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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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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