Yachting on the Norfolk Broads

History of the Norfolk Broads Yachting Industry

The Victorians "discovered" the broads in the mid 1800ís, when it was simply a rural idyll of wetland wilderness, mostly inaccessible except by water as indeed parts of it remain to this day. The Broads have always been regarded as a playground for young and old, a safe haven where for two or three hundred years locals have enjoyed the numerous annual yacht racing regattas and thousands of visitors have since learned to sail.

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The Norfolk Broads Yachting Co was founded in around 1898 and from the outset built both luxurious cruising yachts for holidaymakers and some of the most locally renowned racing yachts of the day.

Back in those bygone days a party of visitors could charter a yacht with skipper and steward for around £8 a week, to cruise the Broads and idly explore nearly 200 miles of waterway, often for several weeks at a time.

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Today, some of these original craft are still offered for hire to visitors, from beautifully restored wherries to what is believed to be the oldest yacht still in hire; "Zoe". She was originally called "Jubilee" as she was built for hire in the year of Queen Victoriaís diamond jubilee, the working life of this remarkable little boat has spanned 6 English monarchs and she remains for hire to broads holidaymakers to this day.

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To see more pictures of the leisure time on the Broads 100 years ago, go to the Past times and Pastimes on the Broads Gallery, but donít forget to come back and read the rest of the story!

The Blakes Agency and how it all started

It was the advent of Rail travel in the mid 19th century which first provided people from out of the area, with easy access to the East Coast and in particular Broadland Norfolk. Although individuals must have been able to hire a boat on the Broads years before, the first person known to have made a living out of hiring yachts to holidaymakers was John Loynes who founded his business in 1878. The following 30 years saw many others follow his example as the popularity of the Norfolk Broads grew and Yachting became a recognised past time for the ordinary man. By the late 19th century, the pursuit of leisure on the Broads by the Victorians had mushroomed into a recognisable pleasure trade, with every town offering craft of all description.

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In 1907, a London accountant called Harry Blake came on holiday to the Broads and like many visitors to the area, he was immediately taken by its unspoiled beauty. As a businessman though, he realised that all of the boat yards tended to act independently from each other, which made things difficult for the holiday maker who as a consequence, needed to have a travel guide to know where to go and how to hire a boat. It was almost like embarking on a safari and in fact several Victorian travel guides were written, including "How to organise a cruise on the Norfolk Broads" by E.R.Suffling, and today these provide a fascinating insight into how the holidaymaker could "engage only the most reliable staff" and so on, but it was no easy undertaking!

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