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1960s - An Historic Overview

1960s Photos 1960s Memories

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.

September Dawn 1960s

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.

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 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.

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.

George & Beryl Formby at Winboats yard

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 dinghies. 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.

Hunters Yard in the 1960s

Nature once again played havoc with Broadland during the winter of 1962/63 which was the coldest on record. The bad weather started just before Christmas and from Boxing Day to early March much of England was continuously under snow. The mean maximum temperatures for January 1963 were 5 degrees centigrade below average with the coldest day recorded in Norfolk being -19 at Santon Downham near Thetford on January 23rd. The rivers and Broads became frozen, coasters became trapped in the ice at Reedham, and many birds and water animals perished in the sub zero temperatures. This was of course the usual time for the boatyards to be overhauling their fleets in preparation for the next season, but many found these efforts hampered by the snow and ice. The 23rd of January also saw the loss of one of the areas best known landmarks when Horstead Mill was gutted by fire. Thought to have been caused by an electrical fault, three fire engines attended the blaze having to cut holes in the ice, which was over a foot deep, in order to provide water for their hoses. Although the fire was under control within an hour it was too late too save the wooden structure. The roof of St Helen’s Church at Ranworth was also badly damaged by a fire in 1963.

Broadland was still ever changing to meet the needs of the holidaymaker. Many improvements had been made to the waterways during the 1950s and early 1960s, comprehensive dredging and weed clearance had seen previously un-navigable Broads and rivers re-opened to the public once more. Both Rockland and Surlingham Broads were once again in use and by the late 1950s the River Chet had been dredged, new quays built and boatyards were established. Quay headings and staithes had been improved around the system including the building of a new concrete quay at Reedham in 1962.

Transport links to the region were also improving all the time and, although the railway stations at Stalham and Catfield had closed in 1960, most of the Broadland railway lines escaped Dr Beechings axe in the mid 1960s. Various travel companies arranged transport to the Norfolk Broads for visitors including Robinsons who provided coach travel from Lancashire for 57 shillings in 1963. The Norfolk Broads Travel Club were based in Wembley in Middlesex and arranged travel from London and the South East of England for large or small parties either by chauffeur driven cars or in 8, 12 and 19 seat mini coaches.

The riverside shops also changed to suit the market with late opening hours and Sunday shopping becoming widespread. By 1963 another of Broadlands most famous retail names was established with the opening of Latham’s Stores at Potter Heigham and at Ranworth the old granary buildings were restored and the new, self-service Granary Stores and Buffet opened.  For those wishing to stay on land, rooms could be had at The Bure Court Hotel at Wroxham for 22s 6d per night for bed and breakfast or 40 s a night full board and the 1965 edition of Hamiltons included an advert for The Golden Egg Motel in Oulton Broad described as “the newest idea in modern living designed especially for motorists and yachtsmen to relax in out of this world comfort at down to earth prices”. Rooms cost 50 shillings per double/twin room and dances were held every night. Regular dances were still being held in Norwich, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Ranworth and Potter Heigham along with dinner dances at some of the areas Hotels including “Cringles Country Club” at Potter Heigham which was the house built by the late Herbert Woods for his family in the 1930s. Some of the attractions available included Somerleyton Hall which was now open to the public on Thursdays, at Ludham the Manor Bird Sanctuary, also known as The Fairy Garden, was popular with visitors who could see “the gigantic flowers, toadstools and figures which turn the gardens into a giant’s playground” whilst Pettitts at Reedham advertised their Feathercraft shop offering handmade gifts for sale. 1963 also saw the formation of The Norfolk Windmills Trust which took over the care, preservation and restoration of many of Broadlands mills and windpumps.

Bure Court Hotel at Wroxham

Plenty of choice was also available for those wishing to dine out rather than cook on board. Where the riverside public houses had once been solely drinking establishments, over the previous decade many began to offer food to their clients. Some, like the Ferry Inn at Reedham and The Red House at Cantley provided just bar snacks, whilst others offered more extensive menus. The Bridge Inn at Acle was home to Norman Chalks Restaurant which advertised traditional meals such as chicken or steak and chips but also had some rather more exotic offerings such as Kangaroo Tail Soup, Chicken Maryland and Venison Creole.  Visitors to Norwich could enjoy dinner for two at the Lanchow Chinese Restaurant, the first to open in the area, at a cost of 10 shillings each.

