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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The “Bach” on the Broads 1913

Regular visitors to the Broadland Memories website will have probably discovered the wonderful 1918 log of a honeymoon on board the yacht Frolic which can be found in the personal memories section. Written by Leslie Champness, and transcribed by his grandson Bruce Robb, the log is a delightful read and provides a little insight into holidaying on the Norfolk Broads during the First World War.

bachonbroads1913_coverYou can imagine my delight when I was contacted by Bruce last week to say that another Broads holiday log written by Leslie had been discovered. Whilst clearing out a desk which had belonged to her father, Bruce’s aunt found an old notebook at the back of a drawer. It turned out to be an account of a 1913 holiday Leslie took with friends on the yachts Holiday and Snowdrop which were hired from Ernest Collins at Wroxham. Once again, Bruce has kindly transcribed the log, including photographs, into a PDF document which can be viewed via the personal memories section of the Broadland Memories website as linked to above. Bruce has carefully researched many of the references in the log and added explanatory footnotes. The “Bach” on The Broads is an account of a fortnight’s holiday taken by an all male party who were mostly fellow students of Leslie Champness at Durham University. Full of youthful exuberance and letting off steam having sat their final exams, it has to be said that the group were not always the best behaved bunch of young men. It serves to show that rowdy behaviour  is not a modern phenomenon by any means. A gramophone provided evening entertainment for the lads and it is thought that their choice of music may well be where the “Bach” in the title of the log originates. They also developed a taste for locally brewed cider which they found in the riverside pubs! It’s another amusing and fascinating read. The log also contains a set of photographs taken during another Broads holiday in 1914, this time aboard the yachts Smuggler and Joan.

My thanks to Bruce for his work in transcribing the log, and to him and his aunt for allowing me to publish it on Broadland Memories. Bruce is currently working on yet another of his grandfather’s Norfolk Broads logs which has recently been found. It dates from 1919 and I very much look forward to reading, and being able to share it via the website in due course.

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Hearts Cruisers turnaround day 1955

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting and talking to Vaughan Ashby whose parents owned Hearts Cruisers at Thorpe St Andrew after the Second World War. Vaughan has very kindly given me permission to share some of the family’s cine films of the Norfolk Broads on Broadland Memories and also offered to add some descriptive commentary and memories of the boatyard to accompany the films.

I’ve now edited the first of these which dates from 1955 and was put together by Vaughan’s mother, Eileen, to illustrate a typical turnaround day at Hearts Cruisers. It’s a wonderful piece of Broads history, brought to life by Vaughan’s memories, and it gives a real insight into post war era boating holidays and the day to day running of a hire fleet back then. The attention to detail, the pride which went into maintaining the boats and the importance placed on customer service is clearly evident.

John Hart established one of the earliest boat hire yards on the Broads around 1878 when he became the licensee of the Thorpe Gardens public house and began to hire out rowing boats and cabin yachts from there. In the mid 1880s the business was moved across the river to Thorpe Island which had been created when the rail line was built in the 1840s – a new cut had been dug to divert the River Yare to avoid the low rail bridges. When John Hart died in 1898, his son George took over the running of the business and when he died in 1927 the business was continued by one of his sons, Geoffrey, under the name of G.Hart & Sons. The yard was put up for sale after the war, a share of which was subsequently bought by Commander Ron Ashby who was looking for a new venture. He renamed it Hearts Cruisers and was later able to purchase the company outright. As housing in Norfolk was scarce at the time, Commander Ashby purchased an ex naval MGB (motor gun boat) which was towed to Thorpe St Andrew and fitted out as the family home, the Commander, his wife and six month old son, Vaughan, living in the houseboat “Misty Morn” in the meantime.  The bilges had to be filled with water to enable the gun boat to be dragged beneath the low rail bridge. “Morning Flight” was intended to be a temporary home whilst a bungalow was built on the island for the family, the idea being that the gunboat would then be let out as a houseboat, but it became their home for the next 41 years.

ashby48_heartsyardThe photograph above shows the Hearts boatyard in 1948. The gunboat “Morning Flight” is being refitted on the left,  with “Misty Morn” seen to the right of it. Little remained of the original Harts fleet, just five boats, the rest had perished having been requisitioned and moored out on Surlingham and Rockland Broads during the war to prevent enemy sea planes landing. The boat sheds on the island had also been bombed but they were able to claim damages to cover the cost of rebuilding.  The boat basin was dug out and large gardens were created after an area of the island was cleared of trees. Ashby planned to build one new boat every year, intending to increase the fleet to 15 boats although Vaughan explained that this ended up being 18 boats which, due to inflation, were still not earning a great deal of money for the business.

