Winter 2016 Selection from Our Archives. (Prev Dip)   (Next Dip)

Our theme for this "Dip" is "Industrial Quay Sides".

Behind the building on the left is the White Swan Coal Yard at Yarmouth. Small locomotives used the quayside lines to shunt coal wagons into this yard thought to be owned by the Press Brothers coal merchants.
Norwich Riverside c1930 with a railway crane on dockside. You can see two wherries if you look closely !
Opposite the Goods Station at Norwich Riverside with a crane loading a large iron barge, the wherry behind is Albion c1930s.
Riverside Norwich by an unknown artist with a trading wherry gliding up to moor, in the background is the original Norwich railway station. This became the Goods Station (mentioned above) when Norwich Thorpe was built.

Records at the time of the construction of the station mentioned : "The new railway was not just for the convenience of passengers; in August 1844 about sixty hundredweight of tea and coffee was brought to Norwich by rail for Messrs Wolton and Co, of London Street. The Norfolk Annals reported ‘We should not be surprised if that practice became more general in busy weeks, particularly when the wind is contrary for the favourable transit of the wherries‘".

The wherry Norfolk Hero at Lacey and Lincoln's Quay Norwich.

A typical working day on the river in Norwich during the early 1900s, with three trading wherries moored at Lacey & Lincoln's builders merchants quay just down river of St George's Bridge. Today this is the site of Elm Hill car park and if you do get a chance to visit, take a look over the quay wall it is possible to see old bricks at low tide still lying on the river bed.

The wherry being unloaded is named after the famous local hero 'Lord Nelson', the owner of the wherry has called his wherry 'Norfolk Hero' this certainly is a great name to give to a vessel of the broads. (It has been stated that Nelson as a boy learned to sail on Barton Broad, while staying at his sister's house close by. I have also read that an old wherryman by the name of Tungate taught Nelson the art of sailing in the his old dinghy!).

The wherry gate vane at the top of the mast of Norfolk Hero depicts Lord Nelson (cut out of sheet metal), this vane is used by the skipper when sailing to give him wind direction.

This wherry is built with a unique difference to most wherries by having half hatches over the cargo hold - most wherries are built with full hatches. My theory for the purpose of using half hatches instead of the full hatch is down to the type of cargo that was carried! This would be bricks, tiles and chimney pots (see the chimney pots in the merchants yard). So why use half hatches ? Well when the wherry is being loaded at the brick fields sites along the river such as at Surlingham, the bricks would have been taken aboard by the use of a wheel barrow (wherry wheel barrows are special with just a front wheel and no legs so the barrow is able to sit flat on the loading gang plank to unload). The Norolk Hero wherry is built with a centre beam in the middle of the hold. This beam stretches the whole length of the hold starting just behind the mast and attaches the other end on to the front of the cuddy (the crew living quarters), this centre beam supports the half hatches in the middle of the hold. Using this special construction of smaller half hatches means lighter hatches to be lifted by the crew, also they are opening up only half of the hold at a time, ideal in wet weather. My main theory is that loading bricks by wheel barrow, makes for a very heavy barrow. Using a short plank out to the centre beam is far more stable and less inclined to break. Imaging how bouncy a plank would be stretching right a cross the wherry hold. I certainly wouldn't want to wheel a heavy barrow out on to a bouncy gang plank.

When unloading these barrows the men would throw around five or six bricks side by side at a time, these would be caught by the man in the hold and stacked in the pile the same way. This unique half hatch wherry construction was used on the wherries Norfolk Hero, Tiger, William, Lucy, Florence and the very large wherry Wonder, it seems wherry owners adapted their vessels for best purpose to suit the cargoes carried.

Mike Sparkes Archivist Norfolk Wherry Trust

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