album of photographs which documented family holidays taken on the Broads during the First World War which was purchased for the archive with the help of donations. A rare and hugely important collection which it’s been an absolute privilege to be able to share. A very personal insight in to boating on the Broads during the Great War came in 2012 with the delightful original ships log of a honeymoon taken aboard the yacht “Frolic” which can be found within the Personal Memories section of the archive.

One angle that I didn’t envisage when I began Broadland Memories was that people would find the website whilst researching their family history. I’ve received quite a number of emails in this vein over the years including someone who discovered the only known photograph of a great uncle amongst a collection which in turn put someone else in touch with a branch of the family in Australia that they didn’t know existed. It’s always lovely to be able to help where I can and that is definitely one of my highlights.

gingell31_potter03The 1920s and 1930s saw many social changes and much development in both the landscape and in boat design on the Norfolk Broads. Yet more bungalows were springing up along the riverbanks and the number of boatyards was still increasing. Comparing photographs of Wroxham taken during this era to those taken just 30 years previously provides a vivid illustration of just how much the tourist industry had grown and how it was now becoming affordable for the masses. In came the new-fangled motor cruisers, the height of modernity with all the home comforts. Most still preferred a more traditional means of crusing and sailing holidays apparently reached their peak during the 1930s. There are several collections of photographs from this era on the Broadland Memories website. The image above was from an album dating from 1931 which was unusual in featuring a holiday taken by an all female group on the Ernest Collins yacht “Iverna” complete with grizzled skipper in his smart, company guernsey.  It is said that there were a larger number of young women who would never marry due to the loss of so many young men during the First World War. British Pathe  made a series of films in the 1930s with female reporter “Eve” encouraging women to seek adventure and enjoy life to the full. Perhaps this party were inspired by Eve!

Advances in film and camera technology meant that photography also became more affordable and portable. Cine photography was becoming increasingly popular too and I was fortunate to be able to purchase two reels of film shot on the Broads in the early 1930s which I had converted and then edited it to produce a DVD for Broadland Memories “Boating on the Broads in the 1930s”. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I watched the films for the first time. A superb record of two family boating holidays aboard the Herbert Woods motor cruisers “Spark of Light” and “Countess of Light”. Copies of the DVD are still available if your looking for Christmas stocking fillers!

The film above above is another gem from the 1930s and features Potter Heigham Regatta and Lowestoft. I stumbled across this purely by chance whilst searching for something else online. It was shot by Newbury resident and amateur cinematographer H.T. Cadd and had been digitized by Dave Smith in 2012. It is part of a longer film which contains nothing else of local interest, but I contacted Dave who kindly sent me a copy of the film and gave me permission to upload the Norfolk and Suffolk section to the Broadland Memories YouTube channel. The film section of the archive has expanded considerably over the last couple of years, largely thanks to the very kind people at Video Impact in Loddon who generously offered to transfer cine films for the archive free of charge. I’m extremely grateful for their support as it significantly reduces my outlay to enable me to share old footage of the Broads online. I love discovering these films as it really brings the past to life.

Before leaving the 1930s, I’ll mention another interesting contribution which was submitted by Mark Ladley. A jumble sale purchase of a 1939 copy of Hamiltons Map and Charts of The Broads led to the discovery of a rather poignant ships log within it’s covers, compiled by “Biddy” who was holidaying on the Broads. The Log of the Moonbeam was written suring the week that Germany entered into war with Poland. The holiday was curtailed and the couple hot footed it back to London. The outbreak of war brought the holiday industry to a halt as boatyards turned their efforts to building boats for the military and the Broads became a no go area. The need to defend the river crossings in the event of an enemy invasion saw pill boxes and gun emplacements erected and the bridges themselves were mined so that they could be destroyed should the enemy make it that far inland. There is a rumour that one well known boatyard owner offered a considerable bribe for an “accident” to occur at Potter Heigham Bridge!  The hire fleets were also called into use, many of the boats being rafted together on the open Broads to prevent enemy sea planes landing. A few became temporary homes for people who fled the towns and cities due to the threat of aerial bombardment, such was the shortage of accommodation. When the war ended, it took several years to repair the neglected boats and build new craft and for the holiday industry to get back into full swing. Needless to say, photographs of the Broads in the 1940s are a little thin on the ground, although one of the future additons to the website is an album of photos from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

hammond49_corinthian04From 1949, comes The Log of The Corinthian which was sent to me by Debbie Whymant and was written by her parents Brenda and Jeffery Hammond during a holiday taken with friends before they were married. It raised a smile from me because of the detailed diary of all of the meals eaten on board during the week! The log was accompanied by a set of photographs which can also be found on Broadland Memories.