On the other side of the river at Thorpe St Andrew, Jenners had grouped together with the neighbouring A.G.Wards yard at Thorpe in the late 1950s, purchasing the Town House Guest House and effectively having one large yard with all boats flying under the Jenners flag. During the mid 1960s they also began acquiring boats and purchasing other fleets from yards including Dawncraft, Pegg Marine, Wards, Wilsons and Windboats. In 1966 Commander Ashby took the decision to sell Hearts Cruisers to Jenners. In 1967, Landamores at Wroxham decided to sell off their fleet of Vestella and Vesta motor cruisers which were also purchased by them. It seems that Jenners overstretched themselves and in 1968 the fleet was taken over by The Caister Group who already owned the largest fleet on the Broads after the purchase of several high profile yards in the mid 1960s. The Hearts boatyard and name was kept and was subsequently run by Ladbrokes, Pennant and then Richardsons. The boat hire side of the business ceased in 2002.

Many thanks to Vaughan Ashby for allowing me to share these wonderful films. The second film shows the launch and sinking of the Four of Hearts, plus some super footage of the island in winter, blanketed by snow. Once again, Vaughan has provided some commentary for it and I will begin work on editing this next month. There is also a third film which shows ice yachting on Wroxham Broad during the winter of 1963.  In the meantime, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy Hearts Cruisers Turnaround Day 1955.

Many thanks as ever to Video Impact at Loddon for kindly digitizing these films for Broadland Memories.


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Ernest Collins Tuscan and Talisman 1931

I’ve been a little quiet on here of late.  I don’t tend to have much free time to spend working on the website during the summer months, but I’m still trying to do bits and pieces where I can, although the larger photo collections I have yet to work on will probably have to wait until the autumn now.

I recently uploaded a lovely 1950s cine film to the Broadland Memories YouTube channel which included some interesting footage of boat building at Jack Powles boatyard in Wroxham and featured the man himself giving customers a guided tour. I still have a few more films to come, including another commercially produced travelogue of the Broads made by Peak Films in the 1950s. My main summer project is the editing of two wonderful colour cine films of Hearts Cruisers at Thorpe St Andrew which belong to the former owners of the yard, The Ashby Family. These are a bit of a first for me as they will include some descriptive commentary and memories from Vaughan Ashby. The first of these is almost ready to go – watch this space!

I’m still looking out for new and interesting additions to the archive too and recently purchased a small set of photographs which date from the early 1930s. There are just twelve of them but, as always, there are some great images amongst them. They mostly feature a holiday taken by a mixed group of friends on two Ernest Collins motor cruisers – Tuscan and Talisman. These must have been taken in 1931, the clue being the shot below which was taken at Acle Bridge. If you look closely, you can see that this is the bridge which replaced the original three arched bridge, but it is seen here in the latter stages of construction with scaffolding and the wooden former still in place under the arch. I couldn’t fail to notice the large number of beer bottles lined up on the cabin roof.

bm30s_2016_acle01The friends clearly liked a beer or two as illustrated in the photograph below! Wonderful clothes and hairstyles.

bm30s_2016_beer01There were four of the Tuscan class of cruisers which were apparently adapted from the carvel built mahogany hulls normally used for Collins’ yachts. Built between 1930 and 1931, these 30ft cruisers had four berths and were fitted with Thornycroft “Handy-Billy” engines. The image below is the 1933 entry in Blake’s Norfolk Broads Holidays Afloat brochure.

bm30s_2016_TuscanAs this is such a small collection, it should be a quick job to get them remastered and on to the website, so I’ve added them to my summer “To Do” list.


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Broadland’s High Streets Through Time

If you are interested in discovering more about the history of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, then a trip to the wonderful Museum of the Broads at Stalham is a must. It’s a fascinating and diverse collection which encompasses the whole gamut of the regions history from the creation of the Broads themselves, the lives of those who lived and worked here over the years and of the development of the area as a land and boat based holiday destination.

I covered a little of what the museum has to offer in an earlier blog post, the static displays being augmented by an annual exhibition which covers a different aspect of Broadland history. I was kindly invited along to the official launch of this years exhibition at the weekend by curator Nicola Hems and thought I’d share some of the photographs I took on here. Nicola has done a fantastic job at putting together the displays for the Broadland’s High Streets Through Time exhibition which includes a number of postcards from the Broadland Memories Archives along with a wonderful selection of photographs, objects and ephemera which illustrate how the way we shop has changed over the years. Our towns and villages were once largely self sufficient with tradesman and shops providing a number of services and selling all manner of goods from butchers, general groceries, clothing and linens to boot, shoe and saddle makers and village pharmacies. Alongside the displays are personal memories of Broadland village stores presented in audio form via a listening post. These include one lady’s memories of the local butcher who despatched the animals himself in an abattoir at the back of his shop!