By 1964 there were estimated to be over 5,000 motor craft and nearly 2,500 sailing craft on the Broads. These figures included some 1717 hire cruisers which outnumbered the private motor cruisers by 3-1, but the numbers of private sailing cruisers were now much greater than those available to hire. There were also 19 large passenger cruisers and three old steamers which provided guided tours for an estimated 260,000 day visitors a year. The numbers of GRP motor cruisers were gradually beginning to increase and diesel engines were now commonplace. Hoseasons 1964 brochure contained just 3 pages of yachts against the 28 pages of motor cruisers available from 43 boatyards. Larger parties could hire the 8 berth “Aqualine” from Porter and Haylett at Wroxham which was advertised as being a “brand new clinker built craft of ultra modern design” and had 5 cabins, 2 WC’s and a shower bath. H.E.Hipperson at Beccles offered “brand new architect designed craft” in the 4 berth “Waveney Heron” and Waveney Bittern” from £27 to £52 10s a week whilst Maffet Cruisers of Loddon offered three of their “Barbara” class, 4 berth cruisers for hire at between £21 and £49 10s per week. The brochure said that “these attractive, modern fibreglass craft have been built to the latest design and fitted out in a luxurious manner on the open plan basis” and a portable television set could be hired for a charge of £2 10s per week.

Blakes 1964 brochure had 40 pages of motor cruisers ranging from the 2 berth “Broad Class” with a GRP hull from Easticks Yacht Station at Acle which could be hired at a cost of £10 7s to £18 per person per week, up to the 6 berth “Envoy” from the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company at Wroxham at between £6 18s and £12 per person.  The NBYCo also offered the 4 berth “Ambassador”, built in 1963 with a fibreglass hull and wooden cabin and featuring and electric water system. Other 4 berth boats available included the 34ft “Swan Cake” from Collins Pleasure Boat Company at Oulton Broad and “Freshwind” from Windboats of Wroxham which was described as being of “ultra modern design with a fibreglass sliding top” and featured a sitz bath and a built in television.

Blakes were now the main agent for most of the remaining sailing cruisers on hire and the 1964 brochure contained 13 pages of these. The 2 berth “Daisy” could be hired from Ernest Collins at Wroxham for a cost of £6 17s to £8 per person per week, Hunters 3 berth “Wood Rose” was slightly cheaper at between £5 15s and £6 15s, whilst the 28ft, 4 berth “Bootlegger” from Eastwood Whelpton could be hired for £7 4s rising to £8 10s during the peak season. It was thought that over 10,000 people annually enjoyed sailing on the Broads which included many schoolchildren. Courses for them were organised by the Norfolk Schools Sailing Association, Hertfordshire Education Sailing School and the National Association of Youth Clubs amongst others. Decoy Broad and it’s adjoining campsite were leased to The Norwich Boy Scouts Association and was used by large numbers of scouts every year. Although the numbers of people hiring sailing cruisers had decreased, the popularity of the cheaper plywood dinghies being produced had created a need for more sailing tuition. As previously mentioned, Blakes had begun offering weekend sailing courses in 1960 but others also started to offer similar services. Erick Manners had established the Broadland School of Sailing at Martham, Desmond Truman had set up a school at Oulton Broad and in 1965 a new school was created at Upton which offered tuition in Ospreys and Enterprises for beginners. These weekend courses included accommodation at the nearby Broadland County Club and cost £8 per person.

Sailing on the Norfolk Broads in the 1960s

As the numbers of visitors to Broadland continued to increase various organisations began to become concerned about the effect that tourism was having on the environment. During the peak summer season the waterways were becoming very congested, particularly on the Northern Rivers, with boats having to moor two or three abreast at the more popular spots. It had also been noticed that pollution was very evident and there were fears that if the numbers of craft on the water continued to increase then the problem would continue to get worse, causing irrevocable damage to wildlife and the surroundings. In 1963 a draught report was produced by Nature Conservancy and in 1965 their “Report On Broadland” was published. A working party had been put together which represented various bodies with Broadland including conservationists, councillors, the boathire industry and the chairman of Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners who were the forerunner to the modern day Broads Authority.

