River Thurne
 Postcards from the Norfolk Broads.net 
   The River Thurne
Thurne Dyke                                                                                          

                                                                                                      Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd
Thurne Dyke and Mill near the junction of the rivers Thurne and Bure. Thought to be photographed in the late 1940s. The mill was acquired by Mr. R. Morse in 1949 and he restored the building externally. Since then it has become well known as the ‘White Mill’ and is thought likely to be the most photographed mill on the Broads, if not in the UK?

There is nothing to help identify the Yacht in the foreground, although moored behind her are two Herbert Woods yachts of the Leading Lady type.

This yacht nearest the camera appears about to leave on a broad reach. Of course, you couldn’t actually do that, its almost a lee shore. The yacht crew would need to raise sail with the bows facing upstream and then turn to sail away off the wind, probably helped by the quant or backing the jib.

At times, on the Broads, when sailing with a [more or less] constant following wind direction but with each ‘reach’ of the river requiring a new course, sailing can be almost akin to tacking ‘down wind’ and it may be that this is what is happening here? I doubt this however, due to the yacht’s proximity to the bank.

                                                                                                                                                 Photo © John Hinde Ltd

Here is my first mystery challenge, 2009:

This is Thurne again but, I believe, some years later. Probably around 1965 -70? (posted 1975) Again, we clearly have a ‘Leading Lady’ (see addendum below) on the moorings but the smart yacht in the foreground has all but defeated me.

She looks to be just over twenty foot and is clearly well maintained and in hire, note the Blakes Yacht Owners Association plaque. She is still ‘in varnish’ but is not a Hunter yacht. The twist in her mainsail may suggest a gaffed rig but given the length of mast visible I would lean more towards a Bermudan.

Her lines remind me of the older Wroxham yachts or ‘Reverie’ (Gunter) and ‘Squall’ (Bermudan) built by Fred Press and on hire from Chumley & Hawke at Horning, after the war, and latterly from Eastwood Whelpton (at nearby Upton) where they were presented with white hulls.  Unfortunately, I cannot confirm this, their numbers do not match and I do not have a good picture of these yachts in varnish. Her trunk lifting roof could be a clue but it has not helped me in this case.

Exceptionally, her number: A 992 is very clearly visible in the original picture. This should be a rare gift but I have failed to trace her, even with the help of Craig Slawson’s excellent database at  www.horning.org.uk/boats

The Answer: 15th May 2009. Thanks to the help of Craig Slawson himself, I am now confident that the craft above is 'Pimpernel' a 23 ft 6inch 2-3 Berth Auxiliary Yacht from the yard of Ernest Collins at Wroxham. I had also acquired another picture showing her to be Gunter rigged and sailing with the optional self-tacking jib. With hind sight and when you know her rig you can just make out her gaff in the picture. it is not obvious because it is aligned perfectly with the mast. The Pimpernel class were auxiliary sisters to the engineless but otherwise similar 'Mayfly' class.

                                                                                © Blakes Holiday Boating 1966

                            Craig has kindly provided me with this image from the 1966 Blake's catalogue.

Addendum (2) September 2015: I am pleased to say that another visitor to this site has been able to assist in the identification of the other yacht, in this view, which I had too hastily assumed was a 'Leading Lady' class. I wrote the above article back in 2009 and now I have to agree with Peter Baynton that it is surprising that he is the first person to question this identification? Back in 2009 I took one look at the long foredeck and the centrally raised roof section with side windows and jumped to my conclusion. At the time I thought that this was a feature exclusive to the 'Perfect' & 'Leading Lady' classes. All the smaller Herbert Woods' group yachts had variations of the, more common, one piece roof design; although the rather different 'Twilight' class did have a central section but that tilted up from hinges at the forward bulkhead. To this day I was not aware that the Fair Lady class (which, until now, I believed was simply the Auxiliary version of the 'Fine Lady' class) also enjoyed this full length feature.

I am grateful to Peter who was a regular hirer of these yachts, and thus very familiar with them, for pointing out the correct identification to me. 

                                                                                                                                      © Blakes Holiday Boating 1975

Here are the details of 'Fair lady' from 1975, unfortunately Blakes used the same picture for many years and this is the best I could find. The first two of these yachts were introduced as a new class rather than an upgrade, in the early 1960's. They remained in hire at Herbert Woods' Ltd. until the early 1980's when that company finally disposed of their remaining yacht fleet. Following that, examples were available for hire from Barnes Brinkcraft and Mike Barnes' Norfolk Broads Yachting Company.  There is a rather better picture of 'Fair Lady' to be found on the River Ant page. 