mob_2016_ex01Two of the display cabinets for the Broadland’s High Streets Through Time exhibition.

mob_2016_ex03One of my favourite items in the exhibition was this lovely little mug which was produced for Richardson’s boatyard – I’m guessing at it being the 1960s?

mob_2016_ex08The number of riverside stores has sadly dwindled over the years. Laying in stores whilst boating often requires careful planning or a long walk from your moorings these days.

mob_2016_ex04An old Broadland restaurant menu – what was “Russian Salad” I wonder?

mob_2016_ex02More of the display cabinets at the exhibition. These contain items from local chemists and the last Stalham saddlers workshop.

mob_2016_ex05A close up of some of the Stalham chemist’s pills, powders and potions on display.

mob_2016_falcon02After  tea and cakes in the Wroxham Room we were offered a trip on the museum’s beautiful steam launch Falcon. Of course, I couldn’t say no! It was a little chilly out there but what a gloriously sunny spring day upon which to be out on the river.  My thanks to the museum for a lovely afternoon.

There are lots photographs and postcards on the Broadland Memories website showing Broadland high streets and shops over the years. The Then & Now section also has quite a number of comparison shots which illustrate just how much things have changed.

Details of opening hours and admission prices can be found on the Museum of the Broads website.




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Memories of holidays on Norada 1959-1961

A quick post to highlight another wonderful new addition to the Broadland Memories website this week. In 1959, John Barrow spent his first holiday on the Norfolk Broads with his parents, and best friend John Collins aboard the wherry yacht Norada as guests of her owner, Frank Andrews.

Lady Edith was better known as Norada, built by Ernest Collins at Wroxham in 1912. She was retired from Collin’s hire fleet in 1950 and later bought by Frank Andrews who renamed her Lady Edith in tribute to his wife. In 1964, the wherry yacht was bought by Barney Mathews who went on to form the Wherry Yacht Charter Trust with Peter Bower and, as part of her 75th anniversary celebrations in 1987, she became Norada once again.

John’s memories from 1959 and of subsequent holidays spent on Norada/Lady Edith, written with the assistance of his friend John Collins, are accompanied by a set of over 20 original photographs and illustrations. They are a wonderful piece of history for the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust who now manage Norada along with Hathor, Olive, White Moth and Ardea, ensuring that these magnificent craft are preserved and accessible to the public. Check out their events page for details of this years public sailings which start from just £10.


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Broadland Classics – scale model kits

I’ve been following the progress of prototyping some rather lovely scale model kits of classic Norfolk Broads motor and sailing cruisers by Broadland Classics who are based at Rollesby. Paul, from the company, has been keeping me up to date with regular photographs over the last couple years of what is going to be a very fine fleet of classic Broads boats in miniature.

Paul hopes that the first kits in the series will be available for sale in the summer which will include The Herbert Woods Ring of Light and Queen of Light class of motor cruisers and the Martham Boat Development Company’s Japonica sailing cruiser. The prototypes for the Ring of Light and Japonica are now finished and they look incredibly realistic. The attention to detail is superb, from deck fittings to fenders, flags, burgees and interior soft furnishings, the end result of many, many months of work. Paul says: “Our kits will use the combination of placing high quality wood veneers over accurate GRP mouldings, which will enable both non skilled and skilled model makers alike, to produce world class eye catching models to the envy of all, in radio control form, or equally well suit as static museum display pieces with little effort.

Broadland Classics have kindly allowed me to share their most recent photographs on here. For more information and photographs visit the Broadland Classics website.


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Holidaying on the Norfolk Broads during the First World War

At 11pm on the night of the 4th of August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Whilst a massive poster campaign in which Lord Kitchener urged the men of Britain to volunteer to join the army encouraged over 200,000 men to sign up during the first month alone, on the home front the government introduced a “business as usual” policy under Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith. The belief was that the British public needed to continue as normal with daily life in order to maintain a stable and functioning country, and anything less would lower the nations morale and would be a victory for the enemy. Popular belief held that the war would be over by Christmas anyway.

On the Norfolk Broads the holiday industry carried on as it had before. Those who could afford to do so were still able to hire yachts and wherries and engage the services of crew who would sail and attend to their daily needs. Whilst a good number of young men in the region would have volunteered for Kitchener’s Army in the early days of the war, there was no compulsory conscription, and presumably skippers and crew were initially still readily available. As the war dragged on, it was to impact on the every day lives of the British public in many ways.

