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Thursday, August 14, 2014
It could have been a scene from the waterways of yesteryear.
The Thames barge Cambria and the Albion were cornerstones of Norwich’s bustling port past.
On Wednesday that scene was recreated on the River Wensum as the barges moored together, opposite Read’s Mill where they once delivered goods.
The Cambria was a regular trader to Norwich in the 1940s and 1950s, bringing cattle cake, soya bean, fertiliser, grain and mustard seed, to both Colman’s and Read’s mills.
One of the last barges left working entirely under sail having never been fitted with an engine, the Cambria returned to her former stamping ground as part of a trip run by the Sea Change Sailing Trust, a charity which provides experiences for disabled and disadvantaged youngsters.
She made an intrepid voyage from Ipswich, travelling under road and rail bridges, having to lower both of her gigantic masts to pass under the A47 southern bypass. And she was joined by the Albion, a 116-year-old Norfolk Wherry built specifically for the Broads.
Ivor Stemp, from the Norfolk Wherry Trust, said the public enjoyed exploring the historic barges.
“We wanted to see people actually going on the boat and see the sort of life that people would have lived back in the last century,” he said.
■ Albion is a black sailed trading barge, built on the shores of Lake Lothing in 1898 in an old Ice House. She plied her trade on Norfolk’s rivers and Broads for decades, until the growth of rail and road transport undercut her profitability. Many wherries were sunk on the Broads during the Second World War to prevent enemy sea planes from landing commandos behind the beaches. By the end of the war there were no wherries under sail and Albion, owned and operated by Colman’s Mustard, was towed by steam tugs. A rescue mission was put in place leading to the formation of the Norfolk Wherry Trust and Albion has been kept in sailing condition ever since.
■ A wooden Thames sailing barge, famed as one of the last barges left working entirely under sail having never been fitted with an engine.
Built in 1906 at Greenhithe, Kent by Will Everard who trained as a shipwright in what is now Richards’ shipyard in Great Yarmouth. It cost £1,895 to construct her and in her heyday she could carry 170 tonnes, enough to fill 17 railway carts. Cambria and her sister barges were also a familiar site on Yarmouth’s waterways and the vessel was a regular trader to Norwich in the 1940s and 50s. In 1996 she was sold to the Cambria Trust for £1 and towed to a yard in Kent. 10 years later the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £990,000 to the trust to help towards her four year restoration. Cambria is now sailing again, providing educational activities and training to youngsters.
A bill of parliament was passed making Norwich a port in May 1827, which was met with hostility from authorities in Great Yarmouth.
The Rivers Wensum and Yare connected Norwich to London and its overseas markets through Great Yarmouth and the North Sea.
The trading vessels could only travel with the help of wind or tide and the journey from Norwich to Great Yarmouth took three days or more.
Until the late 1980s grain was delivered to Read Woodrow’s mill in Norwich.
The port ceased to operate in 1989.
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