Norfolk wherry re-born

The ancient trading vessel Albion, a Norfolk wherry, will be back on the water in her native Norfolk Broads this spring after a major refit.

Over the last three winters £125,000 has been spent on replacing a hogged keel, the entire bow section and the large timbers that support the tabernacle and keep her  50ft mast upright.

Skipper Paul Henry Gowman said: “She’s in the finest shape that she has ever been in since she was first built. Albion will be back on the water as spruce and as beautiful as ever, providing a unique venue to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.”

All the work has been carried out by master shipwright Maynard Watson and his team, helped by volunteers of the Norfolk Wherry Trust, the charity which saved and maintains her. The money was raised by Trust members and supporters.

Maynard said: ‘Nothing gives me more pleasure than helping such a grand old lady stay afloat and at the same time keeping our Norfolk history alive for future generations to enjoy’.

Albion, one of the largest, oldest and most impressive boats on the Broads, was built at Oulton Broad in 1898.  Measuring 60ft long, weighing 23 ton, and carrying 1,500sq ft of black sail,she was  originally sailed by a man and a boy delivering  coal and crops to Broads villages. She was rescued in 1949 by a group of enthusiasts who formed the Norfolk Wherry Trust and is now one of only two surviving examples of trading wherries today.

Her vast hold, which formerly held cargo, has been fitted out with a refectory table, cooker, bunks and toilet. She is listed with The Historic Ships Register, and in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk she is as iconic a craft as the Cutty Sark.

Roger Watts the Trust’s project co-ordinator said “We depend entirely on our volunteers and the public’s financial support to keep this majestic old lady afloat as probably the Broads’ best known icon. We are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to this major restoration.”