Norfolk was primarily a farming county, but gathering by the rivers has always been popu-lar. Hundreds of years ago, crowds would watch wherries sailing, packing and unloading. By the 1830s, there was a desire for faster sailing craft, with yacht and rowing races bring-ing regattas around the Broads. Bets would be wagered among busking musicians, and it generally became an event to eat, drink and be merry.
The railway arrived in 1844, making it easy to reach the Broads, and by the 1880’s new lines brought tourists from all over the country. Wroxham station was a popular alighting point because of its Broadland central location. The Victorian middle class loved dining by the water.
Fast trains made the working boats redundant, so they adapted their business to encourage day-trippers to stay longer and party on their vessels. Steamers converted from cargo to pleasure cruising.
Most villages had just one tiny shop. In 1899, the Roy brothers capitalised on this new opportunity by opening their ‘largest village shop in the world’ at Wroxham. Today Roy’s stores are all over Wroxham, expanding from yachting provisions and groceries, to toys and even a McDonald’s restaurant.
In the 20th-century hire boats really took off in Wroxham, attracting flocks of holidaymakers. In 1881 the population of Wroxham was just 374, today the village records about 1,500 citizens, but soars many times more in the summer.