hopthrow50s_lastwherryrace01Another ships log features in my archive highlights from the 1950s. Transcribed by John Hopthrow with accompanying notes from him, Extracts from The Wherry Dragon’s Log is a selection of entries from the original sailing log compiled by his father, Brigadier H.E. Hopthrow who owned the pleasure wherry between 1950 and 1958.  The photograph above is also from John’s collection and shows the last ever wherry race at Barton Regatta in 1950. You can just see the black sail of Albion on the left, then Ardea, Dragon and Claudian. It must have been a magnificent sight.

bell55_reedham03The Bell Family Collection were some of the earlier additions to the website and catalogue sailing holidays taken by John and Margaret Bell between 1956. The image above, taken outside The Lord Nelson at Reedham in 1955 and showing landlord Sydney Mutton with the holiday party, has always been one of my favourite photos. The 1950s saw a renewed interest in boating holidays on the Broads. Better road and rail links, and reliable and comfortable motor cars made getting to Norfolk and Suffolk a lot easier. The hire fleets grew larger and the Broads became a bustling holiday destination during the summer months. Holidays were also increasingly being taken in the spring and autumn months, extending the season for the boatyards and local business.  Special mention must go to Ron Harrison. Dear old Ron was my very first contributor and an avid supporter of Broadland Memories. In the emails we exchanged his enthusiasm for the Broads and his humour shone through and he used to tell me that he was never off the website! Ron sadly passed away in October 2007 but you can read his memories of his first boating holiday on the Broads in 1955 and find more of his photographs in the 1950s and 1960s gallery pages.

daya62_cruising01In the 1960s the Broads were booming and the rivers became increasingly crowded during the summer months. Double, and even triple mooring at the popular locations was common place. Fibreglass became the boat building material of choice, easy to repair and maintain. interiors were hidden beneath a blanket of wipe clean formica and showers were even being fitted to the latest motor cruisers. The photograph above comes from a collection of slides belonging to Andrew Day which feature an unknown family during their holidays on the Broads between 1962 and 1968.

The popularity of cine cameras grew during the 1960s and there are quite a number of films from this decade on the Broadlkand Memories YouTube Channel. One of the most popular has been this offering from 1962 which includes footage of the road journey from Baslow in Derbyshire. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to identify the family seen in the film, but it is a great record of a typical boating holiday of the era.

Concerns over pollution and sustainability of the ever expanding hire industry were raised. Holding tanks for boat toilets became compulsory on motor cruisers and there were calls to limit the number of hire boats. The idea of extending the waterways, reopening closed sections of the navigation on the upper stretches of the River Bure and the River Waveney and the cutting a canal to connect the Northern and Southern Rivers, negating the need to pass through Great Yarmouth, were all explored and rejected.

campbelld68_horning09There are so many wonderful photographs and memories from the 1960s within the archive and it’s difficult to pick just a few highlights. I love the photograph above, taken in 1968, with Dave Campbell holding one of the infamous Watney’s Party Fours! David submitted a lovely collection of photographs from this decade along with a beautifully written account of this, his first Broads holiday.

baldreyt64_richardsons01A mention too for Terry Baldrey who first visited the Norfolk Broads in 1964 with his parents, fell in love with boats and boating and later came back to work for Richardsons boatyard at Stalham. His 1960s photographs contain quite a few which show Richardsons fleet of wooden cruisers at their home yard.

