Video reveals life on the Broads in 1930s

Most people would groan if faced with sitting through someone else's holiday videos.

Hours of shaky footage, bad lighting and monotone narration from dad hardly make for must-see viewing.

But one Norfolk woman actively seeks them out to help shed light on life on the Broads in a bygone era.

Carol Gingell, from South Norfolk, runs an archive for historical photographs and video and recently stumbled upon two rare cine reels.

Shot in the early 1930s, they feature a smiling middle-class mother and father as they tour the rivers and broads of the county with their smartly dressed children in tow.


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But 80 years on the identity of the family remains a mystery, even though the youngest children may still be alive.

The metal canisters containing 16mm film were shot on two separate holidays to Norfolk in 1932 and 1933, at a time when owning a video camera was rare and expensive.

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They contain around 40 minutes of footage and what the family documented almost 80 years ago is now giving people a unique glimpse at the history of the region.

The film begins with the family leaving their home, thought to be in Leeds because of the 'UG' registration plate on their car, and setting off on the six-hour journey down to Herbert Woods Broads Haven boatyard in Potter Heigham.

From here they pick up what was to be their home for the next week, the graceful yacht Spark of Light.

In 1932 this would have cost �14 per week to hire, putting it out of the reach of many families.

Over the course of seven days the family takes in much of the Broads, including Wroxham, Coltishall, Horning, Ludham, Great Yarmouth and Acle.

For many the scenes will be instantly recognisable, except for the lack of familiar but modern buildings or the presence of now-defunct windmills which once drained farmland.

The first holiday in 1932 included the mother and father with a young son aged around eight years old and two older sons aged between 14 and 16.

By the following year they were also joined by a daughter aged around 10 years old, and there is no explanation where she was the year before.

The video also captures local people going about their business.

Two men on a rowing boat piled more than ten feet high with a cargo of hay are shown labouring up the river and in another moment two men can be seen ploughing a huge field with small rotary hoes.

Later, while heading along the Thurne from Horsey, the family are seen towing a sailing cruiser behind them, while one of its occupants stands on the bow like a figurehead.

Towing was against the hire rules at the time, but it is unlikely that Herbert Woods will object.

Another scene shows the group enjoying lunch at what could be the Bridge Hotel in Potter Heigham, somewhere they can be seen returning in their video the following year.

The last place they visited on their first trip was Great Yarmouth, where the children can be seen enjoying ice creams from Prince's Tea Saloon.

Later the youngest boy – who wears shorts and a blazer throughout the holiday – is caught driving a pony cart along the seafront with a grin peeking out from underneath his school cap.

The reels were discovered on an online auction site by Mrs Gingell, who runs the Broadland Memories archive in her spare time from home.

She founded it in 2006 after seeing historical images being posted online and deciding to collect them in one place.

'There had been old photos posted on there in the past and I felt it was all getting lost and should be kept all in one place,' she said.

'It started as a hobby but its almost taken over my life. It's just incredible the things that turn up.'

She now gets sent pictures and videos by the public and also buys up whole collections when they come up for sale.

Work is now under way to restore and edit the footage, which may be compiled on to DVD.

Do you know the identity of the family in the video? If so, call reporter Matthew Sparkes on 01263 513160 or email matthew.sparkes@archant.co.uk

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