Steam Ships - 1949 Cycle Tour


Yarmouth Steam Drifter YH71 Waterloo built at Sandwich 1872

Easter 2016 and on a one day break to Great Yarmouth we had the fortune to visit a preserved Steam drifter that is moored on the towns river quay. The Lydia Eva, registered YH89, was built in 1930 and after acquisition by the Maritime Trust in 1971 she was restored to her original condition. The ship is fully functional and occasionally undertakes day trips out to Lowestoft where the general public can become part of the crew and undertake all the functions entailed by a steam powered ship At the present time she had just undergone some extensive and costly repairs to her boiler. The boiler itself is huge, over double the size of that used in a railway steam engine. The company of crew-mates who were on duty on this occasion were very friendly and informative and if one is passing through this town I would highly recommend taking some time out and visiting this piece of living history of Great Yarmouth's illustrious herring fishing fleet.

This visit got me thinking. My dad had a photo album dating from 1948/1949 which was the result of at least two cycle tours, probably undertaken as part of the Irchester Wheelers Cycling Club. A section of this was dedicated to 'August 1949 Great Yarmouth Sea Studies' and contained a variety of shots of the ships at Great Yarmouth. I was hopeful of finding a shot of the Lydia Eva but unfortunately none could be discovered although there are many which certainly appear to be sister ships to the Lydia Eva, built in the same style and, without doubt, old steamers. The photos are well worth sharing.

YH 263 Steam drifter Kitty George Built 1913

These steam powered ships are awesome to say the least. Pay a visit to their engine room and one can see the valve gear in its full glory. The boilers are huge with two fireboxes and I think I am correct in quoting 140 steam tubes. It takes 90 tons of coal to get her going and I forget exactly how many gallons of fresh water but it takes a crew 6 hours to hand pump it into the boiler in order to fire her up. One can hardly imagine the heat, the sweat and the conditions in this engine room with the boat pitching and rolling. It must have been one hell of a job by these hardy Norfolk fishermen.

The Lydia Eva fire boxes and boiler

Quite what fascinated my dad about these boats is unclear. He was a steam engine enthusiast so maybe there is a clue. Even so, these pictures are a fascinating insight into a little bit of history of the Great Yarmouth drifters.
Unknown ship - probably a diesel powered  - entering the river at Great Yarmouth 

YH217 Frons Olivae, hired drifter, built 1916, served as a minesweeper in WW2

Entrance to Yarmouth harbour 

Camping site Yarmouth 

There is no record of the camp site they stayed at and there are very limited clues although the buildings in the background do look somewhat industrial which may point to somewhere along the South Beach Parade. With the pictures being predominantly of the river mouth and the beach scenes depicting groynes this does fit in the assumption of it being South Parade. Sadly, the OS maps from the 1930s -1950s offer no clue as to where the  camp sites are located - maybe this was not even an official camp site. 

However, an archive article from the EDP newspaper does show one particular photograph from 1956 that is captioned with 'A wide selection of canvas structures adorns the foreshore overlooking the beach at Yarmouth' . This is certainly easier to place, and is undoubtedly the South Parade. With the tents jambed in as they  are, the scene is reminiscent of my dads photo. With this evidence I think it is a safe bet that this is the same location as my Dads photo.

EDP archive photo
It is also interesting to note a car, or maybe a van, in the tours camp site picture. Whether this was part of the cycling tour retinue is unclear. The bike that my dad rode was a fixed gear Dawes racing model. It would have been rather cumbersome to have loaded camping gear onto this although I have recollections that he did have a pair of leather panniers that could be fixed to the bike. Even so, I struggle to understand how these could have carried such old style ridge tents, so maybe the car was to transport the gear. Maybe someone out there with old family connections to the Irchester Wheelers has more information.

The Dawes fixed wheel racing cycle

More Yarmouth Photos

Back to the photos from Great Yarmouth, and we continue with a shot of two ships heading up river, 

Yarmouth fishing boats 

August 1949 - Yarmouth Sea Studies 

August 1949 - Yarmouth Sea Studies 

August 1949 - Yarmouth Sea Studies 
August 1949 - Yarmouth Sea Studies

August 1949 - Yarmouth Sea Studies

Seaside shot with groynes which point to somewhere along South Parade - looks like a thumb got in the way of the lens!

And finally

And finally back to the present day Lydia Eve which is open 6 days a week from 25th March to End of October, plus every Bank Holiday Monday. - more information can be found from

2016 the preserved Lydia Eva 


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