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Pre 1900 History Pre 1900 Memories

Pre 1900 Photo Gallery

Our mystery 1880s photographer perhaps Norwich Cathedral West Front 1880s

Amongst the collection of what were mainly landscape photographs and family group shots was a single, interior portrait of this gentleman. He appears (rather furtively) in only one of the Broads photographs which makes me wonder whether this was our mystery photographer. It is such an informal pose for the era - an early selfie perhaps!

The photographs predominantly feature the southern rivers, most were given captions. This is the West front of Norwich Cathedral, the large window and ornate entrance porch being 15th century alterations to the original building. Ernest Suffling wrote that Norwich; “in point of quaintness and antiquity, will vie with any English city.”

The Wherry Eagle at Brundall 1880s Buckenham Ferry, River Yare 1880s The ruins of Langley Abbey 1880s Steamship Phoenix at St Olaves 1880s Oulton Broad and Mutford Lock 1880s Wherry Eagle and S.S. Phoenix, River Waveney 1880s Wherry Eagle, River Waveney 1880s Holiday party aboard wherry Eagle, Norfolk Broads 1880s Holiday party aboard wherry Eagle, Norfolk Broads 1880s The view from Beccles Tower 1880s The Bell Tower, Beccles 1880s Pleasure Wherry Gladys, Norfolk Broads 1880s Pleasure Wherry Gladys, Norfolk Broads 1880s Pleasure Wherry Gladys, Norfolk Broads 1880s Potter Heigham Bridge and the new Waterman's Arms 1880s

Potter Heigham Bridge with George Applegate’s boatyard just out of shot on the left. The steamer Phoenix can just be seen on the right, moored in front of the old Bridge Hotel. This is another very interesting image as the name above the hotel is The Waterman’s Arms, which was the name of the original pub which stood here. Examining the photograph more closely, I realised that the original pub was still in situ, behind the new building and you can read “Waterman’s Arms, Bullards Ales” on the gable end. Most literary sources put a build date for the hotel at around 1900 but this photograph certainly pushes that back further. Research in contemporary trade directories, guide books and census returns indicate that a build date of around 1887 to 1889 seems likely. I covered that research in an article for the Broadland Memories blog entitled The Waterman’s Arms.

Steamship Phoenix at Wroxham Bridge 1880s

Phoenix moored downstream of Wroxham Bridge, a photograph which shows how little Hoveton and Wroxham had been developed at this time. John Loynes boatyard had been established on the opposite side of the River in the mid 1880s but both the Horseshoes public house and the King’s Head were hiring out boats at this time. The presence of a railway station within easy reach of the main London to Norwich line meant it was an obvious starting point for boating holidays.

Steamship Phoenix at Wroxham Bridge 1880s

Another view of Phoenix at Wroxham Bridge. In ‘Best Cruise on the Broads’, John Bickerdyke had this to say about the village in the 1890s; “Wroxham Station is a little shanty which will be swept away some day by one of those blizzards which we import from the States, but it answers its purpose fairly well.” He mentioned both The Horseshoes and the King’s Head Inn; “the last mentioned being the more pretentious hostelry of the two … for when one of my party tumbled overboard, there was no drying his clothes at the King’s Head, while at the more humble establishment every assistance was given us.” It was quite a well served village, however, where one could send and receive post and telegraph messages whilst on holiday, there was a grocers and a butcher where you could buy mutton and beef, and a bakehouse at the foot of the bridge which also sold tobacco and beer.

Holiday party onboard S.S. Phoenix at Wroxham Bridge 1880s

The final photograph from this collection shows the family group aboard Phoenix. The gentleman in the centre is the mystery gentleman whose portrait began this set. This is the only image in which he is seen, which is why I believe that he may well have been our photographer. I think this must also have been taken at Wroxham, with Loynes boat sheds in the background. You can read more about boating on the Norfolk Broads during this era in the Broadland Memories blog post A very Victorian Cruise on the Norfolk Broads.


