In 1950 Britain was still recovering from the after effects of the Second World War.
There had been an initial economic boom in the first few years after the war but
this was followed by a downturn in the early 1950s. Petrol rationing finally came
to an end in May 1950 but the rationing of certain foodstuffs continued until 1954.
Around Broadland, businesses had been trying to continue building on the holiday
boom which had begun prior to the outbreak of war. As fashions and leisure pursuits
changed, the pubs and hotels were changing with them and new establishments were
opening. Blakes 1951 brochure contained an advert for The Petersfield House Hotel
and Country Club at Horning which stated “This new hotel is designed for those who
desire the acme of comfort and good cuisine”. Amongst the facilities offered were
a cocktail bar (a new trend advertised at several riverside establishments), lounges,
tennis, badminton, miniature golf and delightful waterside anchorage along with all
weather day launches for hire. Broads visitors could use the facilities for a 2 shilling
short term membership subscription but this had to be paid for at least two days
ahead of your holiday.
The hire fleets had all suffered greatly during the war years, as has previously
been detailed, but by the early 1950s the numbers of yachts and motor cruisers for
hire were increasing at a fast pace. In the Blakes 1951 brochure there were 71 pages
of sailing craft, 81 pages of motor cruisers and 14 houseboats available for hire
from 32 boatyards. The average cost per head for a weeks boat hire was quoted as
£6 with food and other expenses estimated at £2 per person. Newly introduced this
year was the “Advance Pay-As-You Go Plan” designed to allow customers to pay a deposit
for their holiday followed by regular instalments of the remaining balance. The “Anchors
Aweigh” booklet was now being sent out to all customers prior to the start of their
holiday giving boating and holiday advice, and a 16mm full colour cine film entitled
“Broadland Adventure” was available for loan in both silent and sound versions. Cine
film was starting to become a popular medium, although was highly expensive at this
time, and Blakes also included a note that “we also welcome the opportunity to see
any films made by clients that feature Broadland scenes”.
Of the motor cruisers on offer, one of the cheapest was the tiny 17ft, 2 berth “Peter
Pan” from H.T.Percival at Horning which cost between £12 and £17 a week to hire.
Brooms of Brundall were offering several classes of motor cruiser for hire ranging
from the 24ft, 4 berth “Cadet” at £22 10s to £31 per week, up to the 42ft “Admiral”
which had 8 berths, two toilets and a full size bath which cost from £40 to £54 10s
for a weeks hire. Herbert Woods yard were now offering ten of their 2 berth “Starlight”
class for a cost of £16 10s to £23 10s per week whilst the 36ft, 4 berth “Glimmer
Of Light” cost between £28 and £38 10s to hire.
Herbert Woods “Broadshaven” empire had been growing and expanding into many areas.
The hire fleet continued to be added to and in 1950 the famous passenger cruiser
“Her Majesty” was launched having been commissioned by Broads Tours at Wroxham. “Her
Majesty” was 60ft in length and could seat 100 people, she was constructed from English
oak with mahogany planking and her cost was given as £3,500 which included the Morris
engine. Some extra costs were incurred during her build including the official launch
party which was attended by long term Broads visitors Mr and Mrs George Formby who
had a holiday home “Heronby” at Wroxham and owned several boats. The party itself
was a lavish affair for guests but the craftsmen who built her were given just a
celebratory half pint of beer!
Woods had also purchased George Applegates yard at Potter Heigham from which he ran
a fleet of half deckers and “Viking” day motor launches. These all weather launches
had a canopy which could be pulled up and over and could be hired at a cost of 10
shillings an hour, £3 a day or £10 for a week. Even though the yard was close to
the Broadshaven marina, he retained the Applegates name for this yard as he felt
that some clients would prefer to hire from what they perceived to be a small company.
By 1950 Herbert had also acquired the Broadshaven Hotel and Bridge Stores at Potter
Heigham along with a market garden nearby which provided both establishments with
supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables along with eggs and honey. The stores became
the supplier of grocery orders for the clients of his hire fleet. Herbert had also
purchased Southgates yard at Horning along with several acres of marshland on Swan
Corner as part of his new “Broadland Yachting Co. Ltd.”, new cruisers and yachts
were built here under the Southgates name.
Although the motor cruiser was now becoming the more popular choice for visitors
who wanted a boating holiday, sailing was still attracting many people and the choice
of boats was varied. In the 1951 Blakes brochure, half deckers with camping awnings
could be hired from £8 per week, the 20ft, 2 berth, “Waif” class of cruiser from
the N.B.Y.Co. at Wroxham cost between £11 and £15 10s and Herbert Woods 5 berth “Leading
Lady” cost from £23 to £31 10s. Whilst these craft were fitted with modern gas stoves
and electric lighting, Percy Hunter’s fleet at Womack retained their oil gimbal lamps
and primus stoves. By 1950, the Hunters had built their fleet up to 14 yachts and
two half-deckers. Blakes had tried to persuade Percy to follow the trend and add
motor cruisers to the fleet but he was apparently very much against this idea, his
dislike for these craft was evident as he referred to them as “stink boats”.