I was very fortunate to be able to buy two collections of photographs for the archive recently which document holidays taken on the Norfolk Broads during the years of the Great War. The first, an album of over 60 photographs, begins in July 1915 and contains some quite wonderful snapshots of a holiday aboard the yacht Victoria which was hired from John Loynes boatyard at Wroxham. There are clearly at least two holidays featured within the album and, whilst there is no written date for the others, I’m confident that they must be c1917-1918. The second collection of 24 photographs are also undated, but clothing would suggest that they too date from the same era. I haven’t really come across many images of the Broads taken during WW1, so these will be a superb addition to the website.

bm15_027_smlThis first photograph was captioned on the back as: “Party on board yacht ‘Victoria’ July 1915” and includes the skipper and mate whose services would have been included in the hire terms for a large yacht such as this. Built by John Loynes, Victoria was listed as being a 17 ton “smart cutter-rigged yacht with comfortable sleeping accommodation for seven persons“. The plan below shows that the crew slept in cots in the forepeak which also housed the stove on which meals for the party would have been prepared. The ladies slept in the aft cabin whilst the gentlemen berthed in the saloon.  A small toilet compartment was situated opposite the companionway between the two cabins. Loynes didn’t advertise his yachts on Blake’s Yachting List at this time, but a similar sized yacht cost around £8 10s to hire for a week in July. On sister ships Coral and Volunteer a small piano could be hired for an additional 15 shillings per week. It’s relevant in the chronology of these photographs to note that this first image from 1915 includes men who would have been of fighting age. Another earlier photograph album featuring the same family which was up for auction when I bought this one shows at least one of the gentlemen seen here in military uniform. Sadly, although it also featured some Broads images, I just didn’t have the funds to buy both.

victoria_blakes1929 By the beginning of 1916 it became clear that it was not going to be possible to continue fighting with just volunteers alone. In March 1916, compulsory active service was introduced for all single men between the ages of 18 and 41, and in May that was extended to include married men.  Clergymen, teachers and certain classes or those deemed to be employed in jobs which were vital to the war effort were exempt, as were those who were medically unfit. Whilst some of the Broadland boatyards were engaged in the building of craft for the Admiralty and some staff would therefore been included in that exemption, I suspect a great many skippers and crew would have been eligible for conscription. It’s evident from the memorials found in Broadland villages that a great many local men lost their lives during the war, countless more would have fought and returned home. Families were being torn apart. Husbands, fathers and sons were being shipped overseas, unsure of when, or if,  they would see their loved ones again. The number of deaths and casualties sustained on both sides by the end of 1915 alone was just mind numbingly staggering.

Zeppelin Air Raid on Great Yarmouth, January 1915

Back in Britain, the threat to civilian life became all too real with the destruction that was being wreaked by the aerial bombardment from German airships. Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn were targeted in the very first Zeppelin raid on the night of January 15th 1915 and  over the next three years the eastern coastline of Britain, London and the Midlands area were to experience many more such raids. Women were expected to play their part in the war effort too, filling the gaps in the workforce left by the men who were sent off to fight. From munitions factory to train driver, from tilling the land to working for the war office, it was every woman’s duty to do her bit. A difficult backdrop under which to conduct “business as usual”, but carry on we seemingly did.

On the Norfolk Broads the boatyards continued to offer holiday boats to visitors, although it would be interesting to know just how busy the waterways were during this period. Blake’s 1916 Yachting List provided a rather lovely introduction on what one might expect from a Broadland holiday and how to conduct a cruise:

frys1908_broadspic10All lovers of nature will be greatly impressed the moment they find themselves on this wonderful lakeland, for one feels the glamour of it stealing over you. We cannot overrate the attractions or The Broads. It is impossible to feel lonely with all the other yachts and wherries about, and there is always something to be done: assisting in sailing the yacht, preparing for the next meal, looking to rods and lines, for The Broads are an angler’s paradise. After a day’s sailing is over and evening sets in, the yacht moored and everything made snug, one may stroll to the village near which you are moored and taste the delights of foraging for supper, and replenishing the depleted stock. A visit to a local inn, where refreshments of every description are served, must not be missed, for many a good yarn may be heard, spun by veteran wherry and yacht skippers, who know little of other life besides that of cruising up and down The Broads District, summer and winter. On your way back, very likely, the sounds of a gramophone, phonograph, or other kind of talking machine, will reach you, and those possessing a good machine should take it on this holiday, for nowhere can one of these machines be heard to greater advantage than on board. It is simply delightful to sit on deck in the twilight listening to a favourite song with no discordant sound; the stillness of the evening being only broken by the rustle of the reeds and the splash of rising fish.

The greatest charm a holiday spent in this manner holds for one is its perfect freedom and peacefulness, its absolute change and unconventionality; indeed the feeling of independence is paramount, and so long as one respects the few recognised laws of the district there is little you cannot do.

