History of the Norfolk Broads

Until the 1950’s it was believed that the Norfolk Broads were just a feature of the natural landscape. Since then however the history of the Broads has been proved to be somewhat different. In the 1950’s Dr Joyce Lambert examined the sides of the lakes and discovered them to be vertical rather than gently sloping as one might expect. This suggested that rather than being naturally formed the Broads were in fact man made.

Throughout the 12th century the cities of Norwich and Yarmouth were thriving and as a result the population in east Norfolk was growing rapidly. Monasteries began to excavate peat by hand and export it to the cities as an alternative fuel source timber, which was becoming scarce. Peat digging or ‘turbary’ soon became a thriving industry, it is believed Norwich Cathedral took 320,000 tonnes of peat per year, and soon digging took place all across east Norfolk.

In the 14th century, sea levels gradually rose and the peat pits began to fill with water, flooding became more and more common until eventually the pits were abandoned. Over 125 miles of channels and Broads had been created and throughout the 16thcentury provided essential routes for trade, with Wherries transporting wool and agricultural produce from Norwich to Great Yarmouth for export worldwide.

The arrival of the railways in the 18th century meant less and less produce was being transported by river, and more and more people were beginning to travel to the area for holidays. By the late 19th century a number of small businesses had set up offering yachts to hire this was the beginning of boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads.

One of these small businesses was the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company Ltd managed by Herbert Woods father Walter Woods. Continue the story and discover the history of Herbert Woods.