WISEArchive is a voluntary organisation set up with the objective of collecting stories of people living and working in Norfolk and Suffolk over the last century.  By a process of interviews, recorded and transcribed, many of these stories have been published on their website, but now around a hundred individual stories from the Broads have been brought together in a wonderful and fascinating book.

Water, Mills and Marshes, as its title suggests, is divided into chapters looking at specific aspects of life and work on the Broads.

Childhood memories, from the early 1900s, stories of the marshes of Halvergate and the boatyards of the Broads.  Many from ordinary people who grew up without electricity and inside bathrooms, but also some with connections to well known names and places, such as Suzie Hanna, daughter of Ted Ellis, who tells of growing up on Wheatfen.

The Water chapter tells the stories from boatyards, the waterways and wherries.  Rex Woods talks about growing up with the heritage of the Herbert Woods yard; Father and son Tom and Ian Grapes talk about their lives working at Hunter’s Yard; Tony Risebrow worked as a river inspector for 24 years; Jamie Campbell talks about the growth of dinghy sailing; wherry skipper Mike Sparkes talks about his family history intertwined with the wherries.

In the chapter on Mills we hear from passionate people who have worked to restore some of the many wind and water mills and pumps on the Broads.  Peter Gowing tells of how he became a millwright and helped convert old mills from steam, to diesel and finally to electric power.

In the Marsh section we hear from marshmen who had hard lives keeping dykes and drains clear and tending cattle; from farmers who have developed agriculture in the area; characters such as Edgar Hoddy, the knackerman, and reed cutters Bernard Sheppard and Wally Mason.

The final chapter covers the conservation and ecology of the Broads.  There are several stories about the problems with catching coypu; we hear about the development of the many nature reserves; and Tim O’Riordan, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at UEA, wraps it up with an overview of the environmental history of the area and looks ahead to what the future holds.

I’ve mentioned just a few of the many, many stories this book holds.  It is beautifully produced on glossy paper with copious colour photographs and gives a wonderful insight into the many and varied aspects of life in and around the Broads.  Anyone with a love of our amazing wetlands will enjoy this.

Order Now

Water, Mills and Marshes: Life and Work on the Broads 1920-2020
Paperback 295 pages; WISEArchive
ISBN 9781838108700; RRP £15.00

Other titles for lovers of the Broads

To see our full range of Broads titles, please visit our website.