The brochure went on to provide a list of suggested clothes to take and foodstuffs to pre-order from one of the Broadland stores which included potted meats, tins of salmon, lobster and sardines, milk cream, bottles and tins of soup and fruit, fresh bread, butter, cheese, and cold cooked joints of meat and bacon. The following advice was issued regarding the latter; “Speaking generally, Norfolk bacon is not at all palatable to the visitors from London and the Provinces, and as this forms an important item in the stores it should be carefully considered.” It then went on to suggest laying in a stock of Harris’s Wiltshire Bacon. This introduction to the Broads seems to have been an updated version of a similar guide on how to conduct a cruise entitled “How to see the Broads” which was written by Harold Josling and published by Fry’s Magazine in 1908. Follow that link to read that article in full on the Broadland Memories website.

bm15_053_smlThe photograph above comes from the same album but appears to have been taken during another holiday which I believe is slightly later. The young gentleman seen amongst the boating party in the previous photograph is absent, would he have possibly been of an age for conscription I wonder. The skipper for this cruise is clearly beyond the eligible age, whilst his mate appears to be a young lad.  The group are pictured here cruising through Horning, with the Swan Hotel seen in the background on the right.

bm15_057_smlAnother photograph from the same c1918 holiday. In April 1918, such was the level of casualties that the upper age for conscription was raised to 50 (or 56 if the need arose). The men here certainly look to be under 50 but could possibly have been military men on leave, in reserved occupations or had other reason to be excluded from active service. Being another set of orphaned photographs which came without any background information, I will probably never know.

There is an original ships log within the personal memories section of the Broadland Memories website which was written during a honeymoon taken on the Norfolk Broads in August 1918. It’s a lovely read but also gives an interesting insight into what holidaying on the Broads was like during the latter part of the war. It took them over thirteen hours to reach the Broads from Rugby in Warwickshire “under war conditions“. Most people travelled to and from the region by train in those days. The first port of call was Wroxham Post Office where their ration books were presented and exchanged for a visitors ration card. Although they mentioned taking meals at Horning Ferry and the Kings Head Hotel at Wroxham during their two week cruise, the couple largely “foraged” for their own meals but struggled to find milk and other basics in the Broadland villages. Potatoes and Bovril seem to have made up a large part of their diet on the boat. The government eventually had to relent on its “business as usual” policy and take control of imported foods such as sugar, grain and meats. In 1916 it became illegal to eat more than two courses at lunchtime or three courses in the evening when dining in public. Fines were also introduced for anyone found feeding pigeons or wild animals. In 1917, Germany began  using submarines to target and sink ships which were carrying food and other essentials to Britain, hoping to starve the country into submission. In February of that year, voluntary rationing was introduced as food prices soared and supplies dwindled. Compulsory rationing was then introduced in stages between December 1917 and February 1918 with ration books being introduced in July 1918 for butter, margarine, lard, meat and sugar. One log entry mentions having the “government’s quota of National Controlled Tea” which was a reference to the government having also taken over the importation and pricing of the nation’s favourite cuppa.

The log contains photographs which the couple took during their honeymoon, but the writer notes how difficult it had become to procure rolls of film which were “a scarce commodity in these days of war (great demand for Army and Air service work).” They found that newspapers were pretty much unobtainable unless ordered and when they finally did find milk they were seemingly charged well over the odds for it. They found Broads chained off, Heigham Sound choked with “fungus weed” and mentioned visiting Horsey and sailing to the entrance to Hickling Broad but “didn’t go far into the Broad“, perhaps referring to the fact that the Broad was taken over by the Admiralty during the war for use as a seaplane base. On the night of the 29th of August 1918, the couple were moored just downstream of Wroxham: “These were more civilized surroundings than the last few nights & we indeed felt that we were returning to ordinary life when just as we were turning in, there was heavy firing from anti aircraft guns and Very’s lights over in the Norwich direction which lasted for some 20 minutes.” Bruce Robb, who transcribed his grandparents sailing log for me, could find no evidence of an air raid on the city that night, but if any local historians know otherwise then please do get in touch. It’s worth taking the time to go and read the whole “Log of the Frolic” if you get the chance as it is beautifully written and sprinkled with more than a touch of dry humour.

bm18_broads19_smlWe move on to a preview of the second collection of photographs which I believe date to between 1915 and 1918. These document a holiday, or holidays, at the other end of the scale, taken on board the two small cabin yachts Banshee and Melody, the latter of which is seen above. Melody was a 24ft, sloop-rigged cabin yacht which slept three to four persons and could be hired from Wroxham for around £4 per week in August 1916.

bm18_broads09_smlThere are several wherry photos within the set which are always an exciting find, and some interesting and more unusual Broadland scenes including the truly delightful image seen above of two marshmen sitting on the riverbank alongside their reed lighter. Perhaps this was a lunch break as they appear to have created some shade for themselves using the materials they had to hand.

