ALBION was built as a wherry and used to carry cargo on the inland waterways of eastern England. As road transport improved, the wherry became redundant and most were abandoned, sunk or broken up. In 1949, ALBION, one of the few traders remaining, owned by Colmans Mustard, was one of those about to be broken up when a group of enthusiasts formed The Norfolk Wherry Trust to rescue her. Equipping her with a new mast and sail, they re-conditioned her and brought back to the Broadland scene a craft that had been a distinctive feature for nearly three hundred years. She was set to work carrying cargoes on the rivers - timbers, sugar beet, building materials, etc.
ALBION was carvel built of oak with a pitch pine mast, counterbalanced on to a tabernacle set forward. A carvel built wherry was very unusual at this time, most were clinker built. It is believed this type of construction was undertaken to create a smooth external surface, to avoid the vessel being hooked up in locks. The cargo hold was in the centre and the crew quarters were at the rear. The Trust continued to use ALBION as a cargo carrier until 1953 when the hold was cleared to fit basic accommodation for charter parties during the summer with maintenance work carried out in the winter. However, the venture ran into problems. ALBION broke her mast in 1952, sank in 1957, and again in 1959. In 1966, the Trust was faced with the choice of spending large amounts of money they did not have in repairing ALBION, or scrapping her. A 'Save the Wherry' week was held under the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh, and was highly successful. Several thousand pounds were raised and ALBION underwent a major refit over a three year period. She was re-timbered throughout and a new mast was made. A new sail was donated by a local boat hire agency.
She continued to carry passengers and, in the winter of 1999, various repairs were undertaken on ALBION. The covering boards were removed from the port bow to reveal rot. The fore quarter knee was also found to be rotted and both these were replaced, along with the carling hatch. Some of the seams in the aft deck also needed to be recaulked. ALBION now has cooking, toilet and sleeping facilities for twelve people. She has no engine - quanting and sailing are the order of the day. Recent (2007) work has been carried out to remove the wooden keel and replace it with a steel I-beam. Following this work ALBION has regained her sheer line and looks a new boat. On return to her home base she will be fitted out again for the 2008 season.
Norman J Brouwer, International Register of Historic Ships (Edition 2, 1993, pp134) pub: Anthony Nelson
Dick Sullivan, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums (1978) pub: Coracle Books
Roger Finch, Sailing Craft of the British Isles (1976) pub: William Collins & Son Ltd
David Bray, The Story of the Norfolk Wherries pub: Jarrold
R Malster, Wherries and Waterways (1971) pub: Terence Dalton
Norfolk Wherry Trust (2011) pub: Norfolk Wherry Trust
Classic Boat (Jan, 2002) Major refit underway for Albion
Richard Johnstone-Bryden, Classic Boat (December, 2005) Twice the fun at the Barton Regattas
The Wherry Around the Wherry Sheds (2000)
- 1898 Built in Oulton Broad
- 1898-1939 In continuous use as a cargo vessel
- 1939-1949 In use as a lighter
- 1949 Purchased by the Norfolk Wherry Trust and restored
- 1949-1952 In use as a cargo vessel
- 1953s In use as a charter vessel
- 1966-1975 Restoration work continued
- 1996 Transported a Caen 13 tonne stone to commemorate the building of Norwich Cathedral
- 2007 Keel replaced
Presented with their runner up certificate for Flagship 2010
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