The boats used for filming the BBC drama ‘Coot Club’ on the Norfolk Broads in 1983 ~

Norfolk County Sailing Base, Ludham

The ‘Titmouse’ under sail in 1983

I think Jim Searle might have given me this lovely photograph of  Titmouse, and that was taken when the boys from Norfolk who played the Death and Glorys were given sailing lessons prior to filming in the summer of 1983.

Henry Dimbleby resting between takes in the 'Dreadnaught'

Henry Dimbleby resting between takes in the ‘Dreadnaught’.

The Dreadnaught was a useful punt. Henry Dimbleby is sitting on the life jacket he was obliged to wear during rehearsals, despite the fact that he jumped into the water in the action to avoid being spotted by the Hullabaloos, the holiday makers who had hired the Margoletta, in reality the Norfolk cruiser Janca.

Coot Club - Bruce McCaddie the designer

Bruce McCaddie, our Designer with Prop Master Ricky King in the ‘Cachalot’

Am I right in thinking that this must be the Catchalot? It looks as if our designer, Bruce McCaddie, is sorting out a fishing rod used by the actor Sam Kelly, who was after pike.

The Death and Glory at Gay Staithe

The Death and Glory at Gay Staithe

One of the jobs Bruce gave to his construction team was to build the cabin on the Death and Glory, with its flower pot of a chimney. He transformed the look by adding rigging from the mast.

Bruce Mackadie

Our Set Designer, Bruce McCaddie using a dressing boat to approach the ‘Death and Glory’ complete with her cabin. Is the ‘Titmouse’ moored alongside?

In terms of set design ‘Coot Club’ and ‘The Big Six’ were rather unusual productions to work on but Bruce loved boats. Instead of being an extra person on the vessel used by the film crew, he would take a period dinghy to gain access to his sets – which of course were often other boats. This run-around boat could then but used in the back to shot, especially if he needed to hide something modern.

Coot Club - the  camera boat

Norfolk teacher Angela Scott with the ‘Catchalot’

This is one of the only shots I have of the Catchalot, which looks as if it might have been taken up near Horsey Mere. It shows Angela Scott, the children’s tutor making a funny face at the end of the day. You can just see the make-up artist, Penny Fergusson, and what could be Mary Soan on board.  Jill Searle may have been there too. She became a great friend of Liz Mace, our Production Manager who had always been keen on sailing.

Coot Club - Lullaby as the Teasel undersail

Lullaby undersail, playing the Teasel with her stage name painted on a false transome

The Teasel was played by Lullaby. Roger Wardale tells me she is  a mahogany hulled crusier, a gunter-rigged, 4-berth ‘Lustre’ class yacht built in 1932 and kept at Hunter’s Yard in Ludham, where I believe she is still available for hire. She is similar to the 3-berthed ‘Fairway’ yachts that Arthur Ransome and his wife would hire for holidays on the Broads  in the 1930’s.

The Teasel towing the Titmouse

The Teasel towing the Titmouse – click on this photo to see a close-up of the cockpit

One of the secrets of filming Coot Club is that although this looks as if Mrs Barrable is sailing the Teasel, it is not Rosemary Leach but a young man from Hunter’s Yard wearing her costume. Caroline Downer, who played Dorothea Callum, Richard Walton, who played Dick, and Henry Dimbleby who played Tom Dudgeon are in the cockpit, but we also used ‘doubles’ on that day to play Port and Starboard.  I found girls two girls from Norwich, Julia Cawdron and Claire Dixon, who played the twins for a day.

The reason for this was that sailing scenes are time-consuming to film and quite tricky to edit together. While our Director, Andrew Morgan, was busy filming the scenes at the Farland’s house with the actor Andrew Burt and the twins, Sarah and Claire Matthews, accompanied by their mother, I was on a second unit headed up by the Producer Joe Waters. Although Joe had directed a huge number of dramas he asked his film editor, Tariq Anwar, up to direct the sequences, knowing that he would be cutting the shots together.  He came up to the location with his wife and we took most shots from the camera boat, Camelot.

Tariq Anwar is still working. He edited Vivaldi, based on Antiono Vivaldi’s early life, starring Elle Fanning, Neve Campbell and Brian Cox. His latest credits include Great Expectations and The King’s Speech as well Down the River featuring Joe Henry, Tom Jones and Hugh Laurie. I haven’t seen the documentary but presume it must include the odd boat.

Do write in the comments below if you can fill me in on the names of those who helped us with the boats for the series.  My address book lists: Jim and Jill Searle, Rupert Latham, Pat Simpson of Stalham Yacht Services, Richardson’s of Stalham, Lawrence Monkhouse, Keith King of Feny Boatyard and the Steam boat Association. I still have a certain sticker on the front of my BBC address book ~

Coot Club - My Address Book


Filed under 1983, Arthur Ransome, Film crew, Film History, Filmaking, Landscape Photographs, Memoir, Movie stories, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized

16 responses to “The boats used for filming the BBC drama ‘Coot Club’ on the Norfolk Broads in 1983 ~

  1. Delightful! Thank you for sharing your memories and photos to brighten our wintry day. Swallows and Amazons forever!
    Fred Warner
    (in frigid Toronto and not even on holiday!)

  2. phil dence

    Thank you. Could you clarify please. Is the Camelot the same as the Cachalot? Despite attempt we cannot find any past or present information on this boat. Do you know anything?

    • In the photo, Angela Scott is standing in front of a boat we used out-of-vision for the camera crew. She was used as a mobile camera mount. I remember this being a vessel whose owner had recently retired and was free to help us. I have a photo of him. I remember her as being called the Camelot but on magnifying the name I think I am wrong. The photo of Joe Waters and Henry Dimbleby (wearing a life jacket) in a previous post shows the cock-pit. She was wooden but not a 1930s boat so was not used in vision. Forgive me, I was more focused on the children than the boats at the time.

  3. Martin Honor

    Thank you sharing these, and all your other pictures and memories with us. I didn’t see “Swallows and Amazons Forever” on the television as I was working abroad at the time. Titmouse and Teazle are much as I imagined them, though the Dreadnought looks beamier and it is hard to imagine Tom Dudgeon shooting down the river in her after setting the Hullabaloos adrift.

  4. Phil Dence
    Hi Sophie, interestingly we think it is the same boat and this link appears to confirm it. Sadly it appears to have lost its cabin.
    We think your photo is of the Cachalot and it does appear to be moored where Pete, Bill and Joe caught the pike and where Pete fell in. Do you think the Cachalot in the film was in fact also used as the camera boat?

    The Big Six at Scotland Yard would enjoy our detective work. It is rather fun. This summer whilst on the Broads we will look out for the Cachalot.

    • When I magnify the name is on the blue and white vessel it does look like ‘Catchalot’ ~ which Bruce’s assistnat would have painted on for the story. He had been a graphic designer so we have period graphics every where – signs and notices.

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  6. Hi Sophie

    While canoeing on the Broads, we came across the “Death and Glory” tied up at a boat yard. Image here:

  7. Pingback: An Arthur Ransome weekend at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club | Sophie Neville

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