Both collections require some major cleaning and a bit of restoration as they have been stuck down to album pages which has led to bad staining where the glue has seeped through. There is also the usual spotting and general staining associated with age. Those seen above are some which have already been done but, because it’s quite a time consuming process, I intend to put the photographs on in three batches as I work through them. The first set of 24 photos, featuring the 1915 holiday on the yacht Victoria have now been uploaded to the Broadland Memories website and can be viewed here.

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Horning – Upper Street

Along with the various photographic collections and cine films which I have yet to put on the website, I’ve got a large number of postcards that I’ve accumulated in recent years waiting in the wings. I often post these via the Broadland Memories Twitter and Facebook pages and they will end up on the main website eventually. I’ve also got a number of scans of old postcards which have been emailed to me over the last few years, including a collection belonging to Peter Punchard.

Peter, who grew up in Horning, sent me another two postcards recently which feature scenes from Upper Street in the village and I thought I’d share them on here. Going by the clothing, I would imagine that they probably date from the 1920s. Upper Street is part of the A1062 Wroxham to Potter Heigham road which is far busier today than it was when these photographs were taken.

Upper Street HorningThe first postcard shows cottages and what appears to be a little shop on Upper Street. Peter grew up in one of these cottages, albeit somewhat later than this photograph. He recounts; “We had no running water in the house and I can distinctly remember the excitement of the day an outside tap was installed; sometime in the 1950’s. This was shared with my uncle next door; we had no bathroom or flush toilet until the early 1960’s.” The cottages still stand although the thatched building which housed the shop seems to have gone.

Upper Street HorningThe second image shows the cottages which stand at the junction to the road which leads down to Church Farm, a little further along from the scene shown in the previous photograph. These were originally built to house farmworkers. Peter recalls; “If you look carefully at the pair on the left hand side of the postcard in the front garden between the pair of semis behind a gate you can see the roof of the communal well which I remember as a young lad in the 1950’s going to to fetch in buckets, with my father, water for the house where I was brought up.”

My thanks to Peter Punchard for sharing these postcards and his memories with me.

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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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Broadland during the winter of 1947- photo gallery

Winter seems to have abandoned us this year and I have to confess that I’ve been hankering for a nice cold snap, if only to get rid of whatever it is in the atmosphere that’s had me suffering with constant hayfever since October. Broadland has seen some harsh winters over the years and I’ve previously written a couple of blog posts about the “Big Freeze” of 1963. Recent finds have prompted me to revisit winters past.

In 2010 I wrote this piece about the winter of 1947, another notoriously cold winter during which Britain was blanketed by deep snow throughout February and into March. I mentioned then that I hadn’t come across any photographs of the Norfolk Broads from that winter .. until now that is! I’m relatively new to the whole Facebook thing but felt that I should probably sign up and give Broadland Memories a presence over there. I’ve also joined a few local history groups on there, including the Reedham & District Local History & Archaeology Group which is where I came across a rather incredible set of photographs taken during the winter of 1947. The owner of the collection, John Richardson, very kindly gave me permission to add them to the website, and you can find the full set on this page of the 1900-1949 Gallery but I thought I’d put a couple on here along with a few other photographs which I’ve found since my original blog post.

richardsonj47_reedham01The first of John Richardson’s photographs shows the River Yare and the swing bridge at Reedham. This and the image below were taken by John’s grandfather, Richard James Cooper. Knowing how fast the tide runs here, it’s quite something to see it so thick with ice.

richardsonj47_berneyarmsThis view was taken from the top of the Berney Arms mill looking towards Breydon Water. Two coasters are moored alongside one another just upstream of the pub. It’s an astonishing image – my thanks to John for allowing me to share them.

I recently bought a rather lovely photograph showing an ice yacht on the Broads during the winter of 1947, probably taken at Hickling.

bm47_iceyachting01This was a Belgian press photograph, dated the 27th of February 1947, the blurb on the back reads as follows: “There is no need to go to Switzerland for winter sports. The lakes of Norfolk are covered with a thick layer of ice upon which skaters indulge in their favourite games. They even practice racing sleds with sails which is always spectacular. Here is one of the leading competitors training for an upcoming competition.” There is an ice yacht hanging on the wall at the Museum of the Broads in Stalham and it’s a curious looking contraption. I’d love to see one in action, although wouldn’t relish the severity of winter needed to freeze the Broads over.

Until I started sorting these photographs out for the blog and website, I had entirely forgotten that I’d got a couple of photographs taken in Martham during that winter too.

bm47_marthamsnow01Somerton Road at Martham, looking towards St Mary’s Church. There are similar photos showing the snow cleared and stacked, forming icy cliffs beside the roads in Reedham amongst John Richardson’s photographs on the main website.

bm47_marthamfloodsAs I mentioned in my previous post, the sudden thaw in mid March saw widespread flooding around the region. This was also taken at Martham, although I’m not sure of the location.

