Herbert Woods hits 90-year boating history milestone

Herbert Woods, who trained as an apprentice boat builder in Potter Heigham in 1907, was one of the first pioneers of Broads tourism and now the company, which he formed in 1926 and is still going strong today, celebrates its 90th birthday this year with a grand Regatta being planned on Sunday 10th July 2016*

Herbert Woods set out to design and build a new style of boat, the ‘Light’ cruiser, that was suitable for the narrow rivers and shallow broads, was easy to handle and set new standards in comfort. By 1939 the company had a fleet of 45 ‘Light’ hire cruisers ranging in size from two berths to eight berths.

Michael Whitaker, Partner of Herbert Woods says: “I am privileged to say that 90 years on, the size of the hire cruiser fleet, still incorporating ‘Light’ in all the names, has been increased to 130 craft and a new boat building programme is well established to refresh the fleet with new designs.”

He adds: “In celebration of Herbert Woods’ pioneering history the company is launching ten new day hire Picnic Boats, the first new design on The Broads for 25 years, in time for Easter 2016. I think Herbert Woods would be proud that his vision is still going strong and that tourism on The Broads is as popular as ever.”

In 2015, the company invested £300K into two new ‘Dazzling Light’ cruisers – 44 foot, eight-berth vessels, manufactured to the specific Herbert Woods standards on site and have built nine new ‘Light’ cruisers since 2010.
John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, said: “I am thrilled to wish a happy 90th birthday to Herbert Woods, one of the fantastic family businesses that operate in the Broads tourism sector. It is testament to Herbert Woods that the business has gone from strength to strength throughout these years.

“Herbert Woods is an exemplar of a Broads tourism business. The visitor economy here is worth half a billion pounds a year and supports jobs and vital infrastructure so it is important that we should celebrate this 90th anniversary achievement.”

Simon Partridge, Chairman of Broads Tourism Forum said: “Herbert Woods was, and still is, a name synonymous with the Broads. In addition to creating a major Broads hire fleet, back in the 1930’s Herbert Woods designed boats with minimal wash thus reducing damaging bank erosion – a man ahead of his time! Now, 90 years later the Herbert Woods name lives on, and the company shares Herbert’s original ethos: promoting the Broads by providing a first class visitor experience, by being environmentally conscious and by being innovative. As a major tourism provider in the Broads, Herbert Woods remains just as, if not more, important to Broads Tourism as it was 90 years ago.”
There is also a fleet of day boats, canoes and fishing boats for hire, waterside cottages for hire, a marina for 145 private craft, a yacht brokerage and an estate agents specialising in waterside properties.

The company has invested heavily, amounting to £3m in the site and fleet over the past five years.

90th Celebration Party!

*Regatta – Sunday 10th July 2016 at Potter Heigham, Norfolk
Water frolics, canoe races, ‘Spark of Light’ trips, village fete, games, face-painting, build your own boat and race it with owners of Herbert Woods boats taking part.

The only surviving original ‘Starlight’ cruiser will be attending the Regatta and the owners will be please to take visitors on river trips!

The charity involved in the 90th celebrations is Lowland Search & Rescue.

Editor’s Notes

Herbert Woods joined the family firm of Walter Woods & Sons in 1922, due to his father’s ailing health, and built his first hire cruiser, ‘Speed of Light’, in his own workshop in 1926. In 1930 he undertook the huge project of digging out two acres of marshland by hand to form a marina, ‘Broads Haven’, the very first of its type in the UK.

During the Second World War, Herbert Woods undertook work for The Admiralty and Air Ministry, employing over 300 staff and building more than 200 vessels including Air Sea Rescue Launches, Pinnaces, Motor Torpedo Boats, 72ft Motor Launches, 52ft Harbour Launches and the renowned Airborne Lifeboats. Throughout the war the hire cruiser fleet was moored across Hickling and Wroxham Broads to deter enemy flying boats from landing.

In addition to building up a fleet of 18 ‘Lady’ hire yachts by 1939, the company also contributed significantly to the creation of:

The Norfolk Punt Club in 1926 – Punts were originally used by wildfowlers, but they were then developed for racing under sail. Herbert and his father before him were famous for designing and building ever faster racing craft, many of which are still sailing in the Club.

The ‘Lady’ Yacht Club in 1945 – formed primarily to encourage the younger members of staff to get out on the water and learn to sail, using the ‘Lady’ hire yachts. The Club exists to this day.

14ft Norfolk Dinghy – designed and first built in 1930 by Herbert Woods, these racing dinghies are now much treasured by their owners and have become an iconic class for the Norfolk sailing fraternity – a total of 86 were built.

Herbert Woods is a Partner of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Both organisations will be celebrating their 90th year in 2016.
For more information call 0800 144 4472 or visit www.herbertwoods.co.uk.