I’ve been spending a lot of time recently viewing various old clips of life on the Norfolk Broads. My noseying into these broadcast and personal films isn’t uncharacteristic, as you’ll probably have summed up by now; each choppy, flickering and often silent clip is gripping in atmosphere and thought-provoking in narrative, a total joy when you’re a Broads boy like I am. Explorations did lead me to the above drawing, subsequent Photoshop adjustment, and the prominent subject.
You won’t have to go through many historic snippets to catch sight of a classic Norfolk wherry, for these were just as prolific as the windpumps they sailed past on every cut. The tough jet black sail waving some sixty feet into the sky, busier routes would be teeming with these boats, and indeed it wasn’t uncommon to be circled by several, each transporting vast amounts of goods with far greater storage space and maneuverability than other, earlier options. Dating as far back as the seventeenth century, trading vessels were produced in the county right through to the early 1900s, by which time they had generally fallen out of favour for the quickness that rail distribution offered. On this lull, and noting the potential of the area, they were revamped for recreational means, adopting the name ‘pleasure wherry’, with some swapping the black sail for a white one to give greater distinction. Nowadays there are only six surviving wherries on the Broads, the oldest being two trading wherries, Albion and Maud, who are both approaching two-hundred-and-twenty-years; along with a couple of her pleasure wherry peers, Albion is in fine fettle for her age, still available for charter.
Learning those stats, it’s less of a surprise that I’ve rarely seen them save for some fortunate glances in the distance, and it’s mostly been restricted to old photographs and that Norfolk episode of Interceptor. I hope to see some more, for they are quite the hypnotic sight!
I had to throw in a windmill, too – of course I did. It’s the law.