                                                                                                                                        © Blakes Holiday Boating 1962

Finally, my earliest details of 'Fair Lady' yachts which are from 1962. From the information I have: the first examples must have been built between 1960 and 1961. I just need to check now that it is actually Thurne Mill in that postcard!

                                                                                                Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd

                                   Another favourite for its atmosphere. Thurne Dyke circa 1965.

For me, Thurne retains the flavour of rural Norfolk villages having thus far avoided the attention of the property developers. I remember visiting the shop on the quayside, but this is now an extended private home. In the distance you can distinguish a Martham Boat Building and Development Company cabin cruiser, perhaps of the ‘Janet’ or ‘Judith’ class, and the River Commissioner’s Launch nosing into the dyke on its patrol duties.
Outside the store is an Austin A40 ‘Dorset’ a model that was produced from 1947 to1951 but the little green Reliant is possibly even more nostalgic. It is a Reliant ‘Regal’ Mark III, a model that was first sold in November 1956 and superseded in November 1958.

It is perhaps surprising to find that this picture is probably over forty years old? Certainly the young couple enjoying the view do not especially give that away. This actual postcard is postally used and bears a Queen Elizabeth 11 2½d stamp. Unfortunately the date on the post mark is illegible but I believe that these stamps were replaced in 1967, where-after one separate 1/2d stamp was used in combination with all other whole amounts. In any event I sent a copy of this very card to my own girlfriend in 1967.

I returned there, with her, in 1970; on the occasion of my twenty first birthday. It was also the occasion of my first little yachting incident. Something that all Broads yachtsmen will have experienced - being cut up by a motor cruiser! That holiday was my first attempt at yachting on the Broads and at the time, I was a very inexperienced sailor. The humorous writer Michael Green defined his ‘Coarse Sailor’ as someone whom, in an emergency, forgets all nautical language and shouts “for God’s sake turn left!” That’s pretty much what happened to us, this day.

We were sailing back from Horsey Mere and had decided to put into Thurne Dyke for the night.  When we got there, the wind was fairly fresh and blowing straight down the river. I put our yacht onto a beam reach opposite the dyke with the intention of luffing up into the wind and stopping neatly at the dyke entrance; where it is widest by the mill. From there we could motor into the dyke and moor up in a smart and seamanlike fashion. Good plan eh? I thought it was too until, just as I was about to luff, a bloke in a motor cruiser decided to overtake me on my windward side!  I suppose that, if I had been quick witted, I might have put up my helm and gybed around for another try but I was neither quick witted or brave enough to attempt this and I found myself sailing full-pelt up Thurne dyke; between the moored boats and not much idea of how to stop. There wasn’t even room to ease off the mainsheet and spill some wind! So at the first gap in the moored boats, to windward, I turned left! There was probably less than the yacht’s own length to stop in and we hit the piling with a pretty hard bang. Fortunately, as far as I could tell there was no real damage done but it was a bit nerve wracking for a while there. My first case of rhond rage! 

This recollection of Michael Green’s quotation prompted me to root out my copy and re-read his book for the first time in many years. I was very amused to hear him recall a similar incident when he sailed up Thurne dyke [in his case] with a following wind. He doesn’t explain how he came to be in that predicament (temporary insanity of ship’s captain perhaps?) but his solution was to bring the mud weight aft and drop it over the stern! I suppose that might help? I do know that if you let one fall off the fore deck, when heeled, you end up tacking around in ever decreasing circles until it dawns on you what has happened!

                                                                                                                © www.judges.co.uk                                              

I couldn’t have resisted this one! It is the first cabin cruiser my family ever hired, on the Broads; ‘Royal Times’. She was also the first Cruiser built by Ernest Royall when he founded his own fleet, at Norwich, around 1950. ‘Royal Times’ was soon followed by her sister ‘Royal Trail’ and it would appear that both the cruisers were present when this picture was taken; although it is not possible to be certain which is which? For many years ‘Royal Trail’ was presented ‘in varnish’ but this photograph (which must date from the late 1960’s or early 1970’s) shows the boats after they had been updated. The most obvious modification being the wooden wheelhouse sides and roll-down canopy. Originally they had a solid canopy and canvas side curtains. A third cruiser ‘Royal Tour’ was listed in the 1950’s but disappeared soon after. I do not know what happened to her and can only imagine she was a casualty of some sort; perhaps the classic Calor Gas leak?

These boats were replaced in the early 1970’s by the ‘Royal Command’ class which was based on the Bourne 30’ GRP Hull.