As the 1970s dawned, boating on the Broads was still in boom time, but the bubble was was destined to burst sooner or later. Large corporations including Rank and Ladbrokes had seen the money earning potential and had moved in, taking over hire fleets left, right and centre. As cheap package holidays to sunnier climes began to flood the market, the takers for home grown holidays began to fall. The late 1970s and early 1980s brought the bust and the corporations moved on.

chesneyj70s_norwich05The 1970s gallery pages were substantially augmented by the John Chesney Collection. John was a teacher and keen photographer who first visted the Broads with his wife, Joyce, in 1967. It sparked a life long love of the area and the couple enjoyed over 70 holidays on the Broads together. John sadly passed away in July 2010, but the photographs he took of Broadland during the mid to late 1970s are a wonderful legacy to leave and I was honoured to be contacted by Joyce with a view to getting the collection online.  The photograph above shows Norwich Riverside with a coaster moored alongside Boulton and Paul’s on the left with Reads Flour Mills beyond on the right.

chesneyj70s_geldeston05This is another from the John Chesney Collection , taken over Easter 1979 at Geldeston Locks Inn. Proprietor Walter Coe is seen behind the bar and Adnams Old Ale was on offer.

sandersp83_lroberts01The 1980s and 1990s photo galleries and personal memories sections are much smaller by comparison to the rest of the archive but there are some gems amongst them. This was taken by Pete Sanders in 1983 and shows the recently raised and moved trading wherry “Lord Roberts” at Wroxham. The Lord Roberts was built c1899 by Ben Benns at Somerton and apparently took three years to complete. She was used in her later years as a lighter to transport dredging spoil and, in 1969, was donated to the Norfolk Wherry Trust. The costs of maintaining  their existing wherry “Albion” have meant that the planned restoration of The Lord Roberts has not been possible, and she has remained submerged in a private dyke at Wroxham ever since.  My highlight from the personal memories is the account of a honeymoon aboard “Gala Girl” in 1980 from Brijan.

Whilst it’s never regained the popularity of the 1960s and 1970s, there has been a steady stream of visitors to Broadland over the last few decades.  People who first visited the Broads as children during those decades have introduced their own children to the delights of a boating holiday and a new generation has come to love the Broads for what it has to offer. The hire fleets have sadly dwindled and boatyards have disappeared, the prime riverside land sold off for housing developments and the issues of governance and maintenance of the waterways has raised concerns amongst residents and long term boaters alike, but the holidaymakers still return. For many, like myself, once the “Broads Bug” bites you’re hooked!

The Norfok and Suffolk Broads have a rich and varied history and to be able to preserve and share a small part of that has been an absolute joy over the last ten years. Each and every submission and contribution is an important piece of the regions’ local history. Whilst it becomes increasingly impossible to use everything that I am sent on the website, I still endeavour to publish and share as much of it as possible online via the website, the Broadland Memories Blog and the website’s social media pages and YouTube channel. I’m still pretty much a one woman band although do press-gang my long suffering OH into scanning and photo remastering duties these days. Caring for elderly mums (one sadly no longer with us), and life in general has seen my free time dwindling away to zero at times, but I’m still plugging away in the background and still gathering new material to add to the archive.

hannaford20s_boatyardcarThe winter months are catch up time where the website is concerned, and I have some fabulous new additions to come. Some, like the beautiful 1934 photo journal which was compiled by Christine Thorn, have already been previewed here on the blog. I’ve got several more films to edit and upload and I still have a second DVD project, “Sailing on the Norfolk Broads during the 1930s”  to complete when time allows. There are a number of photographic collections waiting in the wings too. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finally managed to get the first set of images from the Charles Hannaford Collection online today. It’s being split into smaller, themed batches which will be added over the coming months. The first set concentrates on the 1920s and early 1930s photos and include the photograph above which shows Charles’s wife Phyllis at what is possibly Ernest Collins boatyard in Wroxham in the 1920s.  The latest purchase for the archive is a rare set of photographs from the 1880s amongst which are two wonderful shots of the counter-sterned pleasure wherry “Gladys”. I’m already working on a blog post covering boating on the Broads during the Victorian era.

I’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has supported and contributed to Broadland Memories over the last 10 years. You’ve helped to create what I believe is an invaluable record of boating on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads over the last 130 years. It’s been hard (and stressful) work at times, but overall it’s been a joy to discover so much about the history of a place that’s very dear to my heart. I’ll raise my glass to you all – cheers and here’s to the next ten years!


