Blakes were still offering houseboats for hire including the wherries “Olive”, “White
Moth” and “Rambler” who had, by now, lost their sails and were permanently moored.
Costs for these were between £3 15s and £5 per person per week. In 1961 “Rambler”
had gone from the brochure and in 1963 there were no wherries listed as being available
to hire through Blakes. The number of houseboats and bungalows in the Hoseasons
brochure was quite considerable by 1961 and ranged from the aptly named “Matchbox”
at St. Olaves which appeared to be a wooden, single roomed summerhouse sleeping two
people at £5 10s to £10 10s per week, up to the 6 berth “Sunnysideways” at Potter
Heigham which was available at a cost of between £9 10s and £19 per week.
The early 1960s also saw another innovation to boat construction on The Broads when
Windboats of Wroxham launched the first of their craft constructed using “Seacreate”.
Graham Bunn, the son of Wroxham boat builder Herbert Bunn, had established his Windboats
company in the early 1920s and was renowned for building many fine wooden cruisers.
The company had been purchased in 1945 by Donald Hagenbach and in the following year
started producing their more modern range of hire cruisers. In the 1950s they had
built a 44ft motor yacht for the entertainer George Formby and were one of the first
companies to begin producing GRP boats in Norfolk. They also began building alloy
motor boats and in 1961 built one of these for Prince Rainier of Monaco. The construction
of the “Seacrete” boats commenced in 1960 and in 1963 they exhibited one of their
craft at the London Boat Show. Ferro-cement was not a new invention, however, as
photographic records show examples of dinghies made using this method built by Joseph
Louis Lambot at Mirval in Southern France c1848. It was patented in France in 1855
under the name of Fericement and examples of boats made at that time are still known
to be afloat today. Ferro-cement construction involves a method of using steel wires
which are then covered in a mixture of sand and cement which sometimes included the
addition of an epoxy resin. It was this combination of concrete and resin that Windboats
used to build their craft at Wroxham.
Other changes evident in hire craft during the early 1960s were the increase in the
numbers of boats appearing with sliding sunroofs and, along with the other modern
conveniences, the introduction of showers. The first shower to be fitted to a Broads
cruiser was on a Broom Admiral built for a private customer in 1961. Apparently the
old boys at Brooms shook their heads when they saw it and said that it would never
catch on! The hire fleets soon caught on to the fact that showers occupied a small
space and were an added selling point for holidaymakers. There were also some very
novel designs of motor cruiser being produced including the strange looking 2 berth
“River Bure” which was available to hire from Easticks in 1961. This was listed as
“original styling and finished in contemporary shades giving this all weather cruiser
a unique appearance”. They weren’t kidding!
Hoseasons holiday brochures were being presented very much like a magazine at this
time, with articles and features aimed at the female audience as well as the male.
The 1961 edition contained a special “Mermaid” supplement for women with advice on
cooking (which we were told was something even the men on board would enjoy doing)
and nautical fashions. Broadland was promoted as a location for newly weds in an
article entitled “Ideal Honeymoon” and there was a feature on “true rugged outdoor
type” Bill Solomon, the then harbour master at Oulton Broad, of whom was written;
“Bill has a twinkle in his eye that’s hard to resist”. These were very much pre
PC times! For several years a page or two was given over to the comments of the
film, televison and radio personalities of the day who enjoyed visiting the Broads.
For those old enough to remember, names included Russ Conway, Dick Emery, George
Formby, Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Kenneth Horne and Eve Boswell.
Whilst the numbers of motor cruisers available for hire through the agencies was
increasing at a fast pace, the numbers of sailing cruisers on hire was in decline.
Hoseasons 1960 brochure had just 19 yachts available and by 1964 Blakes, although
still offering a good selection, were down to having just 13 pages of sailing craft
as opposed to the 40 pages of motor cruisers. On the rivers the actual numbers of
sailing craft had doubled since 1947, due mainly to the advent of cheaper, plywood
Jack Holt had designed the “Enterprise” in 1956 and it was one of the first dinghies
to open up the possibilities of sailing to a wider market. These two person dinghies
had poor buoyancy and earned a reputation for sinking. In 1957 the “Wayfarer” was
introduced, designed by Ian Proctor, which went through many changes over the years.
