Maud is a very special wherry, the last of the typical clinker-built trading wherries to sail on the Norfolk Broads and Rivers. She has had a chequered history, starting her working life in 1899 as one of a small fleet of private trading wherries owned by a director of Jewson, timber merchants in Great Yarmouth. In her early years she was photographed being used by her proud owner to host a party of friends to watch a regatta. At the end of her working life she was no longer a smart, well-painted vessel as she was in use carrying dredgings for the river contractors May Gurney.
In the mid-1960s May Gurney, Maud’s then owners, must have decided that wooden wherries were no longer viable. The iron wherries that they had acquired from the Thain family were more robust and simpler to repair. Perhaps their skilled wooden boat builder also retired at that time.
Maud was offered for sale for the sum of £50 but nobody bought her. The final use for old wherry hulls was to protect sections of river bank from erosion. Initially they sunk Maud in the position where the Ranworth Conservation Centre now stands. A few years later, in order to construct the Centre, Maud was raised and moved. The thin spit of land that separates Ranworth Broad from the adjacent Malthouse Broad was in danger of erosion and so Maud was sunk there and was destined to remain in that position permanently.
In the late 1970s Vincent and Linda Pargeter began to scour the Broads and survey the remains of any wherry wrecks they could find. The most suitable wreck proved to be Maud. Why? There were several reasons for their choice. Firstly Maud‘s owners were willing for her to be taken away. Secondly, her side decks were above the water level at low tide and it was feasible that she could be raised simply by pumping out the water in the hold at low tide. Finally, her last skipper at May Gurney reported that she had been in good condition when sunk in the 1960s.
June 1981 saw Maud’s rescue operation begin. The first invoice in the account book is one from Sonny Amis, the river contractor, who brought along a large pump and re-floated Maud successfully. Eighteen years later she was ready to sail again and her re-commissioning took place on Wroxham Broad in September 1999.