The report found that the source of the pollution was caused by several factors. Sewage effluents were being discharged directly into the rivers at Stalham, Ludham and several other towns but the largest problem was the Norwich Corporations disposal plant at Whitlingham.  By the time the report was published many improvements had already been made in this area but it was found that a great many riverside properties were still discharging crude sewage straight into the waterways. Most boats on the Broads were still fitted with the old sea toilets which also discharged straight into the rivers, and this caused problems wherever large numbers of holiday craft moored together overnight. There was also found to be a certain amount of oil pollution from the motorised craft. By far the biggest problem in the decline of water quality was caused by the farming methods of the day and the run off of nitrates from fertilizers used on the land. Although this was recognised to a certain extent, it would be a few more years until the true extent of this issue was realised. The River Authority was to bring in measures to help combat the pollution caused by sewage. New bye-laws were introduced to prohibit discharge directly into the rivers and properties which stood on land leased from them had to ensure that their systems were changed.  The boatyards were now required to start fitting holding tanks wherever possible onboard their fleets and over the next few years this was indeed applied.

The problem of severely congested waterways in the summer was a slightly more difficult one to overcome. It had also been noted that speeding was becoming more prevalent and the damage caused to banks by the wash also needed addressing. It was suggested that a “Code Of Behaviour” be drawn up for visitors to educate them on the problems caused by speeding, wash, litter and noise and that universal speed limits be brought in all over the system. To overcome the problem of overcrowding at popular moorings it was proposed that specific, off river basins and cuts be created and that the existing parish staithes in Broadland, which had run into disrepair through neglect, be modernised and made available for holiday visitors.

There was a recommendation that the numbers of craft on the Broads should be regulated unless enough new stretches of open water were created to meet with the increasing demand. It was also reported that freight traffic on the yare at that time was some 500 vessels per annum, these craft had been getting larger and larger over the years and were a noticeable hazard to recreational craft. Although signs were placed along the River Yare warning against mooring on bends, some holidaymakers chose to ignore these and several accidents were reported over the years. The possibilities of re-opening certain stretches of the rivers and Broads had been discussed many times before, but the report went a little further and actually put forward estimated costs for the work. Proposals included the re-opening of the Waveney between Geldeston and Bungay which was estimated to cost around £43,000 including dredging, tree clearance and repair of the three locks on that stretch of the river and the re-opening of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal at a cost of £60,000. It also called for the re-instatement of existing Broads which had been closed off to the public and the possible creation of new Broads on re-claimed grazing marshland.

Coaster pictured on the River Yare at Reedham 1962

The report also put forward plans to create a “new cut” to link the Northern and Southern rivers to provide a more circular route for visitors. The proposed route would run from Tunstall on the River Bure over a route of about 5 miles to join up with the River Yare near Reedham, dug out to a depth of 6 feet and approximately 60 feet wide at the top and 30 feet at the bottom. The estimated costs for this were £552,000 including excavation, piling, four small road bridges, two railway bridges and one major road bridge. The costs of purchasing the land were not included in this estimate. The re-instatement of these sections of the waterways and the new cut did not happen but have been discussed many times since.  The proposals to regulate the number of hire craft were also ignored and the numbers continued to increase over the next decade as the demand for boating holidays grew. New 5 and 7mph speed limits were, however, introduced at this time.

1965 was also a year that saw a series of dramatic takeovers of several high profile boatyards by the Caister Group Ltd under the chairmanship of Tom Watson.  The Caister Group already owned a fleet of 100 boats on the Broads along with several holiday camps on the Norfolk coast, a couple of hotels and a string of garages. They began 1965 by acquiring the yard and fleet of Herbert Freeman in Beccles (18 craft), followed by the larger combined fleets of Herbert Woods at Potter Heigham (117 craft) and Southgates at Horning (31 craft). Shortly afterwards Norfolk Holiday Boats became part of the fleet with a further 43 craft and the last acquisition was Easticks of Acle with their 23 craft. This brought the total amount of boats in the fleet to 332 which was the largest number of boats under single control in Broadland or anywhere else in the country. All the yards were to remain in operation under their existing names except for the Easticks fleet which were moved to Potter Heigham under the Herbert Woods banner.

