Herbert Woods 36 - Classic 1927 'Spark of Light' # 01673

Earlier this year EMS undertook a pre-purchase survey, valuation and engine oil analysis – of the above classic Herbert Woods 36 and we felt that a ‘potted history’ would be of interest to our readers 

Herbert Woods 36 Classic

Hull:                    Carvel – Pitch Pine on Oak timbers
                            Planking fastened with copper nails and roves

Keel:                    Central hardwood laminated keel with lead ballast

Propulsion:        Perkins P4 Diesel

HISTORY OF ‘SPARK OF LIGHT’:     In 2011 Herbert Woods boatyard managed to buy the former Norfolk Broads hire boat Registration no.’B53′ which is now believed to be the oldest of the Norfolk Broads cruisers built at Herbert Woods in Potter Heigham that is still afloat and in use. This is, to the best of our knowledge and belief, the history of this important piece of Norfolk Broads boating heritage.                                                                         B53 ‘Spark of Light’ was built by Herbert Woods himself in 1927 in a boatshed just upstream from Potter Heigham Bridge.


Very little is known of her early years, however we do have some idea of what she looked like as she features in “Boating on the Norfolk Broads in the 1930’s” a DVD produced by Broadland Memories which shows a family’s 16mm home cine film of their Norfolk Broads boating holiday on ‘Spark of Light’ in 1932. Notice there is no windscreen or wheelhouse, just a solid folding roof with canvas screens to all four sides.                                              At some point before April 1934 the boat’s name was changed to ‘Spot of Light’. We are not sure why, however believe that at some point there may have been a small fire in the galley and Mr Herbert Woods, believing the name ‘Spark of Light’ to be tempting fate, decided to change it to ‘Spot of Light’.


‘Spot of Light’ along with the rest of the Herbert Woods fleet played an important part in the areas war effort. The fleet was moored on Hickling Broad, rafted together and covered with a tarpaulin to prevent German flying boats from landing. By the end of the war the fleet was in a sorry state, with many of the boats riddled with bullet holes where they had been attacked by fighter planes. So, Herbert Woods began a programme of rebuilding the fleet. During this time, we know that ‘Spot of Light’ had a new transom fitted of beautifully figured Cuban mahogany.  It seems ’Spot’ underwent a further name change in 1947 this time to ‘Shimmer of Light’. It is assumed that this occurred when the boat was recommissioned post war as this is how she features in the 1947 Blake’s holiday brochure.

Herbert Woods 36

‘Blakes Catalogue’ 1950’s
In 1951 ‘Shimmer of Light’ was fitted with Herbert Woods newly patented ‘Broads Haven’ Retractable Wheel House. This became a unique feature of all Herbert Woods ‘Light Cruisers’.
Sadly in 1954 Mr Herbert Woods died and Mr Lindsay Cutler took over as chairman of the company. Taking a liking to ‘Shimmer of Light’ Mr Cutler removed her from the fleet and registered her as his own private boat in 1955.
Under Mr Cutler’s ownership ‘Spark of Light’ underwent significant refurbishment. She was painted overall in white, had a new diesel engine fitted, the wheelhouse was fixed so it was no longer retractable, two auxiliary fuel tanks were added to increase her range, davits were fitted to the aft deck so that she could take an outboard dinghy and a ‘Dolphin’ ship-to-shore radio that was installed in the saloon. Internally the boat was refitted with new galley appliances, including a fridge. The saloon berths were made to fold up against the sides of the hull and individual armchairs put aboard. Items like the gate leg table were replaced with a new mahogany one.

‘Thurne Dyke’ 2005
‘Shimmer of Light’ was relocated to Broads Edge Marina in Stalham, it was here in 2011 that she was noticed by Waterside Marine Sales, now part of Herbert Woods. It was clear that she was not being regularly used and, realising the unique opportunity of acquiring the oldest Herbert Woods hire boat afloat, the Partners set out to acquire her. An offer was made to Mr Edwards which was accepted and the boat was returned to Herbert Woods. The boat was immediately renamed ‘Spark of Light’ and a programme of restoration began.

Herbert Woods 36 Moored

‘Arriving back at Herbert Woods’ 2011                                                         Since 2011 ‘Spark of Light’ has been used as a promotional tool for the company and has featured in numerous magazines including Practical Boat Owner and Classic Boat Magazine. In 2014, she was showcased at Herbert Woods’ Heritage Day attended by HRH Princess Anne. ‘Spark of Light’ was also the star attraction at the Herbert Woods 90th Anniversary Fete and Water Frolic in 2016.

Acknowledgement Herbert Woods Ltd, Potter Heigham

              For more information contact European Marine Services Ltd.

Marine Surveyors & Consultants
EMS also undertake Boat Safety Inspections & Engine Inspections
Tel: 01603 327 123
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