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Norfolk Broads Books and Memorabilia Auction

I was recently given a small collection of historic Norfolk Broads books and memorabilia by Mal and Christine Richardson who kindly gave me permission to auction them to raise funds for the Broadland Memories website. I’ve had a rummage through my own collection and pulled out a few duplicate books and a couple of other Broads related items to add to the fund raising efforts and have listed all the items on Ebay this week.

bm_bookauction_nov16Amongst the books on offer is a very nice copy of the 1892 2nd edition of Ernest Suffling’s Land of the Broads guide to the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads which gives a wonderful insight into boating holidays in the region during the late Victorian era. Through Broadland on a Breydon Punt, written by John Knowlittle (AKA the Great Yarmouth naturalist and author Arthur Henry Patterson) was published in 1920 and is s a highly recommended and entertaining read. It recounts his lengthy trip around the Broads in a converted punt, camping under awning, introducing some of the colourful characters he meets along the way. Yachting on the Broads – A New and Practical Book on How to Conduct a Cruise on The Norfolk Broads was published in 1923 by Oulton Broad boatyard owner Leo Robinson, whist Black Sailed Traders is a 1961 copy of Roy Clark’s indispensable history of the keels and wherries of the Norfolk Broads. There is also a rather nice c1900 Jarrolds Map of the Broads printed on cloth, along with a selection of more modern books and booklets covering a variety of aspects of the region’s history.

One of the rarer lots is a beautiful pair of metal buttons which once adorned the blazer of a member of the Yare Sailing Club. These must be pre 1908, which is when it became the Yare & Bure Sailing Club, and are certainly something I’ve never seen before. From my own collection is one of the 1960s enamel boatyard pennant badges which have become quite sought after in recent years. This particular one is for the Ferry Boatyard at Horning.

broads_ephemera_multiFinally, I have decided to sell on the original 16mm film copy of the wonderful 1960 Hoseasons promotional film “Broadland Panorama” which I bought and had transferred for Broadland Memories earlier this year. These films just don’t come up for sale very often at all, in fact this is the only copy I have seen. It’s in really good condition, having come from a film library. The opening price recoups what I paid for it and includes UK postage, although it would be nice if this scarce film fetched a little more. It’s a fabulous piece of local history and I’ll throw in a copy of the film on DVD for the purchaser too. If you haven’t already seen it, you can watch the film here:

My thanks to the Richardsons for their extremely kind gesture.

Update 16/11/2016: Many thanks to everyone who placed bids on the itmes which were up for auction. After paying the various fees involved, the total profit raised for Broadland Memories was £245. 57 which is a wonderful boost for website funds.

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The Modern Mariner 1934

It’s National Poetry Day today, and in honour of that I thought I’d post a Norfolk Broads related poem. It actually kills two birds with one stone as it also gives me the opportunity to highlight another recent purchase for the Broadland Memories Archive.

christinethorn_herbook1934A few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful photograph album which dates from 1934. It contains a wonderful selection of photographs, but what makes it so special is the way that it has been put together. Compiled by a young lady named Christine Thorn, the album is more of a photographic journal as, alongside the images, are hand written notes about the sailing holiday which was taken aboard one of Ernest Collins “Norman” class of yachts. The lady I bought the album from discovered it at an auction and knows nothing about Christine Thorn other than she seemingly lived in the Southsea area. She was clearly a talented artist though as there are little line drawings scattered amongst the pages. It’s one of the most delightful items I think I’ve come across in the last ten years of running Broadland Memories. The dilemma now is how best to display it on the website.  It seems a shame just to scan the photographs as I think it needs to be reproduced in full. I suspect it will end up being scanned and converted to a PDF file for download.

thorn_modernmariner_01At the back of the album, tucked into a wallet, I found more notes about the holiday and a poem written by Christine called “The Modern Mariner”. It seemed fitting to put it on the blog for National Poetry Day. I’ll transcribe it below as it is a little awkward to decipher her handwriting in places.

The ship was beered, the staithe was cleared,
And Merrily we did drop
A’down the Broad: we hardly knew
The mainsail from the mop:
Though inland we were all at sea
Re the proper way to stop

But soon we ran and reached and tacked,
Hove to and reefed – at last, in fact,
Could even gybe yet not attract
More jibes from rude onlookers.