The Broadland pubs had long been chain owned by the breweries and in the 1960s groups such as Anglia Taverns and Watney Mann had several premises in their chain. The Norfolk Broads today is renowned by lovers of real ale who regularly enjoy the delights of Woodfordes and Adnams brews in the village pubs. In the mid 1960s the beer of the day was Watneys Red Barrel, today regarded with distain by ale drinkers but back then it was promoted as a premium product.

Red Barrel was actually the first ever keg beer to be produced in the UK and dates back to the 1930s although the breweries did not start heavily promoting keg beer until the late 1950s. In the mid 1960s large advertisements could be seen in the guide books of the day showing a map of Norfolk and Suffolk with the title “This Is Red Barrel Country” along with the claim that “Wherever you are on the Broads you’re never far from a cool refreshing glass of Watneys Red Barrel”. Those who took their holidays with groups of friends and family on the Broads in the 60s and 70s will also remember the other famous Watneys products of the time, the large Party Four and Party Seven take-home tins of beer. The appearance of one Broadland pub changed dramatically in 1965 when The Ferry Inn at Horning was destroyed by a fire. The pub had already been rebuilt once, in 1956 following damage sustained in a bombing raid during World War 2, but after the fire in 1965 it was re-constructed with a tiled roof instead of the traditional thatch.

The fire at Horning Ferry Inn captured by Pete Clark in 1965

As the 1960s progressed the two main hire agencies, Blakes and Hoseasons, continued to compete for the custom of the holiday maker. Whilst Blakes fleet remained the largest it still ran many older boats and Hoseasons were still claiming to have the most modern hire fleet on the Broads. In their 1966 brochure Hoseasons told us that 6 out of 10 craft had been built in the last 5 years with 90% being less than 11 years old. Special public screenings of “The Magic Of Broadland On Film” were advertised at London and Manchester in January and special “Discovery Cruises” taken between 16th April and the 14th May offered almost half price boating holidays.  The “Rain Free Guarantee” had been withdrawn in the previous year.

The numbers of fibreglass boats appearing was gradually increasing. Most closely followed the classic Broads cruiser styling, but one brand new boat for this season looked unlike anything which had come before and was to revolutionise the hire boat industry not only on the Broads, but throughout the UK and Europe. F.B.Wilds “Caribbean” was advertised as being “the very latest Broads safety motor cruiser of outstanding ultra-modern design”. This 6 berth, fibreglass cruiser was 39 feet in length and was the first to have a beam of 12 feet, had a single floor level throughout and “blown air” central heating. The cost of hire was £37 10s in low season rising to £76 at peak times. The design proved very popular and, to meet the demand, a new large mooring basin was dug out at Horning to provide a base for the growing fleet and another yard was established at Loddon to build the craft. Wilds also sold many of these boats to other yards, the design was later copied by others and is still very much evident in the styling of today’s boats.

Other new boats featured in the 1966 Hoseason brochure included “Kingsway” from Poolcraft in Beccles which was a 38 foot, 6 berth wooden cruiser, the 7/8 berth, fibreglass “Morning Tide” from Tidecraft of Brundall and Aston Boats of Loddon introduced the 6 berth “Aston Nelson” based on a Bourne 35 hull. Aston also offered the 4 berth Seamaster 28 “Aston Daffodil” at a cost of between £29 and £56 10s per week whilst W.K.Barnes at Wroxham had the little 2 berth, aft cockpit “Princess Clare” at £17 to £31 10s for a weeks hire. There were just 3 pages of yachts available this year which included the 2/3 berth, Bermuda rigged “Cresta” from Laura Craft of Martham which could be hired from £22 10s rising to £33 10s, and the 3 berth sloop rigged “Zephyr” at a cost of £20 to £28 10s from Stalham Yacht Station.

Amongst the many houseboats and bungalows for hire in Broadland were the 24’, 4 berth “Suzy Wong” at Wroxham which cost between £12 10s and £25 10s per week, and the Flat-Afloats’ “Wind In The Willows” at Womack and “La Mascotte” at Brudall at £11 to £27 per week. At Thurne village you could holiday in one of the new “Plantation Bungalows” which cost from £9 to £25 per week, at Oulton you could hire one of the “Broadland Chalets” and elsewhere the “Clippesby Residences” were available from £8 per week whilst Burgh Hall offered accommodation in their “Parkland Holiday Residences”.