Womack Water - Ludham

                                                                                                                     A 'Colour Master - International' Postcard 
Cruisers moored ‘stern-to’ at  Ludham Staithe - Womack Water, thought to be around 1970.

S887 ‘Fiesta’ is a 36 foot, centre cockpit cruiser of 6 berths, on hire from Stalham Yachting Station.

Alongside her is W110  ‘Fair Quest 1’  A 28’6” aft cockpit cruiser of 3 berths. On hire from Herbert Woods Ltd - Potter Heigham. It is believed that this cruiser was originally ‘Dawn Falcon’ of Dawn Craft - Wroxham.

It was during this period, some time after the death of Herbert Woods that his group had been taken over by Ladbrokes and many ex-hire boats were bought up from other companies. A good example being a number of the ‘Vesta’ 4 Berths from ‘Landamores’ of Wroxham who disposed of all their hire cruisers after the 1967 season.

I had initially taken the boat lying to her mud weight, in the background, to be a Collins’ Silver Emblem or White Emblem as, like them, she is clearly of the Bourne 35 class. (See: Horning Ferry Reach)

This was questioned by Craig Slawson and after some discussion, and much magnification, we agreed that she is ‘Congressman’ built by the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company at Wroxham. She was a six berth, centre cockpit cruiser, of 35 foot and she was later moved to Compass Craft at Horning.

The hulls for these boats were supplied by Bourne Plastics (Nottingham) and, initially the Broadland boat builders finished them with wooden superstructures. I imagine that the designer drew the lines for the topsides but there would have been some latitude for variety in the design and finish of the final builds.    

I hope that this illustrates, it is not always as easy as it may appear to identify boats from such old pictures and that I am always happy to receive input from others.

                                                                                                 © Blakes Holiday Boating 1975

                                                                                                                                                      A 'Colour Master - International' Postcard
This is [for me] a more interesting view of Womack Water and Ludham Staithe. The land opposite is undeveloped and judging by this and the boats I believe it to have been photographed around 1960.

In the foreground is moored A276 ‘Gliding Stream’ she is a 2 berth, Woods ‘Starlight’ class on hire from the Southgates main-yard at Horning which was part of the Herbert Woods group.

The tiny cruiser, setting off, is T88 ‘Petit Barsac’ (5) a 19ft, 2 berth cruiser design unique to the firm of R. & C. Bondon of South Walsham who named all their craft after French wines.

                                                                                                                                                                  © Blakes Holiday Boating 1975

The larger cruiser moored stern-to is clearly an early build of R. Richardson’s, of the ‘Wayfarer’ type but unfortunately I have been unable, thus far, to pinpoint which class she is?

In the far background we can just make out a Moore’s cruiser which appears to be of the ‘Benmore’ type with the small viewing cockpit forward and a Herbert Woods’ cruiser, probably one of their larger classes.

                                                                                                                  Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, Kent ©

“Royal Command I” slips past the moorings at Womack Boats on her way to the Ludham Staithe, in the early 1970’s.

This class is instantly recognisable to me and a personal favourite because I enjoyed two weeks charter of Royal Command II myself, in 1974, she had a GRP hull and mahogany topsides. Royall’s are a long established family firm of the very highest repute and are surely one of the very few firms still to be run by members of the founder’s family? You can find photographs and the story of this holiday of mine at their web-site: www.royallsboatyard.com / Journals / Memories from the 1960’s & 1970’s. 

                                                                                                            © Hoseasons Ltd 1976

I am not so familiar with Womack Boats who only appear to have been trading from here for a few years? The cruiser behind ‘Command’ is “Lady Sacha” and the little cruiser, facing her, with the windows in her upper hull is “Sacha Maid”. Nearest to the camera is “Sachina”; hmmm  am I starting to see a trend here? I don’t know the identity of the blue boat (or if she was really blue, for that matter!) but she has the look of a Peter Pan class from
H. T. Percival of Horning

                        Ludham Staithe                                                                                                                 © Brian Kermode 2004

Womack Water, these days, with ‘Gala Girl 1’ a Sheerline or Aquafibre type, 28' 2-3 berth cruiser, on hire from Summer Craft of Wroxham in 2004. Summer Craft is a family run business with a reputaion for immaculate hire craft and was established in the 1950's with a small fleet of cruisers built by Moores of Wroxham and Brooms of Brundall. Undeniably two of the finest boatbuilding firms in the region at that time.The Summercraft yard at Brimbelow Road was also the location where Ernest Royall first established his business at Wroxham - Hoveton.

