The first photograph is from 1902 and features the lock and lock keepers cottage
at Coltishall. At this time, the navigation continued a further nine miles upriver
to Aylsham and had been a well used transport route with, it is said, up to 26 wherries
serving this section of the waterway at one time. As with the rest of the system,
it was the coming of the railways which led to a major decline in goods being transported
by river, although some holiday traffic continued to use this stretch. The major
floods of August 1912 effectively closed the navigation beyond this point as all
five locks, and several of the road bridges were washed away in the deluge and the
funding could not be found to carry out all of the necessary repair works. Although
river traffic ceased at this time, the waterway was not officially abandoned until
Looking downstream towards Coltishall Lock - a wherry is making its way upriver.
There was a limit on the size of vessel which could travel beyond Coltishall of a
maximum of 54 ft in length with a 13ft 9” beam as far as Buxton Lamas, reducing to
a 12ft 8” beam from Buxton Lamas to Aylsham, and a maximum draught of 3.5 ft. The
trading wherry “Zulu” was famously trapped on the Upper Bure after the 1912 floods
and was hauled manually around the obstructions on slides to enable her to get back
An unidentified pleasure wherry, photographed by Joseph Benson in 1902 - possibly
on the River Bure between Wroxham and Coltishall.
A heavily laden trading wherry being quanted at an unknown location in 1902.
Sailing on Wroxham Broad in 1902.
Another photograph taken at Wroxham Broad - the River Bure can be seen beyond.
Looking back tow where Joseph had been standing to take the previous photograph at
An eel-catchers hut on the River Bure, also pictured in 1902. I have seen seen several
photographs and postcards of the same hut from the late Victorian era and early part
of the 20th century, so it seems to have been a fixture on this spot for at least
The following pages are devoted to a collection of photographs which were taken by
Joseph Benson between 1902 and 1912. Born in 1874 in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria,
Joseph was the son of a Master Mariner and himself trained as a naval architect,
eventually working at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Glasgow. Joseph was obviously
a keen sailor and took several boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads during the
early part of the 20th century. He passed his love of sailing onto his son, Maxwell,
who was taught to sail by his father as a young boy and later went on to serve with
the Royal Navy during WW2. Joseph was also a keen amateur photographer, and captured
some wonderful images of Edwardian Broadland. My thanks go to Ray Arnold for taking
the time to scan, edit and send the collection to me.