100-year-old Phyllis was a pioneer of boating holidays on the Broads

PUBLISHED: 14:54 18 August 2014 | UPDATED: 14:54 18 August 2014

Phyllis Brown who is celebrating her 100th birthday.
Pictured with Patrick and Ian Curtis and June Bullent.

Picture: James Bass

Phyllis Brown who is celebrating her 100th birthday. Pictured with Patrick and Ian Curtis and June Bullent. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

She was an energetic pioneer of the Broads boating holiday who rarely had a chance to get away herself and hankered for home when she did.

Mrs Brown, first left Mrs Brown, first left

Phyllis Brown and her husband James built a business that still thrives in family ownership today creating happy holiday memories amid Norfolk’s scenic waterways.

So it was fitting that the great grandmother from Martham celebrated her 100th birthday close to the reed-ringed Broads that have been her work-place and home and continue to support those that have come after.

Mrs Brown was joined by family and close friends for afternoon tea at The Waterside in Rollesby overlooking the scenic expanse and close to where it all started.

For her husband James Brown was among the first people to recognise the potential for boating holidays, building his own fleet of wooden cruisers, many of which still survive as classic craft.

Mrs Brown was born in Norwich but brought up in Rollesby where her parents ran the local store on the main road.

She met and married James, known as Jimmy, and moved to Martham. There in 1946 Jimmy set up his Martham Boatbuilding Development Company and set about assembling his fleet of more than 100 craft comprising yachts, cruisers and half-deckers, all taking girls’ names starting with J.

Meanwhile the couple had a daughter June and Mrs Brown ran a riverside shop selling holiday essentials, groceries and souvenirs to holidaymakers as well as taking bed and breakfast guests at their home.

The couple enjoyed the odd holiday to France or Holland but preferred to be at home where they enjoyed their work making sure everyone else was enjoying their time off on the Broads.

Jimmy made a commemorative craft to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 but sadly also died that year.

Nearly 70 years on the company is run by the couple’s grandsons Ian and Patrick with more than 30 classic craft, some from the original fleet.

They offer “turn back time” breaks for people looking to recapture the romance of the industry’s early days away from computer games and high-tech gadgets – but with all mod cons.

Mrs Brown’s granddaughter-in-law Angie Curtis said she liked going out to lunch and was partial to a gin and lemonade as well as the odd sherry.

She put her longevity down to “keeping active.”

She was still driving at 92 but opted to give up because all the other cars were going too fast.

Until last year she was still doing all her housework and had to be talked down off a step ladder while changing a light bulb.

Have you got memories of early Broads boating holidays? Contact Broads correspondent Rosa McMahon on

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