Potter Heigham

                                                                                                  Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd

The Yacht moorings at ‘Herbert Woods’ Broads Haven - circa 1950.

This earliest of Broads marinas was initially completed in 1931 and had a footbridge over the entrance dyke for those who must walk along the rond to reach the numerous riverside bungalows of Potter Heigham on the west bank.

Moorings on the main river bank, were usually reserved, for the yard’s many yachts so that they did not need to pass under the foot bridge, into the main marina. That would require that they lower their masts to enter or leave. It also provided a likely spot for visiting yachts to stop and lower their mast before proceeding under the bridge.

The nearest boat appears to be of the ‘Leading Lady’ class (although the possibility that she is Ladybird cannot be ruled out - see Lower River Bure) Leading Ladies were 32 foot, 5 berth yachts distinguishable by their full length lifting cabin tops which had hinged mahogany side elevations with windows. This was an innovative ‘Herbert Woods’ design feature of the ‘Leading Lady’ and ‘Perfect Lady’ classes which were designed and in-hire before the 2nd World War. Originally, they were presented with their mahogany hulls in bright varnish. It is probable that the yacht further back is of the slightly smaller (28 foot 4 berth) ‘Perfect Lady’ class?

Realistically, these yachts are distinctive in themselves but it is not always possible to distinguish between the two classes in a picture postcard. The two designs’ appearances are very similar albeit the four foot longer ‘Leading Ladies’ had a proportionately longer fore deck and a flatter sheer line. Therefore a little guess work is inevitable and hopefully will be forgiven. 

Thankfully we can be a little more confident about the identity of the two cabin cruisers on the moorings. Nearest the camera is B761 one of the ten ‘Starlight’ class, 24 foot, forward cockpit, 2 berth cruisers from the fleet of Herbert Woods.

                                                          © Blakes Holiday Boating 1959

Astern of ‘Starlight’ is B140 ‘Gipsy Maid 2’ a cute (well, I think so!) little pre-war cruiser showing the “trunk roof” style, popular when she was built. That is to say that the hull sides were raised to allow almost full headroom in the forward cabin. The foredeck would be flush or (as in this case) the central area would be further raised, usually incorporating side windows, to allow full headroom where it was most needed. The 23 ft. Gipsy Maid 2 had three berths in two cabins and could be hired from Eastwick’s Yacht Station at Acle Dyke. If you look carefully their burgee can be clearly seen on Gypsy Maid’s bow.

                                                              © Blakes Holiday Boating 1946

In 1939 a week’s holiday in the high season, just before war broke out, would have cost £10. That is around £490 today.

                                                                                                     Postcard by ‘Marlyn Art’ Co. Ltd. Westcliff-on-Sea
The view into ‘Broads Haven’ marina from the footbridge. Thought to be around 1960.

In the foreground is A315 ‘Spray’  She was a 33ft.6in. 'Eastick's 34' design, four berth cruiser. 'Spray' was built in 1954 and was in hire from Turner’s Boatyard (Horning) Ltd. for approximately thirty years. By 1965 she had received a face lift which included the painting of her hull in white. This yard's small hire fleet was founded by Alfred Turner after the 2nd World War but was later sold to Mr Dennis George, who changed the name and the pennant, this was probably in 1953.

'Spray' and the Auxiliary Yacht 'Daffodil' were the first new additions to the fleet for the 1954 season; after the change of ownership. The remaining fleet of four yachts, two motor cruisers and several houseboats was eventually sold off in1983. Recently I was pleased to discover that 'Spray' is still around and cherished by her current owners in really nice original looking condition. She even retains her proper name, a nice touch which always appeals to a nostalgia junky such as myself. Here's a recent photo:

                                                                                                                                           Photo Courtesy of Hayley Warne

Moored alongside (in the postcard) is S188 ‘Osprey 2’ a 41ft 6in. 7 berth on hire from R. Richardson (Pleasure Craft) Ltd. at Stalham. Osprey 2 differed in appearance from the rest of her class with her varnished hull and in that her Galley and Heads were in the fore cabin. This gave her forward windows a distinctly different look to that of her six sister craft.

                                                                                                                                                     © Blakes Holiday Boating 1975

I have not attempted to identify the craft in the moorings behind, except to say that the white hulled cruiser directly behind ‘Spray’ is similar to W766 Waveney Cruisers’  ‘Anglian Sonnet’   

                                                                                                Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd

The present day Potter Heigham Staithe, Repps bank, probably in the late 1960’s. A day boat looks to be leaving a little too much wash for comfort on the moorings?