Hunters had built up a good reputation for hiring out high quality sailing cruisers
and were able to retain their loyal following of enthusiastic hirers who were unlikely
to want to hire motor boats. In 1951 their 3 berth “Wood Rose” class cost between
£13 and £18 to hire for a week and the 4 berth “Lustre” class were £17 10s out of
season rising to £25 10s at peak rate. Some of the old pleasure wherries and wherry
yachts were still around, although most of those that remained had now been de-masted
and were being used as houseboats. The auxiliary wherry yacht “White Moth” was still
under sail as was the wherry “Olive” which could be hired, accompanied by two attendants,
for between £43 and £58 10s per week.
The sailing clubs too were still attracting plenty of interest, in 1953 membership
of the Horning Sailing Club stood at over 700 as did that of the Norfolk Broads Yacht
Club. New clubs were still forming, with both the Hickling and Coldham Hall sailing
clubs starting in the early 1950s. One of the most interesting sailing clubs was
formed in 1949 by a small group of enthusiasts at Potter Heigham who wished to continue
sailing during the winter months. This went on to become The Snowflake Sailing Club
and by 1952 they had 30 members including one George Southgate. Eventually the club
were invited to sail from Horning Sailing Club where they have remained ever since.
The Norwich Frostbite Sailing Club, another group or winter sailors, had formed in
1933 and by the 1950s had built their headquarters and clubhouse at Thorpe St. Andrew.
Despite the popularity that remained for sailing, it was clear by the early 1950s
that motor cruisers and launches were out-numbering the sailing craft available for
hire. Another new boat hire agency had arrived in 1948 in the form of Bradbeers who
were based at Lowestoft and became known as the “Red Whale” fleet. Hoseasons had
also been growing from strength to strength. Wally Hoseason had sadly passed away
in 1950 and his son James, then in his 20s, had taken over the running of the company.
By 1953 he represented 12 boatyards and this years brochure featured 16 pages of
yachts, 58 pages of motor cruisers and nearly 50 pages of houseboats, caravans, bungalows
and houses to hire throughout Broadland. In the introduction to the brochure it was
claimed that nearly two out of three craft offered had been built since the war and
the modern conveniences on board the boats were given great prominence.
Of the newly built boats listed were several from Ripplecraft at Somerleyton including
the 24ft, 4 berth “Broadland Widgeon” and “Broadland Mallard” which were available
for between £20 and £34 per week, and the smaller 2 berth “Broadland Dabchick” which
cost between £11 and £21 for a weeks hire. There was also the very sporty looking,
2 berth “Minna” from R.Bondon of South Walsham which was described as being “an entirely
new design of speedy cruiser of very attractive appearance”, and cost from £13 to
£23 per week to hire. Many of the bungalows listed in Hoseasons 1953 brochures were
very simple affairs, mostly with outside toilets, which cost from around £6 to £14
per week depending on size and season. Of the caravans on offer, one of the most
interesting was an old converted bus called “Annette” which could sleep four and
was located on a farm at Horsey.
Hoseasons also made mention of some of the attractions which were on offer for younger
visitors: “Though much emphasis has been laid on the peaceful solitude of Broadland,
let it not be assumed that entertainment is lacking. Paradoxically, there are a surfeit
of thrills and spills to satisfy the most speed-crazy youngster. Speedway, horse
and motor boat racing, dancing and speed boat trips.” In fact the regular Thursday
evening motor boat races at Oulton Broad were now attracting large crowds of spectators
some of whom moored out on the Broad to watch events. Dances were still held regularly
around the Broadland towns and villages but not quite to the extent that they had
been during the 1930s and 1940s.
Horning Swan still advertised dancing every Wednesday and also played host to the
GR mobile cinema on Friday evenings whilst the Anchor Hotel in Coltishall held dances
every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and also had a bowling green on offer for guests
use. At Potter Heigham, The Bridge Hotel still had their dancehall with an adjoining
ice cream bar and the Thurne Haven Hotel were advertising their “fish and chip saloon”.
On the Southern Broads, the Beauchamp Arms offered riding, sailing and fishing holidays
and held dances every Saturday night, Burgh Castle yacht station now had an 11 acre
camping and caravan site and provided a number of day boats, yachts, houseboats,
chalets and tents for hire and, at Thorpe St. Andrew, the Town House guest house
offered sailing dinghies for hire with picnic baskets.
It should be mentioned that the night of the 31st of January 1953 saw the area experience
its worst peacetime tragedy as sustained, force 11 northerly gales forced a sea surge
to hit the Norfolk and Suffolk coastline almost eight feet above normal high tide
levels. 5,000 homes were destroyed, 40,000 acres of arable land was flooded and 144
people died in the two counties. Many areas of Broadland experienced severe flooding
as the water breached embankments and destroyed river banks. A more detailed account
of the floods of 1953 is planned and will follow at a later date.