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Where was she built?

She was built at Lake Lothing, between Oulton Broad and Lowestoft in the yard of William Brighton. Her “shed” was an old ice house which was demolished after she was launched.

When was she built?

She was launched in October 1898.

Who was she built for?

Albion was built for the firm of Bungay Maltsters, W.D. and A.E. Walker.

What is she made of?

Mainly oak.

What are her dimensions?

58ft. x 15ft. x 4ft. 6ins. (17.69m x 4.57m x 1.37m), or, if the rudder is included 65ft. overall.

What weight is she unladen?

23 tons.

What did she carry?

Almost everything from beet to manure ! Cargoes have included coal, ice, timber and lastly sugar beet.

How much freight did she carry?

She was registered to carry 35 tons but has been known to carry up to 42 tons.

How were they loaded/unloaded?

Invariably by hand and often by the wherrymen themselves. A unique “legless” style of wheelbarrow was associated with wherry cargo handling.

Why is the sail black?

The sails started off white, then to try and prevent the sail rotting (due to UV exposure) they were coated with herring oil which effectively made them red. However rodents such as rats liked the flavour and tended to eat the sails so they were coated with pitch. Hence black sailed traders.

Why is the bow painted white?

To aid visibility when sailing at night, with a light on the stem post.

What size is the sail?

1200 square feet (without the bonnet).

Where did they originate?

The wherries were a direct development of the Norfolk Keel which itself is believed to have been a development of the Viking longships.

How tall is the mast?

42feet (12.80m).

How heavy is the mast?

Just under 3 tonnes including the counterweight.

What is the mast made of?

Columbian pine (laminated).

How is the mast lowered with the winch “in the way”?

The barrel of the winch swings aside to allow the foot of the mast and its counterweight to rotate upwards through the carling hatch.

Why is the vane called a ‘Jenny Morgan’?

Allegedly the name of a popular Welsh singer/song “adopted” by wherrymen. A fuller explanation has been provided by John Daynes of the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust as follows :- Visitor to wherry: Who is the woman on the weather van on the top of the mast? Crew member: Jenny Morgan, a character from a 19th century song about a Welsh woman. Visitor to wherry: Why have you got a Welsh woman on top of a Norfolk wherry? Good question ! So, exactly what was this song? And how did Jenny Morgan come to be represented on the mast head of many Norfolk wherries including surviving ones such as Albion and Hathor? First, the easy bit, the song, but don’t try tracking down a song called Jenny Morgan – you won’t find one. Instead look for the song titled Jenny Jones, Sweet Jenny Jones or, possibly, The Maid of Llangollen.

This song starts off :- My name’s Edward Morgan, I live at Llangollen From the vale of St Taffy’d the flower of North Wales My father and mother too live at Llangollen, Good truth I was born in the sweetest of vales. Yes indeed, and all countries so foreign and beautiful, That little valley I prize far above, For indeed in my heart I do love that Llangollen, And sweet Jennie Jones too in truth I do love. The song goes on to tell how Edward served for twenty years in the Royal Navy, surviving ‘bloody engagements’, storms, and the attentions of ‘many fair maidens’. After seeing many foreign lands and famous people he returned home :- I parted a lad from the vale of my fathers, And left Jenny Jones then a coquet young lass, But now I’m returned a storm-beaten old mariner Jenny, from Jones – into Morgan shall pass. And we’ll live on our cheese and our ale in contentment, And so thro’ our dear native valley shall rove, For indeed in our hearts we both love that Llangollen, And sweet Jenny Morgan with truth will I love. (Incidentally, it is said there is a local version which starts :- My Sweet Jenny Jones is the pride of North Walsham, My Sweet Jenny Jones is the cheapest and best. (It possibly refers to a local brand of cider but I have no more information about this).

The song seems to have started life in 1804 with the tune ‘Cader Idris’ composed by the Welsh harpist John Parry. It enjoyed considerable popularity. (If you want to hear the tune search for Sweet Jenny Jones on Youtube.) A full music/song sheet may be viewed here . In 1825 an actor Charles Matthew visited Wales and heard the story of a real life couple, Edward and Jenny Morgan. He met the Morgans and was so enchanted with the tale they told that he wrote the song about them, setting it to the tune that he had heard and memorized in a hotel in Llangollen without knowing who composed it. The song became very popular throughout England and Wales for many years. It was produced as a broadsheet ballad, adopted as the basis for a Morris dance, and inspired a range of memorabilia such as ‘Jenny Jones’ chinaware, brasses and corkscrews. A comedy pastiche of the song was written in 1875 by no lesser a person than Gerard Manley Hopkins.

So, how did Jenny Morgan come to be on the top of so many wherries? Robert Malster, in ‘Wherries and Waterways’, tells us that in 1853 a wherry named Jenny Morgan was launched and she was possibly the first to have this style of vane. In 1845 a Norwich brewery was taken over by brothers John and Walter Morgan. The brewery had a fleet of wherries and at some time adopted Jenny Morgan as the masthead figure for their fleet. However there is no indication that the brewery used the Jenny Morgan figure anywhere other than on their wherries which suggests they were just picking up on a general use of the figure on wherries. This still begs the question ‘why was it so used?’. This then leads us to a second line of thought – speculation really. Imagine perhaps that many wherrymen were onetime sailors who had spent many years at sea away from home. We can imagine the song being sung on board ship as the sailors remembered their loved ones back home. We can imagine too the song being sung in the wherrymen’s public houses of the Broads. Can it be that the usage simply developed as a romantic response to the hardships of the wherrymans’ life?

How many crew?

Two, traditionally a man and a boy. It was not uncommon for a wherryman to carry his family aboard and indeed on occasions a wherryman’s wife would act as mate. However they would normally have a small cottage in which the family would live while “father” was earning their living sailing the rivers.

How many wherries were built?

At their peak there were over 300.

What did they do when wind and tide prohibited them from progress?

Put the kettle on if they didn’t fancy the quants !

When was the last trip as a commercial freight carrier?


What is her draft?

Approximately 4 feet 6 inches.

Why is Albion carvel built whilst all other Norfolk wherries were clinker built?

One of the great wherry “debates” ! A popular view is that her smooth hull prevented snagging in the locks of the southern rivers, however the bin irons extended further outwards ? Latterly there is a theory that she was built “on the cheap” using timber oddments. As many of these were quite short it was a simpler construction process to “butt” the timbers rather than overlay clinker fashion.

Is there an engine?

No. The only “power” was provided by the wind via the sail or the wherryman’s muscles via the quants !

How fast can she sail?

Typically 3-5 knots, max 7-8 knots. Rumoured to have been sailing around 9-10 knots when mast snapped on Breydon Water !

Did they sail at sea?

Having evolved for use in the shallow Broadland waters wherries were not really suitable for work at sea. However some of the larger wherries were used as “lighters” transferring cargoes to and from larger vessels moored outside harbours such as Yarmouth. It was also not unknown for wherries to sail between Yarmouth and Lowestoft by sea rather than take the far longer inland route.