Across the river can be seen the previously mentioned footbridge over the entrance to ‘Broads Haven’ In those days, visiting craft who wished to proceed upstream under the road bridge would call here to take on board the bridge pilot. His technique would include a confident approach followed by a slight cut back in power on entry and a burst of throttle under the bridge to make the boat’s stern sit down lower in the water. If the pilot was in luck you may meet another craft coming downstream and he would step across to her without the need to stop. You are well advised to use the pilot service. Many hirers have ignored this rule and come to grief; at times, much to the morbid amusement of the onlookers, both locals and visitors.

On the right we have ‘Princess of Hearts’ a 36 foot cabin cruiser of 7 berths from Hearts Cruisers of Thorpe - Norwich. She carries the yard’s signature life belt, bearing her name, and one piece sliding wheelhouse which was a pioneering design when these craft were built. The company later became part of the Herbert Woods group.

                                                                                                                                                                                © Blakes Holiday Boating 1975

On the yacht moorings one can identify a ‘Gay Lady’ and a yacht of the Leading or Perfect Lady classes. Perhaps more intriguing is the yacht in mid stream that appears to be under [lowering] sail with her boom in the long crutches and the cabin roof raised.

Broads yachts are supplied with two pairs of crutches. A long set to support the boom and awning overnight and a short pair to support the spars and lowered mast when passing under bridges. Even with her mast lowered it seems doubtful that she would make it under the bridge rigged in this way? 

                                                                                                                                                          An ‘Ernest Joyce’ of Norwich postcard 

Just down stream of the famous ‘Potter Heigham Bridge’, River Thurne. Thought to have been photographed in the early 1960’s or perhaps even the late 1950’s?

‘Vesta’ 2 (About to pass under the bridge) is evidently still on hire from her builders E.C. Landamore & Co. of Wroxham. Landamores disposed of all the motor cruisers in their hire fleet in post-season1967. In this photograph Vesta still bears the images of their burgee embossed on her transom.

 © Blakes Holiday Boating 2009

Vesta 2 was one of those craft that later remained in hire from the Ladbrokes/Herbert Woods Group. She was 32 foot long and had berths for a party of four. In any event this card has been seen postally used four years earlier in 1963.

The yacht, midstream is most likely the ex-Applegate's 'Peggy'. A 26 foot 2 berth, Gaffer. A rig which was less common from Herbert Woods, who was an advocate of ‘Bermudan’ rigged Broads yachts, but she was built by George Applegate Jnr., whose firm was taken over by Herbert Woods, and later absorbed into the Broadshaven fleet.
From her position and the wind direction, it seems likely that ‘Peggy’ is about to turn into the wind (although she may have to ‘bear away’ a little first to avoid the cruiser passing across her bows!) and come alongside the Herbert Woods yacht moorings, ahead of ‘Gay Lady’ perhaps to lower her mast and make her way upstream to enjoy the sailing at Horsey Mere and Hickling Broad?

The ‘Gay Lady’ class yachts were 24 foot, 2 berth, Bermudan rigged craft, also on hire from Herbert Woods’ famous ‘Broads Haven’ at Potter Heigham. They could be distinguished by their stepped side decks and were also built for hire from the Southgate's and Applegate's yards where they were known as the 'Fair Breeze' and 'Freedom' classes.

                                                                                                        Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, Kent ©

Aren't these older cards atmospheric? I love them. This is the yard of George Applegate Junior, near Potter Heigham Bridge in the late 1940’s. Herbert Woods bought this yard in the early 1950’s but it continued to operate under its original identity for some years. The yard had a small fleet of cabin cruisers, yachts (such as the popular Winsome and Welcome class) and half deckers like the boat being prepared for a hirer here.

The cruiser moored alongside is ‘Saint Felix’ a 26 ft. aft cockpit craft with two berths. This boat was part of the original Applegate fleet and was replaced in the early 1950’s. Herbert Woods wished to preserve the, perhaps, more personal small yard atmosphere of this business; for customers who preferred that, and built several new craft which retained the classes’ “Saint” names and livery of Applegates.

The fact that the boatman chooses to prepare the day boat mid-stream surely indicates quieter days on the River Thurne but perhaps he is just bringing her across from the firm’s moorings opposite? Those moorings on the south bank were originally the location for George Applegate Senior’s boat hire business and, famously, that gentleman stayed in a quirky little, round, thatched cottage by the bridge which became known as the “Peggotty House,” presumably because it reminded people of the character in Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ who lived in an upturned boat.