Originally made of Plywood, the Mark 1 GRP version was launched in 1965 and over
2,000 of them were produced. However, it was the “Mirror” dinghy which arrived on
the scene in 1962 which is probably responsible for getting more people sailing than
any other boat. Designed by Jack Holt and Barry Bucknell, a TV do-it-yourself expert
of the time, and named after the “Daily Mirror” newspaper, the “Mirror” dinghy was
promoted from the onset as an affordable sailing craft for all. It was robust and
easy to maintain and has been the method of introduction to sailing for many teenagers
and children over the years.
Elsewhere, Percy Hunters fleet at Ludham were still proving to be a popular choice
for experienced sailors although in 1962 Percy finally relented to the pressure from
Blakes and introduced the motor cruiser “Saskia” to his fleet which had been built
by Collins Pleasurecraft in the early 1950s. Percy was clearly not too happy about
this and stipulated that she could only be hired from a Wednesday to Wednesday to
prevent her being in the dyke on the normal Saturday changeover day for his yachts.
Continued on the next page
The 1960s - An Historical Overview
By the early 1960s Broadland had become one of the most important holiday destinations
within the UK. The resident population, whilst still relatively small, had been
growing due to the availability of work within the holiday industry and also the
improvements in modern transport. These improvements in transport also made the area
far more accessible to the many holidaymakers who flocked to the region to enjoy
the waterways and the East coast resorts. Land based accommodation in Broadland had
increased with new hotels and guest houses opening and the number of riverside bungalows
and chalets available for hire had also risen greatly. At Potter Heigham alone there
was bungalow accommodation for 900 people. The number of motorised hirecraft available
had increased fourfold since the 1940s and the developments which had been made meant
that cruisers were now being built for comfort and ease of use. In 1960 Blakes now
offered 850 craft for hire from 44 boatyards and for this season the pricing was
listed as per person rather than per boat. A new introduction from them in this year
was the availability of sailing and motor cruiser tuition. Sailing courses were held
over 6 weekends during the year and cost £7 7s per head whilst two hour sessions
for cruiser skippers were held from mid March to May at a cost of £2 for a party
of up to four people.
Changes to boat design and layout were clearly evident as new sporty looking lines
were introduced and diesel engines were being fitted to more craft. Modern conveniences
and appliances were becoming more common place and the latest in interior design
was featured heavily too. The 2 berth “Gay Grenadier” from Jenners of Thorpe had
a household size multi burner gas cooker and a Kepcold cabinet for keeping food fresh
and cost between £8 13s and £15 per person per week.
The 3 berth “April Dawn” from Dawn Craft of Wroxham was listed as being a mahogany
cruiser which was “plastic lined in light colours” whose main cabin contained a wardrobe,
sideboard and cocktail cabinet. Sister vessels “September” and “October” Dawn also
had “dual steering – gear shift operated by The Armstrong Hydraulic Activator Unit”
and cost from £7 4s up to £12 7s per person per week to hire. Whilst many new builds
were featured there were still a large number of the pre-war boats available for
hire including the 4 berth “Romany” from L.A.Robinson at Oulton Broad and J.Loynes
2 berth “Golden Plover” from Wroxham which had been built in 1915.
Hoseasons were claiming to have the most modern hire fleet on the Broads with 9 out
of 10 cruisers available having been built since the war, all featuring “the latest
modern pump flushing Broads-Flap WC’s”. A marketing tool they introduced in 1960
was the “Rain Free Guarantee” which stated that “should it rain for more than 0.1
inches during any day of your vacation taken in April or May we refund that day’s
hire charge in full”. This guarantee was based on results of meteorological observations
taken in Norwich which, they claimed, proved that East Anglia was the driest region
in the UK. Another new idea for this year were the “Broadland Caravettes” which
were 4 berth VW camper vans equipped with a double dinette, two single berths for
children, a built in calor gas cooker and wash basin plus an extension awning. These
ran from Great Yarmouth and cost from £17 to £28 per week which included unlimited
mileage and membership of the Automobile Association. Whether the idea was unsuccessful,
or whether the vehicles became too abused is unsure, but they were only offered for
hire in this year.
The 1961 Hoseasons brochure also found one of the earliest introductions to the Blakes
and Hoseasons hire fleets of cruisers built with fibreglass hulls, with Bridge Craft
of Acle adding “Conway”, “Windsor”, “Brooklyn” and “Humber Bridge” to their range.
These aft cockpit cruisers featured a forward double or two single berths and cost
from £17 per week rising to £31 in peak season. Over the next decade the numbers
of fibre glass boats were to increase greatly although many yards continued to build
traditional wooden cruisers.