The following collection were bought as a series of three lots of loose pages which had been split form an original Victorian album. The pages contained twenty images of the Norfolk Broads, along with a few taken on the Belgian and Dutch Canals and couple of photos of London. I know nothing of the origin of these photos, but they were clearly taken by someone who was part of a very well to do, well travelled family. The collection also contained a photograph of the 1885 menu for the Norwich Angling Club annual dinner which gave me a starting point in trying to date these. Using what clues could be found with the photos, I trawled contemporary guide books, trade directories and census returns and spent hours researching the subtle changes in ladies and men’s fashions over the latter decades of the 19th century. It appears that these would date from between 1885 and 1889 and were probably taken over the course of more than one trip. The party consists of what look like an extended family group and the photographs feature the family aboard two wherries and a large steam vessel named Phoenix.

This was the wherry Eagle, photographed at Brundall with the Yare Hotel seen in the background. The Eagle appears to be a converted trading wherry, although I can find no mention of a wherry of this name. William White’s 1883 ‘History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk’ lists the owner of the Yare Hotel as being H. Flowers who was also listed as boat, fishing tackle and refreshment proprietor at Brundall Fishing Station. White wrote; “The Yare Yachting, Boating and Angling Station belongs to Messrs. H. Flowers and Co., And comprises about 13 acres of land, situated in sight of Surlingham Broad, and within easy sail of the Rockland and Strumpshaw Broads.”  Brundall was a small village at this time and there were just 54 inhabitants recorded on the 1881 census. The dyke seen here is now owned by the Broom Marine Group, a boatyard which had humble beginnings when C.J. Broom first established his boat building business here in 1898.

This wonderful photograph shows Buckenham Ferry in operation on the River Yare - in the background you can see the now derelict Buckenham drainage mill which, it appears, was painted white like Thurne Mill. The ferry itself was believed to date back to medieval times and the Norfolk Record Office uncovered what may be the earliest record of a ferry crossing the River Yare here. Previously un-catalogued manorial rolls and papers revealed detailed accounts from 1372-3 by John Pulle who was bailiff for the Kerdiston family of the neighbouring parish of Claxton.  These included a written account of the costs involved in the building and launching a ferry boat on the River Yare. Items listed included timber imported from the Baltic along with nuts, bolts and other ironwork, with a total expenditure of £5, 8 shillings and a halfpenny. A more contemporary account of the ferry to this photograph, and one which illustrated its importance as a river crossing, was written by Peter Henry Emerson in ‘On English Lagoons’ which was published in 1893; “Day and night the ferry-bell was jingling and the winch clanking as the actors of country life passed before us in endless panorama. Milk carts, carrier’s carts, wagons laden with grain, flocks of sheep attended by shepherds and barking collies, stylish ladies in smart Norfolk carts and herds of cattle. Those animals nearest the water stood with forelegs firmly planted and backs raised, bellowing with fright as they stared into the swift river as the ferry crossed over. After them passed and old granny with a child in a perambulator, a shy-looking couple with much luggage, a portly farmer going to catch a train, and lastly, the lord of the manor passed over.” The ferry ceased to operate in 1938 after an accident in which a heavily laden sugar-beet lorry overshot the end of the pontoon and ended up in the river.

Captioned as Langley Abbey, this shows the holiday party posing on the rather overgrown ruins. The abbey was founded in 1195 by then then Lord of Langley, Sir Robert Fitzroger, as a Premonstratensian monastery and was run by white-robed canons rather than monks, presided over by the Abbot. Along with the daily duties and religious services, the canons also took on the role of parish priests to the surrounding villages. This was a time when Norwich, just upriver, was one of the largest and most important cities in medieval England and Langley Abbey would have held a very prestigious position. The abbey stood for over three hundred years but during it’s lifetime gained a reputation for being one of the most wayward monasteries in England. You can read more about this colourful side of its history in the Broadland Memories blog post - A most disorderly house!

This was the large steam vessel Phoenix which accompanied the holiday party on board the wherry Eagle, pictured here at St Olaves Bridge. The photographer must have asked the driver of the horse and cart to position himself there for this picture. Phoenix is a complete unknown to me, but one assumes that part of the group were staying aboard her whilst some were holidaying on the wherry. Would she have been sea going and, if so, is it possible that they had travelled to the Broads along the coast? From the bridge, the party could have walked to the nearby Fritton Decoy, a popular attraction written about in several guide books of the era, where vast numbers of wild duck were caught by luring them into long, netted tunnels, using tame ducks as decoys. In the ‘Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk and Suffolk’, first published in 1882, George Christopher Davies described the bridge as being “a rather handsome structure. There are a few houses grouped rather prettily, and a good inn, The ‘Bell’ close by the Bridge.

