Cat no. 439

The Broads Remembered by Nat Bircham

Running time15:35 Sound 1973 Norfolk Broads, Norfolk

Former wherry skipper Nat Bircham recalls life on the Broads.


DocumentaryPortrait of a Place

The credits of this film appear over stills showing wherries, including some at Wroxham Bridge. There is a static shot of Nat Bircham smoking a pipe. Modern film, shot in 1971, shows traffic passing through Wroxham and over the bridge. This contrasts with earlier film, taken in the 1940s, showing a quieter town. Roys department store is prominent in both sequences; these include interior shots as well as interior shots of a public house. A bus is standing at a bus stop in the second shot. There are also some schoolboys in uniform. Views of the river and modern sailing boats follow. Some shots are taken from a moving boat. Nat Bircham, a former wherry skipper, recalls that for him, sailing wherries was a full time job; he sailed trading boats in the winter and pleasure craft in the summer. Shots of wherries sailing give way to a shot of Neatishead Street and a sequence of Horstead mill showing the exterior and the interior in working order. These shots were taken c. 1950. A man fishes by the mill. There are stills of the mill in an earlier era and film showing the smouldering ruins of the mill the day after it was destroyed by fire in 1963.

The next sequence shows modern pleasure cruisers at the Swan Hotel in Horning. This contrasts with scenes from a Regatta taken in 1936. Shots of Barton Broad follow. Nat Bircham recalls boat yard owner, Billy Hewitt and his yacht, the 'Lady Violet' who feature in stills. The 'Lady Violet' was on of the fastest yachts on the Broads and won a trophy at the Barton Regatta the first time Hewitt sailed her. Over shots of Hickling Broad, Nat Bircham explains how Hickling was always a shallow broad despite dredging. He remembers having to keep to specially dug channels. A dredger can be seen at the side of the Broad. Nat bemoans the damage dome to Hickling Broad by pleasure cruisers. Nat recalls taking cargoes of sugar beet from Cantley to Horsey Staithe and Waxham. There are scenes of a motor cruiser at Horsey Staithe in the 1940s and of the beach at Waxham. Horsey Church is prominent in the background.

A sequence shows the restored wherry 'Albion' sailing in 1966. Nat Bircham recalls how fast it was to raise a wherry sail and explains the process. He recalls that he had a wonderful time ... wonderful life on the Broads but that they were hard days, not the good old days at all. He describes carting sugar beet in 1928 and we see scenes of the factory with wherries alongside laden with beet. He worked seven days a week for eighteen hours. He earned 4d per hour. There are shots of Reedham showing the railway bridge and the lift to the road bridge at Haddiscoe, which is being raised. A train passes over a bridge at Somerleyton. Further sailing scenes showing people setting off in a yacht at Horning and shots of Barton Turf and St. Benet's Abbey complete the film.

Background Information:

Nat Bircham died in 1981

Featured People:

Nat Bircham, wherry skipper; Billy Hewitt, boat yard owner

Featured Organisations:

British Sugar Corporation

Featured Events:

Horning Regatta, 1936; Horstead Mill fire, 1963

Featured Buildings:

British Sugar Beet Factory, Cantley St. Benet's Abbey; Haddiscoe road bridge Wroxham Bridge; All Saints Church, Horsey Horstead Mill; Roy's Department Store, Wroxham

David Cleveland

Nat Bircham

Terms and conditions

The Terms and Conditions apply to the website (the Website) and by accessing the website you are agreeing to abide by them.

 We may modify the terms and conditions or withdraw or deny access to the Website at any time at our sole discretion.

In your use of the Website you agree not to, at any time:

  1. Conduct or promote any illegal activities
  2. Attempt to reverse engineer or jeopardize in any way the correct functioning of the Website and its services or otherwise attempt to derive the source code or other code or software that enables the operation of this website.
  3. Use any automatic, electronic or manual process not provided by this website to access search or harvest any information from the website or to interfere in any way with its proper functioning.
  4. Mirror or frame the website or any portion thereof, place pop-up windows over its pages or otherwise affect the display of its pages.

Every effort has been made to exclude or flag content that may be upsetting or cause offence and not to include films that are unsuitable, however the East Anglian Film Archive bears no responsibility for people under the age of 18 viewing the Website or for any offence that may be caused by people viewing the Website. If you feel that some items could cause offence please contact us in the first instance. If you would like to have access to any of the films available for purposes not permitted by these Terms and Conditions, including any commercial venture, then please contact us.


The content of the Website including but not limited to the text are Copyright © 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.

The copyright in the original film materials and the digital reproductions of all still and moving images herein and their arrangements in many cases may be owned by a number of parties. Any requests for copyright clearance for use of the material should be directed to the East Anglian Film Archive in the first instance. It is the requester’s responsibility to obtain such necessary clearance and the East Anglian Film Archive will not be held responsible for any failure on the requester’s part to do so.

The contents on the Website may be accessed as view only and purely for non commercial personal, educational and cultural interest. Under no circumstances shall any content be downloaded, transferred, copied or re-produced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media without the prior written consent of The East Anglian Film Archive.

The East Anglian Film Archive would like to thank those who allowed copyright permission for the use and display of works that appear on this site.


The East Anglian Film Archive has made every reasonable effort to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners. There are a small number of cases where, despite our efforts, the copyright owner has not been identified. In these cases, we welcome contact from copyright owners and will take immediate action to gain any appropriate clearances or remove the items if requested.

We do not guarantee that the Website will be compatible with any and all hardware or software which you may use nor that the Website will be available all of the time or at any specific times.

The East Anglian Film Archive makes no warranty that the Website is free from computer viruses or any other malicious or impairing computer program.

The Website contains links to other websites with their own terms and conditions. The East Anglian Film Archive is not responsible for the terms and conditions of these websites.


The East Anglian Film Archive is committed to a high standard of quality in all its work and with this in mind every attempt has been made to present up to date and accurate information on this website. However, visitors need to bear in mind that it is possible that information contained on this website may be out of date, incomplete, the opinion of the author or the opinion  “of the time” and may contain technical inaccuracies and typographical errors. We accept no responsibility for keeping the information in these pages up to date or liability for not doing so. If you notice information that needs to be updated or corrected, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Personal data

The Website may contain some personal data such as names of film-makers, some film participants etc. We have taken all reasonable care to ensure that we operate within the provisions of data protection legislation. If you believe that any of the data on the Website causes or is likely to cause damage or distress to you or any other living person, please contact us with details.

Liability and indemnification

Any unauthorised use you make of the University of East Anglia or East Anglian Film Archive copyright and/or trademarks will constitute an infringement of the University of East Anglia’s Intellectual Property and may lead to legal action and other such remedies in accordance with the governing law.

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the University of East Anglia and its employees, affiliates and students

Except to the extent prohibited by the governing law the University of East Anglia accepts no responsibility for any use you may make of the Website.

The University of East Anglia is only liable to you for direct losses which you may reasonably be expected to suffer where you can show that such losses were as a result of our breach of these terms and conditions. Any implied warranties and conditions are fully excluded.

Our Liability to you shall in no circumstances include any loss of profit or revenue or any other indirect losses you may incur whether foreseen or not.

Governing Law

The Laws of England and Wales shall govern and the Courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction over

  1. The formation, existence, construction, performance, validity and all other aspects of these terms and conditions whatsoever
  2. Any and all claims made by you or us for any and all breaches acts omissions, misuses, liability and copyright claims as set out in these terms and conditions.

The East Anglian Film Archive is owned and operated by the University of East Anglia

© 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.