Nigel Royall’s Broads gun punt

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These shots are of a 18ft by 53in gun Norfolk punt named Shoveler made by Nigel Royall, of Royall’s Boatyard at Hoveton on the Norfolk Broads, and fitted with a rig from a Coypu. My thanks go to Nigel for his permission to use them.

As a boatyard operator hiring boats to holiday-makers, Nigel’s had a few dealings with gun punts over the years and finally decided to make his own; he’s put a long post about the project on the Royall’s Boatyard weblog.

As he points out, in the old days most Broadsmen could only afford one boat, so a gun punt was not just used for wild fowling in winter. For example, they it might be used for eel picking or transporting a marshman to or from the dykes where he was employed in dredging and clearing dykes – which is called dydling and fying in Norfolk.

Nigel also explains that gun punts were open until 1824 when a Colonel Hawker introduced his new half-decked design and that the punt has hardly changed since then. Slightly different types developed at Hickling and on the River Ant and Breydon Water, but they all tended to be around 18ft with a beam of between 3ft up to 4ft, with the larger beams on the tidal water of Breydon.

They all had a long foredeck, a short aft deck and narrow side decks with low combings and 9in high sides, and they drew about 1½in of water. Where they varied was in the details of the big punt guns, such as their bore, whether they were muzzle or breach loading, and how they were restrained.

Nigel tells me that he has recently recreated eel picking, and sculling and firing a punt gun from another gun punt for a local amateur film maker, and says he was intrigued to see how it handled with an eleven foot sculling oar and a large gun on board.

My hearfelt thanks go to HBBR member Ian Ruston for tipping me off about this story, and Nigel’s entertaining and interesting weblog.

PS Check out the Nigel’s post about  the Broads pleasure wherry Solace.

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