As always, if you have any photographs or memories of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads during winters past then I would love to see them. My grandfather filmed ice skating on the Mere in the South Norfolk market town of Diss during that winter and the flooding of the Waveney Valley which followed. Whilst not strictly Broadland, I thought it might be of interest to some.

Previous blog posts on winters in Broadland:

The Big Freeze of winter 1963

Great Yarmouth – winter 1963

Memories of Oulton Broad during the Big Freeze of 1963

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Arcadia – the making of a pleasure wherry

Browse through the collections of Edwardian era photographs of the Norfolk Broads on the Broadland Memories website and you can’t fail to notice how elegant and genteel a boating holiday appeared to be back then. The ladies in their long, flowing dresses and beautiful hats, the gents in their cricket whites, sporting crisply coiffured moustaches, always arriving and departing in their Sunday best suites. Nothing summed up that elegance more than the pleasure wherry, the height of luxury and comfort in boating for those with the means to pay for it.

A quick thumb through the pages of H. Blake & Co.’s 1916 Norfolk Broads Yachting List gives a good indication of the number of pleasure wherries and wherry yachts which were available for charter. Today, a scant few survive, lovingly restored and maintained and in private ownership or under the wing of the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust. A day trip on one of these magnificent vessels is a wonderful experience, a taste of those halcyon days of Broadland summers in the early 20th century. Blake’s 1916 brochure shows enticing photographs of just some of the pleasure wherries which once sailed on these waterways – Victory, Empress of India, Rose, Surprise, Dauntless, Fairy Queen, Endeavour, Freedom, British Queen, Sunbeam, Reindeer, Chloe, Red Rover and Dragon (pictured below). Add to that the wherry yachts which were also available to charter and it’s an impressive list indeed. There were other boatyards outside of Blake’s agency which advertised wherries available for holiday hire and a number of hotels and other riverside business had a wherry or two available for hire over the years. There were of course those which were built for private owners too like Hathor.

The Pleasure Wherry Dragon 1903

Some were true pleasure wherries, built for the sole purpose of serving the holiday trade, or private owners, but many began life as one of the black-sailed traders, carrying coal, timber and all manner of goods between the ports of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Norwich,  and the towns and village staithes of Broadland.  A decline in the need for transportation of goods by river began with the coming of the railways in the mid 19th century, but the railways also brought visitors to the region, often by their hundreds on the newly introduced Bank Holiday’s. The well-healed and the professional classes were drawn to the region for longer visits by the rural idyll portrayed in the photographs of John Payne Jennings and Peter Henry Emerson, and the numerous guide books and magazine articles written about the Norfolk Broads in the 1880s and 1890s. Enterprising wherry owners saw that there was need for comfortable, floating accommodation and so the trading wherries were swept out and converted for the use of holidaymakers during the summer months, reverting to carrying cargo during the winter.

The pleasure wherry Leisure Hour c1905As the 20th century dawned, it became increasingly common for the conversions to be permanent, the growing number of such vessels for hire being joined by the purpose built pleasure wherries and wherry yachts such as Norada and Olive which are both still sailing today.The fate of some of those that are no longer with us is known, many ended their days being used to shore up a stretch of riverbank, were sunk in dykes or just broken up for firewood. Occasionally, if you know where to look, you can catch a glimpse of a tabernacle marking the last resting place of one of these former giants of the waterway. Slowly, those remains are disappearing as the wood rots away and their unmarked graves are becoming just memories.

Pleasure Wherry Bertha c1910

I made passing mention of the pleasure wherry Arcadia in the last blog post in relation to her starring role in a British Pathe film of 1933 and it reminded me that I have been meaning to write a piece about her for a while. Arcadia was one of those which began life as a trading wherry, and one who’s history was wonderfully detailed by the author Charles Carrodus in Life in a Norfolk Village which was published by The Soman-Wherry Press Ltd. in 1949. With fascinating accounts of life in Horning from the mid 19th century through the first half of the 20th century, it’s a book which deserves a place on the shelves of anyone interested in Broadland’s history and can be sourced for around £25. The wonderful City Bookshop in Norwich usually has copies available and offers a mail order service. Much of he following is gleaned from the Carrodus book and by searching the relevant census returns.

