A history of Broads cruisers

A history of Broads hire cruisers

This charming and illuminating history of the Broads cruiser by hire company family member Vaughan Ashby is packed with anecdotes and memories of a time when ‘Blakes was very much a “league of gentlemen”, who all wished to help each other’. (Even as a kid I remember being struck by the way the Broadland yards seemed to cooperate… )

Ashby’s story about the combination of a petrol engine and gas fridge with a pilot light that hire operators tried for a while is particularly scary. ‘Most hire boats still had petrol engines. So if you had a petrol leak, the vapour went down into the bilge and rose up over the galley floor, until it reached the pilot light low down at the back of the fridge. Boom!’

Do check out the rest of the wonderful Broadland Memories website while you’re there…

My parents’ photos of the Norfolk Broads in 1956

  The Broads in 1956 31

 The Broads in 1956 38 

  The Broads in 1956 7


These old Ilford transparencies found in a box belonging to my father Brian Atkin show the Norfolk Broads in 1956.

It was a time when my parents were young, both sailing cruisers and motor cruisers were made from timber, the boat hire companies had quaint old sheds, everywhere – including Wroxham Bridge – was much more peaceful, and I was a little boy still in his cot.

I haven’t included it in this post because of its quality, but one of the shots shows a sprit-rigged Thames barge on the Broads. Nowadays, that sounds pretty unusual, but I’m prepared to bet it was a frequent occurrence years ago.