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Scottish Steam Drifter discovered in Norfolk Church stained glass window

9th September 2019

The Parish church of St. Andrew and St. Peter in Blofield, Norfolk, has two stained glass windows dedicated to the life and memory of Margaret Gordon Harker, JP, the wife of a local landowner who lived in Blofield Hall from 1903 to 1935. During this time she set up Red Cross detachments in the surrounding villages, ran a Hospital at Brundall House for war wounded during the First World War and became the County Director and Controller of the Norfolk Branch of the British Red Cross Society.

Mrs. Harker opened and ran Red Cross Clinics throughout Norfolk, including one in Great Yarmouth, which provided medical treatment for not only local townsfolk but also the Scottish herring fishing fleet community which operated out of Great Yarmouth during the herring season.

The main lights of the windows depict religious scenes but the six lower stained glass panels show scenes from Mrs. Harker’s life and work in the first three decades of the 20th century.

These stained glass panels are based on water-colour sketches by Reginal Otto Bell, and include two that relate to the Scottish herring fleet community.

One panel shows Scottish fisher women gutting herrings on the dock in Great Yarmouth’s harbour , with two steam drifters tied up behind them. Two funnels can be seen in the background, the nearest marked PD 63, with BP 41 further along the dock.

The artist’s name – Reginald Bell – can be seen on the barrel next to the first funnel.

A second stained glass panel depicts one of the Scottish fisher women being treated in the Red Cross Clinic for a cut sustained whilst gutting the herrings.

Both stained glass panels provide an insight into the daily lives of the fisher women during the 1930s with remarkable attention to detail.

Enquiries with FAFB as a result of a query by a Blofield Church Officer regarding the authenticity of the funnel markings resulted in PD being identified as the registered mark of trawlers from Peterhead, but that there was no listing for BP.

A suggestion was made that the stained glass artist may have mis-read the original water colour sketch when creating the stained glass panel, as BF was registered to Banff, and a subsequent enquiry to the Scottish Fisheries Museum confirmed that a herring drifter based in Peterhead, with the registered mark of PD 63 actually existed at the time the sketch was made.

The Curator, having researched the records held by the Museum then went on to give the following details of a Peterhead steam Drifter registered from 1926 to 1941 with the mark PD 63, which would suggest that the funnel marking shown in the stained glass panel very likely belonged to the this boat, as it is known that Peterhead herring drifters were active out of Great Yarmouth in the 1930s and landed their catches there during the Herring season.

INS 357 PITBLAE  Official Number 125316
Material Steel.
Built for Fraserburgh and N of Scotland ST Co Ltd as FR 264.
Built by Hall of Aberdeen in 1908.
Dimensions 86.1' x 18.8' x 8.9'.
Tonnage 93 gross tons, 39 net tons, 34 nominal horse power.
Engine 18 inch compound (Hall).
Later owners 1911, to R Strachan and R Irvin Ltd of Peterhead as PD 12
1913, part-sold to R Irvin Ltd and
J&W McKenzie of Burghead as INS 357
1926, to R Strachan of Peterhead, renamed Guide Us, PD 63
1941, to the Air Ministry. Did not return to fishing. Final fate Scrapped in the 1950's.

The Museum Curator went on to state that no records exist of a BP registration mark, but a Banff steam drifter with a registration Mark BF 412 existed in the 1930s and may possibly be the one drawn by Reginald Bell when he sketched the scene in Great Yarmouth docks that day. Apparently BF 412 was built by the Admiralty but was transferred to civilian use after its military service ended, and became part of the Banff Herring Fleet until it was scrapped in 1954.

Details of BF 412 were provided by the Curator as follows:


G.T. – 93
N.T. – 41
H.P. – 42
Length – 87.4'
Completion Date – 1919

From the information gathered, it appears that a small slice of Scottish fishing boat history has been recorded for posterity in glorious stained glass windows installed since 1935 in a beautiful Norfolk church.

All photographs of the stained glass windows appearing in this article were taken in June 2019 by the author who extends thanks to, and the acknowledgement of, assistance from:

a) the Church officers of Blofield PCC for providing information on Mrs. Harker and the stained glass windows,

b) “Dave” at FAFB for input on registered trawler markings, and for up-loading this article,

c) the Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, for the research into their records and for providing the information on the drifters.

ISL245/19 Sept 2019

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