Arcadia was built as a trading wherry by the boat builder Samuel Gibbs at Coldham Hall in 1897. Given the name Forget-Me Not, she was commissioned by Robert Royall who had made his money after emigrating to Canada and she was sailed by his brothers Joseph and Ernest. Forget-Me Not was different to other wherries in that she was apparently built to a keel, rather than having the keel added later as was usual. She was also built to carry heavy cargoes. Samuel Gibbs was listed on the 1891 census as a boat builder living in a cottage in Coldham Hall Road at Surlingham with his wife Mary Ann , sons Charles (aged 18 and a waterman), Samuel (aged 12 and at school) daughter Sarah, aged 6, and grand-daughter Elizabeth aged 10. Four borders were also in residence, 24 year old widow Elizabeth High and her three young children. Earlier census returns show that Elizabeth was actually Samuel’s step-daughter and that Mary Anne was his second wife. Samuel had seven other children with his first wife Elizabeth and the family were recorded as living in Row 27 at Great Yarmouth in 1871. By 1881, Samuel was married to Mary Ann and was building boats with Arthur Reynolds at Coldham Hall according to Whites directory of Norfolk.

arcadia_ivyduke01Forget-me Not’s first cargo was collected from Colman’s Wharf in Norwich with Joseph Royall as skipper and younger brother Ernest as mate. Sadly, Joseph drowned in April 1908 as they sailed through Reedham. Walking towards the forepeak, he was apparently swept overboard when she took a nasty gybe and was carried under by the strong tidal flow. His body was never recovered. Forget-Me Not was put up for sale and was bought by a Mr Woods at Beccles who converted her into a pleasure wherry and changed her name to Arcadia. In 1919 she was purchased by Major E.F. Medcalf for £1100 but he apparently used her for only two months and she was then put up for sale again by auction the following spring. She was bought for just £180 by the silent film actress Ivy Duke who renamed her Cara Mia and moved her up to Salhouse Broad where she and future husband Guy Newall were reported to have spent Christmas together onboard in 1920. Re-planking and other restoration work was carried out by a member of the Press family at a cost of £500 and Ivy and Guy continued to enjoy spending time onboard the wherry for the next six years. It must have been during this time that Cara Mia was filmed at Salhouse Broad with the couple on board for one of British Pathe’s “Eve on the Broads” series of films, although that particular film was not actually released until 1933.

In 1926, long term Broads visitor Alfred Gilbey “Argo” Gold discovered Cara Mia lying at Horning whilst searching for a wherry to purchase. He approached Ivy Duke who accepted his offer of £650 for the wherry. Argo Gold and his brother Walter established the wine and spirit importers and distilling firm of W. & A. Gilbey in London in the 1850s, producing the well known Glilbey’s Gin. Cara Mia became Arcadia once more and was used as Gold’s Broadland headquarters during the summer months, doing the rounds of the regattas with daughter Stella acting as hostess for her father. One can only imagine the wonderful parties which must have been held aboard Arcadia during this time. It was Gold who actively sought out information about Arcadia’s origins and early history, speaking to both Samuel Gibbs’ son James and Walter Woods who had been apprenticed to Gibbs whilst she was being built.

Argo Gold died in 1939 and Arcadia was once again put up for sale. Her new owner was Mr F.W. Weldon from Nottingham, but no sooner had the purchase gone though when war was declared in Europe. Arcadia was moved to a dyke at Ropes Hill in Horning and spent the next six years safely tucked away under tarpaulins. Weldon finally enjoyed his first proper trip aboard Arcadia during the Easter holiday of 1945. Carrodus wrote; “except for the linoleum round the deck, which had perished, and a few leaky places between the deck plankings she appeared to be little the worse for having been laid up for such an unusually long time.”

By 1956, Arcadia was lying at Horning Ferry and being let as a static houseboat through Hoseasons. Sleeping six to eight persons and boasting a household calor gas cooker and gas lighting throughout, Arcadia cost between £10 and £20 per week to hire depending on the time of year. A wireless set in the saloon and a 12ft rowing dinghy were included in the hire terms.


As an old, and presumably deteriorating wooden boat, her days were sadly numbered. It’s hard to believe now, but little historic worth was placed on such craft back then and if repair was deemed economically unviable they were discarded or destroyed. In an article written for the Norfolk Wherry Trust in 2000, Mike Barnes mentions that Windboats at Wroxham were interested in buying Arcadia in the early 1960s and converting her into a floating dancehall but were unable to secure a licence for the venture. There is a photograph of Arcadia taken at Wayford Bridge in 1963 on Royalls boatyard blog and the accompanying text confirms that she was sunk in a dyke there around this time. The Royalls are, of course, members of the same family who originally commissioned Samuel Gibbs to build  Forget-me Not/Arcadia in 1897.

The survivors are few, but thankfully their historic importance is now recognised and cherished. Hopefully their future is secure but funds for ongoing maintenance is always needed. Keep an eye on the Wherry Yacht Charter Trust website for details of their public sailings during the summer which are an affordable way of stepping back in time to experience a little bit of Edwardian Broadland. I’ll leave you with a link to the short film I put together of out sailing trip with the trust on the wherry yacht Norada in 2012.



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