The house stood near where the white launch is moored in this picture. When I saw this building whilst browsing through some old postcards, I was surprised how familiar it looked. I could not possibly have remembered it in reality. Then I recalled the Coot Club books and found that the building appears in Arthur Ransome’s pen and ink drawing of Potter Heigham Bridge which is in both of those books. I cannot be precise but it seems to me that the Peggotty house was demolished around the time of, or during, the 2nd World War. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who can help with this.

                                                        © Blakes Holiday Boating 1959

In 1948 ‘St Felix’ or her sister craft ‘St Winnold’ could be hired for £22/10/0d a week in the high season or £613 in today’s money.

                                                                                                 Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd

A view of Potter Heigham Bridge from upstream, thought to be around 1970 and, judging from the elevated view point of the camera, photographed from the new road bridge, which opened in 1968.

The wherry left me slightly mystified at first. I thought it might be ‘Albion’ during a period of maintenance but that usually takes place during winter and at Lake Lothing, Lowestoft. I have come to the conclusion that the wherry was that of Di (Dionysius)Thain whose father, of the same name, was a coal merchant and Wherry owner from the West Somerton / Martham area. Up to the 1960’s Di Thain Junio
r's family operated motor wherries in this area, latterly carrying out maintenance work such as dredging. Di would have been in his seventies by then but I am unsure when the business ended. I don’t believe that this is ‘The Fir’ but it is probable that she is ‘I’ll Try’.

In the foreground, approaching the bridge is ‘Commando’ first on-hire in 1958 from Waveney Yacht Station at Burgh St Peter she was 30ft. and had 4 or 5 berths. I hope the family are planning to stop for the bridge pilot because I wouldn’t like to be sitting on the stern there, going through!

‘Commando’ was sold to R. Richardson’s at Stalham but, judging from her turn out here, the artist's brush has been brought into play again. When new the boats ‘Commando’ and her sister ‘Grenadier’ (also the similar ‘Grebe’ from J.E. Fletcher at Oulton Broad) were finished in bright varnish, showing off their mahogany hulls. Later still: she was sold into the fleet of Womack Cruisers and her name was changed to ‘Sir Percivale’

                                                                                                                                                       © Blakes Holiday Boating 1980

Moored further downstream, by the Bridge Hotel, the white cabin cruiser is one of Fowler’s ‘Cheerful Waters’ class, of 36ft, 6 berth craft from their base at Oulton Broad. This class had their galley in the fore cabin which is the reason for the front facing window and skylight which can be seen in this picture. She was built around 1960 and displays the down turned rubbing strake that was a signature of the original Austin Marine 'Ohio' and 'Barracuda' designs.

Fowlers took over that fleet around 1963-4 and renamed them in-line with their ' Waters' boats which also displayed a distinctive yard style and included Fowler's ‘flying cockpit’ designs. We know that after Fowlers took over the Austin Marine fleet they remained with Blakes for a few years, until 1969 when they switched to Hoseasons. The photographer's location and the Bluebird emblems both suggest that the photograph was most likely to have been taken in the late 1960's or early 1970's. Fowlers ceased trading from Oulton Broad in 1972, following the purchase of the land where their yard and those of several others were purchased by the Greater London Council. From 1973 their fleet was operated from Ripplecraft at nearby Somerleyton; who eventually bought up the craft in 1977. Please see the Acknowledgments page ref. Peter Waller.

                                                                                                        ©  Hoseasons  Holidays  Ltd 1969

‘Calm Waters’ class. Included to illustrate the ‘flying cockpit’ dual steering style referred to above:

                                                                                          © Hoseasons Holidays Ltd 1969

                                                                                                                                      Postcard by ‘Marlyn Art’ Co. Ltd. Westcliff-on-Sea

This is the dyke at Martham Ferry Boatyard in the early 1960’s. Most likely a Saturday morning before the hire craft had departed on their week’s charter? The actual ferry across the nearby River Thurne is not so much a ferry as a floating pontoon that can be swung into place, bridging the river and enabling vehicles to cross.

The original ‘Laura Craft’ yard had some nice cabin cruisers built but after a change of ownership the yard was probably best known for their ‘Cresta’  yachts built in strip mahogany to their own designs and intended to provide both spacious accommodation and good sailing performance. They had a distinctive style and appearance, shared throughout the fleet, that made them instantly recognisable.

