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Memories Of Moores In The 50s & 60s

By Charles Roebuck

1950s History 1950s Memories 1950s Gallery

I was born in 1955, and my parents brought me on holiday with them on the Broads every year from before I could walk. We always hired from 'Moores', or 'R. Moore and Son' as it was known then, and I have some of my dad's 8mm cine film showing me in the aft cockpit of a 'Moorhen' tied to the lifebelt by a throwing rope, when I was only about 3 yrs old.  The journey down from near Leeds where we lived was about 200 miles, so we had to set off early in the morning. It took about 6 hours to reach Wroxham, by which time I was fed up of being in the car, and excited at the prospect of getting on the boat. Picking up a few provisions at Roy's was to my mind an unnecessary extra delay, though it was an essential part of the plan. Eating out was unheard of, and way too expensive!!

When we got to Moores my Dad would go into the office, and we would be treated like long lost members of the family. I remember a gentleman, who wore gold rimmed glasses, and had light brown/greying hair, brushed backwards and brylcreamed down. He would come out to welcome us. I always believed he was 'Mr Moore' - though he may not have been. Another man in the office was tall with a round face and black or very dark hair, thinly brushed over the bald centre of his head from the side. I don't recall a name for him, but he, and all the boatyard staff were always friendly and helpful.

The wooden boats from Moores boatyard were all beautiful. The attention to detail was remarkable, and the craftsmanship unbeatable. They were predominantly varnished hulls and superstructure (Faymore being the only exception I can remember, with a cream painted Hull), and the varnish had a dark richness no other boats on the broads could equal. All Moores boats had a discreet but distinctive 'arrow line', running from the stern to the bow, just under the gangway, with an arrow point at the tip, and the 'Moorhens' all had 'wings' on the line near the point.  I remember my dad pointing out to me one day as we were sitting in the cabin of one of them, there was a row of screw heads down a bulkhead. The screws were all the single slotted type, before 'Philips cross-heads' and the slot of every screw head was parallel to all the others! It could not have been a coincidence.

Bairnmore pictured in the early 1950s

The roof was covered in a thick cream paint which added to the feeling of richness they all possessed. All the 4*and 5 berth cruisers had a forward/ bow 'cockpit' with a removable canvas cover over 2 seats, accessible through a door in the front cabin. This made them all very distinctive, though I have not seen any of them on the broads in recent years.  

*There was only one exception to this in the 4 berth cruisers, a boat which had a curved front and back superstructure, and two oval windows in the stern, replacing the rectangular 'Emergency Exit' windows in all the others. I can't  remember its name, but we were on it in about 1962! (Could it have been Braemore or Rossmore?).

Because we were 'frequent visitors' the trial run up and down the river was dispensed with, and after we'd been shown the controls for the gas fridge, prop shaft greasers, and so on, we would be away. Coltishall was our most frequent first night stop, right up near the lock gates, with the old mill (Horstead) on the left. I just remember the mill before it burnt down, and once being shown around inside it. I remember seeing bags marked 'Fish Meal' and wondering what it was!

We would always hire a dinghy with the cruiser, the earlier ones being heavy wooden clinker built, but soon being replaced by moulded GRP ones. I would be allowed to row up some of the quieter waterways, from being quite small. The only stipulations being that I wore a life jacket and stayed out of the main river course. We would hoist the lug sail from time to time, and my dad taught me how to sail on Horsey Mere. I used to row or sail up the 'New Cut' way past the old derelict wind pump, to a small staithe, which I think was as far as boats could go, then turning round and having to come all the way back. I had a lot more energy then than I have now!  If I wasn't sailing or rowing I would be fishing. There was never a dull moment, and long evening walks always ensured a good nights sleep. We would always find a quiet backwater mooring for the night where we wouldn't be disturbed by passing boats.

Catfield Dyke, off Barton Broad was one favourite, tucked away on the East side of the broad, with a sunken Wherry by the entrance to it. The staithe at the end slowly deteriorated over the years, and the water silted up. I believe it's been restored again now, and new moorings made. We used to walk from there to Catfield, and pick blackberries from the hedgerow at the side of the pathway on the way.  Another favourite spot was beyond Wayford Bridge, which is no longer navigable. There was a house on the left, and an old brick built bridge, which collapsed into the river some years ago, and presumably made it un-navigable. We would moor beyond the bridge, then pick blackberries in season, or row all the way to the lock pit at the end. I used to look down into the water and see fish swimming among the weeds. These were the places I would see pike from time to time, waiting almost motionless until disturbed or a feed came within range.

Richardson's boatyard at Stalham 1962

I think my dad's favourite boats were the 'Moorhen's' and after that, the 'Aviemore's' but as we children grew older, or other friends or family came with us we hired the larger 4, 5 and 6 berth cruisers. The first GRP Hulled 4 berth to be added to the 'Moores fleet' was 'Baltimore'. A 6 berth (Glenmore I think), was also introduced at about the same time.  Doubts existed as to if these would be as warm or as sturdy as the wooden craft. Some people may still discuss it, but their arrival marked the end of the hand built timber cruiser. We hired a 'Baltimore' once, and from my perspective then, there was no discernable difference.

I left home to work in 1974, and missed out on holidays on a boat for several years. It must have been during this time that the old 'Moores' sold all their fleet of cruisers and dipped out of the holiday cruiser hire business. I think they may have continued building small craft or something, but don't know for sure. The next time I went on a 'Moores' boat it was re named 'Star Countess', and I think was operated by Ernest Collins. I think it was a re-named Aviemore, but it was a little sad and needed some TLC to bring it back up to its former glory. That was in about 1985

Since then I have hired boats from a number of yards, including the resurrected, phoenix like, 'Moore and Co’, and in some ways rediscovered the pleasures I enjoyed as a child. Fortunately my wife and 3 children find enjoyment on the Broads, so we still holiday there from time to time.

Charles Roebuck 2007

See more of Charles Roebuck’s photographs of the 1950s

See more of Charles Roebuck’s photographs of the 1960s