On 17th May Jonathan Hooton made a welcome return to complete the story of the Glaven Ports, charting their decline and fall as trading posts.
By the end of the C18th the twisting Blakeney channel became difficult for larger ships to navigate and a new direct cut was made. Unfortunately the owners of the salt marshes to the east carried out embankment and drainage works to make the land suitable for agriculture, with the consequence that tidal flushing decreased and the channels began to silt up again. Blakeney Customs House closed in 1853.
Large ships unable to reach the quatside were helped by an area of deeper water in the Blakeney channel known as "The Pit". From here their cargoes could be off-loaded to lighters and from 1851 steam tugs came into use. The Salthouse channel became unnavigable from about 1830.
Cargoes consisted principally of coal from Newcastle and Sunderland and outward trade was dominated by grain and other agricultural products, especially malting barley to London, and as far as Dublin. From 1884 the the railway reached Holt and from then on seaborne trade declined. The Blakeney Harbour Company was wound up in 1914.
Ships were built locally. They were often part-owned by their masters with remaining shares taken by local traders, business men and, surprisingly a few women. One ship, the Enterprise, is recorded as making two journeys to Cartagena and then Portugal, picking up lead before returning to Tyneside.
Between 1862 and 1935 a succession of lifeboats were stationed at Blakeney saved 100 lives, and the harboiur became a vital refuge during storms. Trading had effectively ceased by 1940 and the harbour infrastructure fell into serious disrepair, only to be reinstated after the war as holiday business took over. Jonathan’s impeccable research, accompanied by early photograph of ships and tugs in action, brought vividly to life the amazing story of our peaceful coast.