Unlike the generic Broads yachts, Crestas had no lifting cabin top. Instead they employed a little more ‘freeboard’ and the saloon cabin was raised ‘dog-house’ style to provide an ever ready and spacious interior. There was also a sliding hatch which could be opened under the awning to allow full standing headroom when on moorings.

The yachts were all Bermudan rigged (with roller reefing) and had their masts mounted in a tabernacle on the cabin roof. This arrangement was quite unusual (for the Broads) and meant that, there was no counter weight to assist in lowering and raising the mast for bridges. To compensate an ‘A’ frame supported the mast whilst a winch was employed under the fore cabin deck head. This design meant that it took a little longer to raise or lower the mast, than in traditionally equipped yachts, but resulted in the advantage of greater space below. A similar arrangement is to be found on A.D. Truman’s yachts which were also of distinct design and had similar specification but not appearance.  (See: River Ant)

That said, the yacht nearest the camera is B673 ‘Vagabond’ one of [part owner] Bernard Sinclair’s earlier hire fleet and a well known and powerful 27ft. Gaff Sloop of 2 to 3 berths built in the traditional Broads style. She could be hired for £22/0/0d (or £26/10/0d with an outboard motor) per week in 1969 and was described in Hoseason’s brochure as “built for the enthusiastic and experienced helmsman.” In other words “far too much of a handful for a novice, best not bother applying!” Vagabond is now in private ownership and still races in the ‘river cruiser’ class.

Addendum-March 2010: I was delighted recently to receive feed back from Mr Tim Harding who has owned and raced 'Vagabond' since the mid 1990's. I am grateful for Tim's assistance which has helped me to clarify some more of her fascinating history. 'Vagabond' and her sister 'Rogue' were built, in 1914 by the original Norfolk Broads Yachting Company which had bases at Potter Heigham, Wroxham and Brundall. After that firm's founder died the business was continued at Wroxham, only, by the Potter Heigham foreman Alfred Pegg whom, Tim believes, probably designed and built the yacht . In any event she remained within his hire fleet up until the 2nd World War where-after she was sold into private ownership. Her known owners being a Mr. Laws and Mr Oleranshaw, a stalwart of the Royal Cruising Club. Finally, Bernard Sinclair bought her and returned her to hire; where she remained in the Martham Boats fleet after he became a partner there.

The ‘Cresta’ classes were similar to each other in appearance but came in different sizes to accommodate the numbers in the visiting crew.

                                                                                                 © Hoseasons Holidays Ltd 1969

The smallest class was the 21ft, 2 berth ‘Crestette’ an example of which lies astern of Vagabond. Then came ‘Cresta’ at 26ft. and 2 or 3 berths (it was a common feature of these craft that one saloon berth could be extended into a double), ‘Cresta Maria’ at 28ft. 6in. and 4 or 5 berths and the slightly larger but similar 30ft. ‘Crestella’. As far as can reasonably be told, these classes seem to be represented in the picture with Cresta Maria and her sister Crestonia ahead of Crestette and Cresta in the distance.

Crestella was the last of their type and enjoyed the advantages of an alloy mast and jib furling gear. Later the ‘Cresta’ name was continued with but the firm employed the practice of buying in stock yachts and adapting them for Broads use. ‘Cresta Nova’ was such an example being based on a Sabre 27 and ‘Cresta Belle’ a Kent 8 metre, both described as motor sailors.  

This was a sign of the times as the skills of the designer and boat builder fell into decline with the advent of mass produced GRP boats. Increasingly, yards bought in ready assembled ‘bare boats’ and fitted them out or recycled ex-hire boats sold off by other firms.

This trend was probably less evident, as a means to expanding their fleets, in yards which kept yachts in hire. Nevertheless, as Broads sailing, itself, declined in popularity and became more of a niche market many firms seemed to see no future in building yachts for hire and abandoned this side of their businesses. There are now only a handful of devoted yards that preserve the remaining broads yachts, on an independent basis, and sadly the ‘Cresta’ fleet is one that has, as such, disappeared.

                      'Cresta' in Hickling Dyke c.1970

                                                                                Postcard by ‘Coastal Cards’ of Holland-on-Sea                                              

As we leave the River Thurne, near Martham, our cruise takes us into Kendal Dyke, sometimes referred to as Candle dyke, and on through Heigham Sound to Hickling the largest of the Broads. There seems to be some confusion about the correct origin of the name for Kendal Dyke but my personal theory is that Candle is how the former sounds in a Norfolk dialect? 


                                                                                                  Reproduced with permission from Jarrold & Sons Ltd

This is the ‘Pleasure Boat Inn’ dyke at Hickling Broad, around 1946.