Dgs, bovine herds and war-like birds
We easily outwitted,
But insect bites, the first few nights
Had made us nigh half-witted.

A Bumboat came alongside
And the cook, light ‘Slusky’ bought a
Tremendous stock, enough to shock
A Pierpont Morgan’s daughter:
Then anxious o’er her budgets fate
And preaching thrift (a trifle late!)
She sent the old man and the mate
A mile to get free water

On a shelving bank, and the tide withdrawn,
We’d reason for alarm, as,
Judged by the slope of the cabin floor
It seemed that the yacht might turn right o’er,
But we manned the boat and got ashore
In safety and pyjamas.

The Modern mariner
(a long way after the ancient one!)

It’s amazing what you can find tucked into the pages of a book or, in this case, at the back of a photograph album. Just to add a couple of notes: “A Pierpont Morgan’s daughter” refers to the American financier and banker John Pierpont Morgan. A “bumboat” is a small boat used to ferry supplies to a ship moored offshore. In this case it presumably refers to one of the provisions boats which used to sell groceries to holidaymakers on the rivers. I can only assume that ‘Slusky’ may have been the name of one of the holiday party as I can’t find any other reference to a meaning online. I look forward to getting Christine’s album on to the website in the near future.

In the meantime … Happy National Poetry Day!


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Herbert Woods wartime memorabilia

It’s always exciting when interesting little snippets of Broads history and memorabilia turn up and I was delighted when one of my Twitter followers sent me a copy of a reference letter from Herbert Woods boatyard which had been given to his father when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940.

fearnley_1940woodsletter_smlSigned by Herbert Woods himself, and typed on the boatyard’s headed notepaper, it’s a lovely piece of both local and social history. Jonathon Fearnley tells me that his father, John, had worked as an engineer at the boatyard, enlisting in 1940 and serving in Egypt with the RAF. Having been commissioned at the outbreak of war to build various craft for the Air Ministry and the Admiralty, employees at the yard would have been exempt from compulsory service as they were engaged in building boats for the war effort. Herbert’s daughter, Jennifer Woods, wrote a chapter on the the yard and the family during the war years in her book “Herbert Woods – A Famous Broadland Pioneer“, still available to buy and a highly recommended read. Between late 1939 and 1945 over 200 vessels were built including airborne lifeboats, high speed rescue launches, harbour tugs, right up to the 115ft Fairmile “D” Motor Torpedo Boats. The book contains some incredible images of these craft being built and transported along the River’s Thurne and Bure to Great Yarmouth. The workforce expanded as production grew during the war and in 1943 there were over 220 men and boys and 80 women working at the boatyard.

The hire fleet was moved to Wroxham and Hickling Broads where they were rafted together in open water in an effort to prevent enemy forces landing. Herbert also relocated his family away from Potter Heigham as he feared the village would be a target for Luftwaffe bombing raids due to the boatyard’s wartime activities. They eventually settled in Derbyshire for the duration whilst Herbert remained at the helm in Potter Heigham, joining the local Home Guard and organising night watch patrols to check for blackout breaches and fire watch duties. The water tower became a strategically placed watch tower and even had machine guns mounted on the top. Jennifer’s book included the memories of people who worked at the yard during that time and it seems there were several instances of enemy machine gun fire strafing the yard and the village as the Luftwaffe passed through. On one such raid, Mrs Powell who ran a grocery store with her husband in the nearby village of Ludham was killed by a stray bullet as she sat at the breakfast table.

By the end of the war, most of the hire fleet which had been left out on the Broads had sunk and were in a terrible state. A major programme of repairs, rebuilds and refits was undertaken and many new craft were built during the following ten years as the hire industry got back on its feet. John Fearnley returned to Herbert Woods yard upon his return from Egypt and was pictured in Jeniffer’s book as one of the yard workers see enjoying a celebratory half pint of beer at the launch of the passenger cruiser Her Majesty in 1950 (second from the left on the front row).

woods50_majestylaunch02Below is another photograph taken at the launch of Her Majesty which shows Herbert Woods on the right and Charles Hannaford on the left. It’s yet another image from the Charles Hannaford collection which was passed on to me by his great nephew William Allchin. The first selection of his photographs will be uploaded to the website in the next week or two.

hannaford_majestylaunch01The launch was also attended by the entertainer George Formby and his wife Beryl, regular visitors to Broadland who owned both boats and property in the area over the years. Jonathon Fearnley recalls: “My father struck up a close friendship with George because they were both very keen on horse racing and father used to “run” George’s bets to the bookmaker for him! Substantial amounts too by all accounts  but he also won regularly too.”

