Wroxham and the Hire Boat Industry

A cruiser navigating Wroxham Bridge on the River Bure

The hire boat industry started in the late 1800’s in the area around Wroxham Bridge, the village soon became the “Capital of the Broads”. The village and shops are actually in Hoveton St John, Wroxham being the other side of the River Bure. Holidaymakers know both villages collectively as Wroxham.

John Loynes, Harry Blake and Hoseasons

Broads Tours/Norfolk Broads Direct boatyard at Wroxham

In 1880 John Loynes opened his boatyard beside Wroxham Bridge hiring out boats. Within a few years other boatyards opened including the yard of Ernest Collins, son of John Collins. They built one of the largest fleets of boats on the Broads at the time. Soon after Harry Blake set up an agency to represent the boat owners and later a rival company owned by W B Hoseason started at Oulton Broad.

John Loynes boatyard is still here today, now home to Broads Tours and Norfolk Broads Direct. Their base in the dyke just before the bridge is a convenient place to moor for visitors to Wroxham whose boats cannot pass through Wroxham Bridge.

Wroxham Bridge

Wroxham Bridge spans the River Bure at Wroxham

Wroxham Bridge is a semicircular road bridge it has 7 ft 3 in headroom at average high water. The bridge is probably the most difficult to navigate after Potter Heigham Bridge. A Bridge Pilot is available for those hire craft skippers not wishing to take their boats through the bridge themselves. For most hire craft the use of the pilot is now mandatory.

Wroxham Bridge Pilots Moorings

A Cruiser Waiting for the Bridge Pilot and Granary Staithe

Downstream of Wroxham Bridge are the bridge pilots moorings and opposite the day boat and holiday apartments of Broads Tours. If your boat will not pass under Wroxham Bridge then there is a good choice of day boats for hire of varying sizes from many of the boatyards here at Wroxham. Moorings are available for hire craft at these boatyards but it is advisable to avoid mooring on the evening before changeover day. Next to the bridge pilots mooring is the Hotel Wroxham.

The Hotel Wroxham

The Hotel Wroxham beside the River Bure at Wroxham

The Hotel Wroxham occupies a commanding position overlooking the River Bure and Wroxham Bridge. The hotel has 18 rooms, some with a balcony with views over the river and a terrace bar where you can sit and watch the world go by.

The River Bure at Wroxham

The River Bure at Wroxham looking downstream

Downstream of Wroxham Bridge the river opens out with holiday homes and apartments on either bank. Small dykes lead off the river to various hire boat bases. Many long established boatyards have disappeared, taken over by other yards or sold to property developers.

Hoveton St John

Looking upstream from Wroxham Bridge towards the BA 24 hour moorings

Upstream of Wroxham Bridge are the Broads Authority 24 Hour Moorings. From here you are right in the heart of Wroxham, although strictly it is Hoveton St John. At the back of the staithe is the Broads Authority Information Centre with information on Hoveton and the Broads. Boat trips on Liana an Edwardian style trip boat can be booked from here taking visitors down the River Bure towards Coltishall. Liana leaves from the moorings on the banks of the riverside park adjacent to the staithe.

Hoveton Riverside Park

Riverside Park at Hoveton

Roys of Wroxham donated the land the Riverside Park is created on, the area includes a bridge across a dyke and a boardwalk linking the moorings at Hoveton Viaduct with Hoveton. There are also facilities to launch small boats. Kingfishers, siskins, marsh tits, tree creepers, gold finches and even woodpeckers visit the park. From here it is just a short walk under the railway viaduct to the home of the Bure Valley Railway. The railway is situated by the main station, listen out for the sound of the steam engines. A little further a field is Wroxham Barns a craft centre, just north of Wroxham.

Roys of Wroxham

Roys of Wroxham

Roys first store opened in Coltishall in 1895 a few years later a store opened in Wroxham to service holidaymakers on the Norfolk Broads. It is now the third generation of the Roys family that own and run the business. Not only do they have the Food Hall pictured in the photograph but many other businesses too, including a department store, DIY and Garden Centres.

Rural Wroxham

Riverside Cottages on the River Bure at Wroxham

With the last of the boatyards behind us the River Bure enters a semi rural section with thatched cottages and holiday chalets right on the water. Grand houses set back from the river with impressive gardens sweep down to the waters edge. Barton House with its narrow gauge railway is here. They are open from 2.30pm to 5.30pm on the third Sunday of the Month, from April to October, as well as Easter Monday. A ferry service operates from Wroxham Bridge to the railway.

The Vintage Broadsman

The trip boat Vintage Broadsman on the River Bure near Wroxham Broad

The Vintage Broadsman operates from Faircraft Loynes boatyard and is owned and operated by Broads Tours. She was built in 1988 and plies a route between Wroxham and Horning Reach including a visit to Salhouse Broad.