Welcome, Ahoy

Heather is a traditional yet quirky houseboat, laying on the Broads Waterways of Norfolk and Suffolk. Maintained by friends, she has been home to artists, holiday visitors and mariners for generations.

See on board the houseboat, visit the touring shop and relax on the riverside.


Public Staithes

Public Staithes

8 December 2011

A picture can tell a thousand words


On hire at Turner's Boatyard, Horning in the 'swinging sixties'
Picture courtesy of Blakes Boating Holidays

Heather and the Broads holiday boom

This caption is from Blakes (Norfolk Broads Holidays) Agency brochure of 1967. The small photograph is one of the very few images of the boat prior to 1984. After she was rescued by John & Simone Royal, the houseboat left Turner's Boatyard at Horning and embarked on a new era of preservation and rejuvenation.

The photograph depicts Dennis George, sat on the folding deck chair outside Heather's after cabin. In the early 1950's, Mr George purchased the long established Alfred Turner's boatyard in Horning. The boat was brought up the river from her mooring in the dyke at Eastick's Yacht Station, Acle. The possibly renamed 'Heather' was added to the already diverse Turner's hire fleet.

In the great boom of the Broads holiday boating industry in the 1950's, 60's and 70's, every conceivable vessel and land based hostelry was advertised to let. The Blakes massive publicity machine, helmed from a smart head office in central London, placed the Broads firmly on the tourist destination map. A 'holiday afloat' offered a largely war weary and rationed public a unique 'getaway' to the wilds of the Broads. People from all walks of life took to the water with gusto. 

Modernisation 

Despite Heather already being quite elderly and old fashioned, she was radically adapted for service as holiday accommodation. Heather took on a new role as a hire boat. Both open wells were enclosed; a galley with egg blue 'Formica' type surface worktops forward and the stateroom with two single bunks and a wash basin in the after part of the boat were fitted. Presumably baths and showers were provided ashore. Curiously, the fine iroko hardwood curved sides of the after cabin or stateroom were set with four incongruous steel~framed 'Crittall' type windows. The forward well was instead panelled in spruce with neat sliding teak windows and a pair of teak grilles on her bows. This made the distinctive bluff forward end of Heather. 

Blue was the colour of choice for most of the interior panelling. Deep blue vinyl covered upholstery of 1960's vintage, made by Jeckell's of Wroxham, was used in the Saloon. It is still very comfortable and has TURNER'S written in pen on the reverse side. Heather was fitted throughout with electricity and plumbing was installed. The electric cable can be seen trailing into the forward port side window on the photograph. Fortunately these modifications were on the whole sympathetic and changed little of her Ernest L Woods style (following conversion in the 1920's).

The additional conversion, with four berths, immediately turned Heather into a premium earner. As with many vintage boats like wherries, the hiring of Heather secured her survival in the post war era; albeit in stark contrast to her original incarnation as a mere industrial work pontoon. 

The delightfully simple plan under the photograph illustrates the boat layout, complete with an electric cooker and 'Courtier' multi~fuel stove. A rowing boat was surely an essential extra to explore the rivers, outside of Heather's secluded berth in Turner's basin.

With a stout built and sea worthy hull as opposed to raft pontoons, Heather is today one of the sole surviving traditional houseboats. Some town planners & locals disapprove of houseboats within the Broads landscape, although it is debatable how the Broads area would appear, without the colourful variety of houseboats dotted around the waterways (providing they were legally maintained and moored in appropriate places).

Sadly, no sign of Turner's yard exists today, except for the rough outline of the basin and the famous landmark next door ~ the Ferry Mill. All of the individual character of the yard, its camaraderie and pride disappeared. Urban brick development of the 1990's replaced the typical Broads wooden and corrugated metal boathouses. Happily Heather and some more graceful examples of Turner's fleet sail on, bearing names of flowers taken from world war two ocean greyhounds...

Thanks to the Broadland Memories archive and John Royal Esq.

IF YOU STAYED ON BOARD HEATHER OR HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF TURNER'S BOATYARD AT HORNING, WE WOULD REALLY LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU.

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