Prince Phillip, perhaps then better known as the ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, famously stayed at this pub when a guest of Lord Desborough at the annual winter ‘Coot Shoot’ because the usual accommodation at nearby Whiteslea Lodge was flooded. I think that was in 1959.

The Cabin Cruiser nearest camera is of the ‘Tuscan’ class. There were four examples but, despite knowing that this is B150, I am unable to be more precise. Tuscan’s sisters were: Trojan, Talisman & Toreador. These were 30 foot 4 berth cruisers, in the raised fore-deck style, popular before WW2. She was on-hire from Ernest Collins & Sons (the first yard signed to Blakes in 1908) at Wroxham and appears to reflect the high standards of presentation for which that yard was known.

                                                                Blakes Holiday Boating1959

In 1948 a week’s holiday in Tuscan, during the high season, would have cost £31/10/0d. i.e. £858.40 in today’s money (2008)

The craft moored ahead of Tuscan is thought to be one of the double-cabin, 34 foot, Gaff rigged ‘Ripple’ class yachts, of 6 berths. Note the distinctive feature, that is her lifting cabin top to the after-most cabin only. The fore cabin would have had a large skylight. Ripple1 was built in 1922 and two more examples appeared in the next few years. There was also a smaller (28 ft. 4 berth) sister yacht Buzzard but she did not appear until a few years before the 2nd world war. The two classes remained in hire from the firm of the accredited founder of Broadland boat hire: John Loynes at  Wroxham until 1973 or 1974. By which time they were the only surviving yachts in the firm’s fleet. This was about the time that sailing holidays were in general decline. John Loynes himself, of course, had already passed away by then, in 1939, when he was 96 years of age, and the Loynes family had sold off their interests in the firm by 1959.

So, not quite a record but very long service for the original Ripple, in fact, just over fifty years in hire. Luckily this yacht is one of those which are still loved and survive to this day, in private hands, and registered in the Cruiser Class. Her current owner, Josh Slater, was kind enough to send me this picture of her looking spectacular on Barton Broad. Her crew have taken in a reef here but I expect she will be carrying a slighter more powerful rig than that of her hire fleet days anyway? In fact if you compare Josh's photo with the 1926 brochure image it is plain to see how much more canvas she carries these days. Who knows, maybe Josh will need to invest in a full set of signal flags for her centenary in a few years?

                                                                                       Image courtesy of Josh Slater © 2013                                                                  
When this class was new: a week’s holiday aboard ‘Ripple’ (during high season)  would have cost £11/10/0d. (£11.50 if you’re under 50, or so) which is the equivalent of £595 (in 2013) Nevertheless that’s around 15 to 20% less than the cost of hiring a similar sized yacht these days.

                                                                                                    © Blakes Holiday Boating 1926

                                                                                                         Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, Kent ©

Another similar view of the Pleasure Boat dyke, you can just see the Inn through the trees to the left. This picture is also thought to have been taken around 1946

The only identifiable craft here is ‘Truant’ a 29ft. 4 Berth, Auxiliary yacht on hire from Eastick’s Yacht Station at Acle Dyke for £20/5/0d in high season1947, including a rowing dinghy. Truant was fitted with her engine for the 1948 season and her charges were increased to £29 per week.

Horsey Mere

                                                                                                                                         Copyright J. Salmon Ltd., Sevenoaks, Kent ©
Before we leave this beautiful area and make our way back to the River Thurne, why not make one last diversion? Just off the northern end of Heigham Sound, to our left, is the entrance to Meadow Dyke; a narrowing waterway of around a mile long. This waterway leads to Horsey Mere; a pleasant, reed fringed broad, popular with yachtsmen for some fast, open water sailing. However, depending upon the wind direction, they may need to quant or motor through the narrow dyke to get there?

At the eastern extremity of the broad are public moorings at the Staithe. The mill, at the end of the dyke, is popular with photographers and is open to the public. Horsey Mill is one of the few, locally, to have an external gallery. The gallery can be seen here, just below the fantail and visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the Mill and enjoy the panoramic views from this vantage point.

Visitors to this website will probably know, by now, that the cabin cruiser moored in the foreground is a ‘Janet’ class, from Martham Boat Development Company. In this case: Janet 2. These craft were modernised in the late 1970’s and lost their ‘stepped’ deck. The fore cabin superstructure was renewed to join a new flush deck and give a rather more up to date appearance. Nevertheless their distinctive hull style remains very recognisable:

                                                                                                                                        © Hoseasons Ltd 1979                                                                                             




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