Oulton Broad, with Mutford Lock in the centre of the photograph. The original Wherry Inn is to the left of centre, obscured from view here by a large tree. In ‘Land of The Broads’, first published in 1885, Ernest Suffling wrote; “Boats, bait and light refreshments, or substantial meals, may be obtained at the Wherry Inn, adjoining the Broad, and close to the station. The bar-parlour of The Wherry is quite a museum, and contains curiosities from all parts of the world.

Captioned as being “On the River Waveney”, this photograph shows the group on board Phoenix and the wherry Eagle once again.

Captioned as “The Wherry Eagle” this shows her in the company of Phoenix once again, with the holiday group on board. She looks to be quite a rough and ready conversion to me in this photograph, with patchy sail and tarpaulin thrown over the roof. Would she have been a temporary summer conversion perhaps, reverting back to  carrying non human cargo during the winter months. Note the model yacht in the water.

The holiday party pose on the foredeck of The Eagle - the  long exposure needed to capture this photograph clearly proved to be too much for some of the children who were unable to keep still. "To obtain the greatest amount of comfort it is necessary to hire a wherry, and a Norfolk wherry, let me say, is a wonderful craft;" was the advice given by John Bickerdyke in ‘The Best Cruise On The Broads’, first published in 1895. A wherry cost berween £10 to £14 per week, an extra £1 to 30 shillings was paid for the services of the skipper and around 15 shillings for an attendant.

A second version of the group shot on board the wherry Eagle. The clothing and the hats are wonderful. On the subject of suitable boating attire for the era, Ernest Suffling wrote; "For ladies dress (I will say little here, or I shall get out of my latitude), nothing can compare with navy serge made up in a very plain manner, so as to prevent few folds as possible for boughs of trees, oars, etc., to catch in. A little bright colour in the trimming, if you please, ladies! and be sure and wear strong watertight boots in place of dainty, fancy French shoes." The usual suggested boating attire for gentlemen included flannel trousers, shirts, a blazer and cap or straw boater, rubber soled tennis shoes, two pairs of socks and a change of underwear.

The view looking upsteam on the River Waveney from Beccles Bell Tower. You can see the rail bridge in the centre of the photo with the old road bridge beyond. The road on the bottom right is Smallgate. “The sail up to Beccles is a very pleasant one, and pretty bits continually present themselves” wrote George Christopher Davies. “Beccles is a quiet, old fashioned place, with good railway accommodation, as a glance at the map will show.

The Bell Tower at Beccles, viewed from New Market, with the White Swan public house seen on the right. The pub bears the name of the Morse and Woods Brewery. Frederick Morse formed the Crown Brewery at Lowestoft in 1842 and went into partnership with Henry Woods in 1844. The Morse family also had breweries in Swaffham and Norwich.The Crown Brewery was bought by the Norwich brewer Morgans in 1936.

This was the pleasure wherry Gladys, pictured at an unknown location in the 1880s with the family group, plus skipper at mate on board. Gladys was listed as being a converted trading wherry in Roy Clark’s ‘Black Sailed Traders’ and she is unusual in having a rather nice counter-stern. It’s not something that you would find on a trader and would have required a major rebuild to fit upon conversion to pleasure wherry.

A second photograph of Gladys taken at the same location as the previous photograph. Note that the sail has it’s ‘bonnet’ laced along the bottom, designed to increase the sail area in lighter winds. Gladys appears to be a bit of an unknown, and these may be the first photographs of her to have been found.

Another photograph of Gladys which, I suspect, may have been taken somewhere on the River Waveney, To the right, you can just see the stern of the steam vessel Phoenix which was pictured in the company of The Eagle in earlier photos in this set. This is another interesting photograph which shows a portable chimney in use above the crew’s cuddy where the stove would have been situated. Roy Clark provided the following description in ‘Black Sailed Traders’; “The stove is against the bulkhead facing the doors. It has a small oven and will roast meat or bake pies. On top it will fry steak, chops or bacon and boil vegetables. It burns coal, and is polished to such brilliance with black lead, that you can almost see to part your hair in it.”  The metal flue from the stove came out through the cabin roof, faired by what was known as a coburg, made of wood and designed to stop the main sheet catching light. The square, wooden chimney was placed over the top when moored and was stowed away when under sail.

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