Although Blakes brochure contained many older boats they too had some newer additions including the 4 berth “Blue Beaver” from the Beaver Fleet at St. Olaves, a fibreglass Elysian 27 which could be hired for £30 to £49 8s per week. Brooms of Brundall introduced an Elysian 34 to their fleet with “Commodore” which had 6 berths, two WC’s and a shower and cost from £46 to £80 per week. There were 11 pages of yachts and auxiliary yachts in the 1966 brochure. Some of those included “Buttercup” from Ernest Collins, “Sabrina” from George Smith and Sons, “Hornet” from Southgates, “Woodlark” from Wayford Marina and “Wanderbird” from Powles. Interestingly, the wherry “White Moth” made reappearance as a houseboat moored at Neatishead for 1966 and 1967.

Hunters Fleet at Womack were still operating through the Blakes agency although sadly, Percy had died in 1964 after which his sons, Cyril and Stanley, had struggled to run the yard without their father. In 1966 the yard was put up for sale and was eventually bought by Norfolk County Council who were keen to set up a sailing base which could be used by school children in the area. The council’s chief education officer, Dr Lincoln Ralphs, believed that challenging, extra curricular activities such as sailing encouraged the development of life skills. A sailing base had been established on Filby Broad in the early 1960s but the council wanted to have access to the main Broads  At the same time that Hunters yard came onto the market, How Hill on the river ant, the former home of the Boardman family, was about to be sold by public auction. It was felt that if these two could be purchased together then this would fulfil the council’s needs. How Hill was successfully purchased and in 1967 the field study centre was established there. The council took over Hunters on January 1st 1968 and renamed it “The Norfolk County Sailing Base”. Stanley Hunter retired but Cyril stayed on to act as a consultant and part time boat builder.  Although school parties were to take priority, it was recognised that there would be times when the schools would not be able to use the fleet. It was decided to continue hiring the boats out to existing customers where vacancies arose but the fleet was now withdrawn from the Blakes agency.

By 1967 Bradbeers “Red Whale Fleet” were representing several boatyards including Brinkcraft at Wroxham, Peterkincraft, Bees Boats and Alpha Craft of Brundall, Mistral Craft at Loddon and Norfolk Knights Ltd at Horning. They also represented Martham Boats who were, by then, running nine of their 7 berth “Juliettes” amongst their fleet. The first of these had been built in 1957 and the latest was added in 1966. In 1967 a weeks hire cost from £38 to £68 per week while the smaller 4 berth Jocelyn cost between £22 and £49 per week. The 2 berth yacht “Jenny” could be hired from £22 upwards whilst the 4 berth “Japonicas”, of which there were eight, cost from £23 - £35 per week.

Another of the local boat hire agencies of the time were Broads Holidays who were based at Great Yarmouth. In 1968 they opened their new Port Of Yarmouth Marina which, it was hoped, would relieve some of the congestion at the popular Yacht Station where boats had been mooring two or three abreast during high season. As well as running their own fleet of boats from here they also represented fourteen other yards including Classic Cruisers at Thorpe, Toby Holidays Ltd and Symonds at St.Olaves, Lady Cruisers at Burgh Castle, Martham Boatyard and Bells Craft at Stokesby. Pirate Craft of Brundall were also on their books and some of the craft they offered for hire included the 2/3 berth “Morgans Gold” and the 4 berth “Captain Morgan” and “Morgans Treasure”, whilst Whispering Reeds yard at Hickling offered the 2 berth “Snow Goose” and “Wild Goose” at a cost of £26 to £53 per week.

Changes were still going on around Broadland, in 1967 Winboats opened their new “Port Of Wroxham” and the old Breydon swing bridge, originally opened in 1903 and closed in 1953, was demolished. In 1968 a new road bridge replaced the old rail bridge at Potter Heigham and the new road bridge at Wayford was completed.  Many of the family run village shops now displayed the “Mace Stores” name. Some of the attractions available to visitors to Broadland in the late 1960s included the miniature railway at Barton House in Wroxham, and Hoveton Great Broad nature trail. Slightly further afield  was the Norfolk Wildlife Park at Great Witchingham where you could see “Pooh” the Malayan Sunbear and a collection of coypus.