Whilst his place at the yard was secure, with a young family to provide for, John decided to look for a better paid job and moved to Great Yarmouth where many new factories were opening. He joined Erie Resistor and worked his way up to being in charge of the Mallora works. In later life he and his wife ran council care homes in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. You may be wondering why I am telling you about John Fearnley when the letter refers to an Arthur Fearnley. Jonathon tells me that although his father was Christened Arthur, everyone (including his own mother) always called him John. Ethel Fearnley, John’s mother, lived opposite Powell’s grocery shop in Ludham, and the tragic death of Mrs Powell during the Luftwaffe raid mentioned above was witnessed by Mrs Powell’s daughter, Phyllis. She and the Fearnley family have kept in contact over the years, moving to Great Yarmouth at the same time in the 1950s, and eventually relocating to London.Now living in Kent, Phyllis and Jonathon still exchange Christmas cards every year.

My thanks to Jonathon for allowing me to share a little bit of his family history on here.

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Almarine – The Seafire and the Meteor

The rural market town of Diss in South Norfolk, beloved by Sir John Betjemin and birth place of John Skelton, poet-laureate to Henry VIII, isn’t a name you’d necessarily associate with boat building in the region. But back in the early 1970s it was the home of the Almarine Seafire speedboat.

spitfire_adverty1960s_smlDesigned by John Neate, and a development of his earlier Spitfire speedboats, the small but mighty Seafire now has something of a cult following online. The 9ft Spitfires were originally built by John’s company Mitchum Marine in Surrey, before he relocated to Norfolk in the late 1960s where he continued to produce the boats in a small yard in the town centre of Diss. In the early 1970s he approached local company Alma Components, run by Doug Bartlett and Jim Price,  seeking help with the electronics and a new company, Almarine, was formed. Manufacture was moved to a purpose built building at the back of Alma’s factory on Park Road, the original boat design being modified to produce the new outboard powered 10ft 6in Seafire and its water jet twin the Meteor.

I was contacted by Doug Bartlett’s daughter, Sarah Briscoe, a few weeks ago and she kindly gave me permission to upload some 1970s cine footage of the Almarine boats to the Broadland Memories YouTube channel. Produced by her father and Jim Price, “The Prop and Jet Set” dates from around 1974 and shows both the construction of the boats at the factory and also river trials of both the Seafire and the Meteor. The footage is believed to have been shot at either Weybread or Earsham gravel pits in the Waveney Valley, with some river scenes which were presumably shot on the Upper Waveney. Designed to be easily transported, the film shows the Seafire being carried on the roof of an Austin Maxi with its launching trolley. Highly manoeuvrable on the water, they do look like great fun!

The second film, shot on 16mm, shows trials of the Seafire on the River Yare around the Trowse/Whitlingham area by the looks of it. A River Police launch is seen to be showing a keen interest at one point! Back at the gravel pit, the second half of the film show trials of what I presume must be the prototype of the larger,and extremely elusive Javelin which was also designed by John Neate for Almarine.

Alma Components was purchased by the American company Hamlin Electronics in 1976. The moulds and Almarine name were sold to another local company who continued to produce Seafires before the company finally folded in 1978. It’s a short-lived, but interesting piece of local boat building history. When in production, a large number of Seafires were apparently exported to Holland where they still appear to have a keen following. In more recent years, there has been a revival in interest in the boats in the UK too and there is a dedicated Almarine Seafire and Meteor Lovers Facebook page for owners and appreciators alike. More history and photographs can be found on the Almarine Boats website.

My thanks to Sarah Brsicoe and also to the lovely folk at Video Impact of Loddon for passing on my contact details to Sarah.

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