History of Broadland

The Norfolk Broads are man made being England's largest wetlands. They are a combination of broads, rivers and dykes  with over 125 miles of navigation and home to a host of wildlife In Roman times a lot of the area was under sea. By the Norman invasion the area was farmland. Records found in St. Benet's Abbey showed parts of land used for peat digging, as there was little woodland, peat was the only source of fuel.
The monks had the rights to peat-cutting and the Abbey became very wealthy. The monastery of Norwich needed 200,000 bales of peat a year alone and within 200 years, 9 million cubic ft of peat had been cut, creating huge holes. When the sea level rose in the 14th century the area flooded, and the Broads were formed. The earliest mention of a broad is Ranworth in 1275. Eventually the amount of water made it impossible for digging and the industry died out.
The wherry dominated in the 19th century with hundreds of black sailed vessels carrying goods to and from the coast. A new channel was dug to link the Yare and the Waveney giving rise to more trade. When railways were built the wherry became redundant. Some owners converted their craft for pleasure cruises and soon wherries were being built just for  cruising.

Marshmen worked the land from the early 20th century, maintaining the dykes and managing the reed beds  for thatching and other products. After the second world war the Marshmen had all but died out, tractors replaced horses and visitors started to flock to the broads for holidays on motor cruisers. .

Future Flooding on the Broads
Wherries
Wind Mills & Pumps


The wherry dominated the scene in the 19th century and several hundred black sailed vessels navigated the narrow waterways carrying goods to and from the coast. A new channel was dug to link the Yare and the Waveney giving rise to further trade. As the railways were built an alternative to river transport was created and the wherry began to become redundant as a trading vessel. Some enterprising wherry owners converted their craft offering pleasure cruises but the traders diminished and soon pleasure wherries were being built for the sole purpose of cruising the Broads.

Marshmen worked the land from the early 20th century, maintaining the dykes and earning a living from the abundance of reed, managing the reed beds to ensure the harvesting of reed for thatching and other products.


The Norfolk Broads are a totally man made environment which has evolved over the last 2,000 years and are England's largest stretch of wetlands. The Broads are a fascinating combination of broads, rivers and dykes famous for outstanding boating, with over 125 miles of navigable waterways and home to a host of plants, animals, insects and birds.

During Roman times a huge amount of the Broads we know today was under the sea but by the time of the Norman invasion the area had become an established farming area with the abundant peat being used as fuel. Records were discovered in the remains of St. Benet's Abbey which showed certain parts of land were used for peat digging and as there was little woodland, peat was the only source of fuel. People dug peat for heating and cooking purposes but it was not until the Middles Ages that peat-cutting became organized.


The monks of St. Benet's acquired all the rights to peat-cutting and consequently the Abbey became very wealthy. The episcopal monastery of Norwich needed 200,000 bales of peat a year alone and within two hundred years, nine million cubic feet of peat had been cut from the area, creating expanses of huge holes. Although the rivers were undoubtedly natural When the sea level rose in the 14th century the area flooded, and so the Broads we love today were formed. The earliest mention of a broad is Ranworth Broad in 1275. Eventually the amount of water made it impossible for digging and the peat cutting industry died out.

After the second world war the broads changed dramatically, the Marshmen had all but died out, tractors replaced horses and visitors started to flock to the broads for holidays on motor cruisers. Boating was not a new form of recreation on the broads, many villages had been holding annual regattas for many years but this was the era in which hireboat holidays were born.

Today the Broads Authority is appointed as the 'Caretaker' of the broads to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and culture of Broadland and to promote the public enjoyment of the area. The Broads Authority is also responsible for protecting the interests of navigation and is the third largest navigation authority after British Waterways and the Environment Agency.