Blakes 1966 “Holidays Afloat” brochure

1966 Blakes Norfolk Broads Holidays Afloat

Coypus had become a major problem on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, spreading throughout the area since World War 2 having initially escaped from fur farms in the region. By the 1960s they had colonised most of Broadland as it provided them with the perfect habitat. Major damage had been done to banks and vegetation as they had voracious appetites and the size of their burrows caused large areas of the riverbank to collapse. During the summer months they fed on Reed Grass and Lesser Reed Mace but, during the winter, their attentions turned to farmed crops, most noticeably sugar beet. Although the cold winter of 1963 had eliminated quite a few of them there was still a significant number causing problems. By the late 1960s an eradication programme had been introduced but it was a battle that was to last well into the 1980s before the last Coypu was caught.

At this time some of the boatyards were deciding to move out of the hire market and began to sell off their fleets. Jenners had grouped together with the neighbouring A.G.Wards yard at Thorpe in the late 1950s, purchasing the Town House Guest House and effectively having one large yard with all boats flying under the Jenners flag. During the mid 1960s they also began acquiring boats and purchasing other fleets from yards including Hearts Cruisers, Dawncraft, Pegg Marine, Wards, Wilsons and Windboats. In 1967, Landamores at Wroxham decided to sell off their fleet of Vestella and Vesta motor cruisers which were also purchased by Jenners. It seems that Jenners overstretched themselves and in 1968 the fleet was taken over by The Caister Group who already owned the largest fleet on the Broads after the purchase of several high profile yards in the mid 1960s.

Although Landamores had decided to sell off their fleet of motor cruisers on the Broads they did not move away from the hire market altogether. In 1968 they brought in a small fleet of 6 fibreglass TL90 yachts which were hired for a while through Blakes under the name “Cascade”. These 30 foot, 4 berth yachts had an alloy mast, large panoramic windows and were very different to the traditional Broads sailing cruisers. This was the company’s first venture into production yachts and the TL90 was actually designed for estuaries although Blakes listed them as “the Broads version of a modern light displacement offshore cruiser/racer” and a “sailboat for sailors”. The cost of a weeks hire was £32 to £48 per week.  New motor cruisers featured in the 1968 brochure included the 7 berth “Super Star 7” described as being “based on the latest American design with open plan layout” and the 10 berth “Star Magna”. Both of these craft were built by Powles of Wroxham.

By 1969 Blakes were offering 1250 boats from 40 yards whilst Hoseasons had 850 boats available from 60 yards.  Hoseasons also introduced weekend breaks to their brochure for the first time but these could only be booked, when available, out of the main summer holiday season. New boats listed included the 4/5 berth “Bounty Brigand” (an Alphacraft DC30) and the 7 berth “Bounty Bure” (a Bourne 35) from Bounty Boats at Brundall. J.E.Fletcher, also in Brundall, had the 5 berth, all wooden “Searcher” and F.B.Wilds introduced the new 34ft “Bermuda”, a smaller version of the popular Caribbean cruiser. The 4 berth “Bermudas” cost from £34 to £62 per week to hire or just £19 for a weekend out of season.

As the 1960s drew to an end it was clear that the hire industry was changing. Throughout the decade the numbers of modern, fibre glass boats had increased and the introduction of showers, warm air heating and other modern conveniences on board had dispelled the myth that a boating holiday meant “roughing it”. Although many of the older 2-3 berth boats retained their petrol engines, the majority of larger vessels in the fleets now had diesel engines fitted and the introduction by Frank Wilds of the first 12 foot beam craft had set a trend that would see larger hire boats capable of sleeping up to 10 or 12 people built during the next decade.  The boating holiday was to continue to boom for a while but the large corporations were about to move in on the hire industry, and the increasing availability of cheap package holidays abroad was to have a major affect on the numbers of holidaymakers who visited Broadland.

©  Carol Gingell 2007

Further Reading

The Collins Legacy - An article by Roger Wilson on the history of the boatyards of Robert, Ernest & Alfred Collins

Broads Hire Cruisers, The Evolution Of Their Design & Machinery  By Vaughan Ashby

1960s Campaign agianst coypus poster Top