Pastimes and Past Times
"Pastimes and Past Times" is a collection of photographs mostly dating from around the turn of the century, variously showing simple rural and human scenes from Broadland Norfolk. One or two of them, such as "The basket weaver" and "Picking Lilies" are obviously posed for, none the less the subjects are not actors and the scene is real, it is simply that the photographer has taken his time to compose the image with the aid of the subject.
Scenes like "Winter flood" are very real however and cannot be posed, they show in contrast the real hardship that country folk would have experienced in this supposedly rural idyll, when times were harsh. "The eel catchers home" reminds us that many lived in what today we would regard as abject poverty, the little boat in the background with the ungainly top on it, really is this mans home. That is not to say that such folk considered themselves impoverished or hard done by, far from it as they were defiantly independent and self-sufficient. It has long been held that "You can always tell a Norfolk man but you can't tell him much"!
The wherry skippers in particular, were a breed apart and with good reason, they were "Watermen" and unlike a landsman (one who worked the land) who was tied to an employer, they frequently owned the craft they sailed. When times were good they took the freight they chose and were beholden to No one. "William Royall" was one of the last of that breed, he was still working into his eighties when he was pictured here on board his wherry with his faithful terrier. He passed away aged 83 shortly after the picture was taken, peacefully in his sleep on board the wherry he had skippered for most of his working life.
Lastly, many pictures are exactly what they appear to be, family snaps taken to record a holiday or a day out on the river, in many ways nothing except the colour has changed today.