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Broads book gives an insight into sailing holidays in the late 1800s

PUBLISHED: 07:47 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 07:51 10 August 2017

A picture of Wroxham bridge taken in 1905. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads

A picture of Wroxham bridge taken in 1905. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads

Archant

It is a charming and funny account of four young students who spent a holiday sailing on the Broads, and now this tale of a summer in 1889 will be brought to a wider audience.

Coltishall in 1904. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads Coltishall in 1904. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads

The newly-published book is based on the diaries of a man who spent time with three friends sailing and camping on the Broads, and is being touted as the East Anglian version of the well-known Three Men in Boat book by Jerome K Jerome, which was published in 1889.

A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889 is a reproduction of the writings and watercolours of SK Baker, a keen artist and diarist.

The cover of A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889 by SK Baker. Images: Michael Goffe The cover of A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889 by SK Baker. Images: Michael Goffe

During their university holidays, Mr Baker and three university friends clad in stripy blazers and boaters spent a 
week sailing on the Broads. He diaried their adventures in watercolour in two small leather bound books.

Mr Baker recorded their evenings in the pub, their encounters with girls, nude swimming and culinary disasters, all while lovingly sketching the landscape and the boats on which they sailed.

An illustration from the book showing Oulton Broad. Image: Michael Goffe An illustration from the book showing Oulton Broad. Image: Michael Goffe

Little is known about the University College London student, however the books were passed down to Michael Goffe, whose father Dr E G L Goffe was one of Mr Baker’s travelling companions.

“Baker had been I believe, a civil servant and a bachelor or certainly seemed so when as an eleven-year-old, I was taken to see him by my father,” said Mr Goffe in the book’s preface.

The three illustrations show Blanche being towed up to Irstead Shoals; the lowered mast at Ludham Bridge; and preparing dinner. Image: Michael Goffe The three illustrations show Blanche being towed up to Irstead Shoals; the lowered mast at Ludham Bridge; and preparing dinner. Image: Michael Goffe

The men took a train from London with their final destination being Wroxham, where the boat they would be sailing on, Blanche, waited.

The book records their journey in series of short notes with accompanying watercolour images as they make stops at Great Yarmouth for “stores and a shave”, Horning Village “where there was the Inn” and Braydon Water where they stopped “at a small wharf”.

The illustrations show the men below deck and paying a toll at a railway bridge. Image: Michael Goffe The illustrations show the men below deck and paying a toll at a railway bridge. Image: Michael Goffe

Mr Goffe said: “Their adventures, documented here, show them doing what young 
men like, and still like doing, living life to the full, with sports and activities, the pub and plentiful contact with the 
opposite sex.”

A Week on the Broads: Four Victorian gents at sail on a Norfolk gaffer in 1889 by SK Baker is published August 10 (Bloomsbury, £10/ £9.99 eBook)

Horning. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads Horning. Courtesy: Museum of the Broads

Interactions with locals

Beautiful Broads: A boat at Horsey Mere. Photo: Chill Photography Beautiful Broads: A boat at Horsey Mere. Photo: Chill Photography

Extracts from the book include some amusing interactions with locals. They include gems like these:

“Not being used to Broads ways, we were a little startled when the youthful skipper looked in from the ceiling to know if we were ready for the hot water, as a bottle of whiskey having been found amongst the stores we thought of having a little - The Skipper joined us in these refreshments, but afterwards yelled so during the night that we were glad to hear him say he would go and sleep in the jolly boat.”

Michael Goffe. Picture: Courtesy Michael Goffe Michael Goffe. Picture: Courtesy Michael Goffe

And two others:

“The wind freshened and the number of knots became so great that we couldn’t wait to hear all that the fisherman had to say; it was not complimentary.”

“Always on the search for beauty (and beer) G & B take the opportunity to get into jolly boat and land at Inn.

“They complained on returning that the Barmaid was suffering from toothache and of the quality of beer.”

Food and drink

Fresh food and drink were a big part of the journey as some extracts show:

“Preparations for Dinner. Menu. Bloaters, Legumes: Beans, Turnips, Potatoes.

“Pouding. Cornflour and Jam.

“Beer and Cheese.”

At Breydon Water, the “evening was spent in strolling about, in bathing and getting vegetables at a cottage”.

“Preparing dinner. Onions, potatoes and turnips tinned beef and cornflour. The fish caught were reserved for tea.”

They came across some Japanese students: “Three little Japanese students were on a boat here, their skipper employed a different menu as he could not manage to eat the same as they did, it is probably that they could not join him either when beer was in the way.”

At one point they received milk from a local farmer: “Two of us went foraging for milk, and steering clear of dogs at a farmhouse we saw it drawn from the cow into our own jug.”

Blanche

There are not many written notes giving details about Blanche, however reference is made to the boat in the following extracts:

“After tea and sundry purchases in the company of Mr. S who kindly saw us off, we took the train for Wroxham where the “Blanche” (our future home) was lying.

“The Railway staff took down the cases containing our simple wants to the boat.”

In another: “The Blanche had a race with another boat and beat it. Then Horning Village came in sight and the children ran along the shore, scrambling for coppers and singing some ditty about ‘John Barleycorn’. We anchored, or hove to, at a Ferry, where there was an Inn.”

Other references are made to “Towing the Blanche up to Irstead Shoals” and “Lowering the mast under Ludham Bridge”.

“Our skipper (Walters) distinguishes himself by ‘quanting’ in the rain. We admire his skill - from inside.”

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