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A Brief History The bridge at Potter Heigham is possibly the most notable landmark in the whole of Broadland. To some it is an obstacle beyond which, in many modern boats, the traveller cannot go, even at the lowest tides. To others it is the gateway to a magical world of water and wilderness in which memories linger from childhood and mingle with the stuff of books. Childhood heroes such as Jim Vincent and Anthony Buxton are remembered from bygone ages of Broadland. To those must be added Maurice Davey, Jimmy and Phyllis Brown and the others who are known best by their Christian names alone: Gordon, Patrick and Ian, to name but a few. These are the names associated with that enduring of Broadland institutions; a genuine family boatyard. I am writing about Martham Boatbuilding & Development Company of course; or Martham Boats as they are affectionately known to the many holidaymakers who return year after year. Right at the start it was more of a community boatyard than a family one. Maurice Davey was an apprentice to the yard of Herbert Woods. It was there that he laid the foundations of his craft. In common with other apprentices he longed to have a boatyard of his own. This wishful thinking took place before the war. The war itself provided a further development of his skills. At a naval base in Shetland, Maurice Davey was responsible for the repair and renovation of all kinds of naval craft. It was a wonderful opportunity and on his return home, in 1946, he set about putting his long held dreams into practice And so, in the company of James (or Jimmy) Brown, Frank Skoyles and Derwent Wright, Martham Boatbuilding & Development Company was born. Jimmy Brown was the Managing Director (the “brains of the enterprise” as Maurice Davey put it). Maurice, himself, was the chief designer. The early years saw mainly cruising yachts and the “June” series of launches. From out of this relatively modest start there grew the now familiar “J” fleet “Janets”, the “Janes”, “Janices ”, “Judiths” and “Juliettes”. At the top of the range there still remain the “Silver Jubilees”. In addition to the “J”s there are the half deckers and riverside bungalows. The 1950’s were the growth years; the 60’s and 70’s were the Golden Age. The success, thoroughly deserved, was mainly due to a clear-sighted vision of what was wanted, an appetite for hard work, and that quality of Norfolkness, which may be called “mucking in”. Everyone, employees, directors and director’s wives all rolled up their sleeves and worked together running the yard, carrying out the maintenance and cleaning the boats at turn-round. Not least were the frantic hours of washing and drying and ironing the linen every weekend during the season. Because of the growing success of the company, Jimmy Brown was able to accomplish what most lovers of the Broads can only dream about, owning a wherry. Hathor was bought in and for many years had pride of place at the moorings at the yard. And there she did service as a houseboat and sailing trips.

Profile for Ian Curtis

Japonica 5  

Boat Manual

Japonica 5  

Boat Manual

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