This is the only place between Norwich and Yarmouth where you can cross the river Yare by car. Nowadays it costs £4 to make the crossing, and the ferry can take up to three cars. A cycle plus rider costs a pound and a pedestrian 50 pence, although I should not think there are many of them, because it is long walk (though a flat one) to the next village of Raveningham. It still has a valuable function, as otherwise it can take up to an hour to cross from Hardley to Acle on the north side of the river. I have crossed it just once, in the early 1980s, just for the experience. Besides its genuine transport use it must also be a tourist attraction, in the summer months at least. The website promotes the associated caravan park and fishing as much as the ferry itself.
Until 1949 the chain ferry was hand operated. The ferryman was the licensee of the Ferry Inn when the Archers took it over in that year. The Ferry Inn was also taken over by Norman Archer, and until then it sold only beer. In the 1920s the ferry was already taking motor lorries and it must have been introduced in the late 19th century when it would have carried horses and wagons. There were numerous other ferries over the river Yare in those days, at Whitlingham, Bramerton, Surlingham, Coldham Hall, Buckenham and elsewhere but these smaller ferries had all gone by the time I was a child.
As well as having a ferry Reedham is a junction on the railway line from NORWICH to YARMOUTH. It was opened in 1844, on the first line in the county. Just beyond the station the line to Lowestoft (built 1847) diverges from the line to Yarmouth. This is no longer the main line to Yarmouth; it has just one stop on it, the halt for the Berney Arms pub. The pub is the only house served by the station, and it has the distinction of being furthest from the road of any station in the country (over 2 miles). Best access to the pub is by boat. The main line to Yarmouth now goes through Acle rather than Reedham. The junction with the Lowestoft route is at Brundall, but this line from Brundall to Yarmiuth was not built until 1883.
The junction at Reedham I have used just once, going by railway from Yarmouth to Lowestoft. This used to be a simple matter of going from Yarmouth Southtown station, or even (before 1952) from Yarmouth Beach via the Breydon viaduct, but both these stations and the lines which connected them to Lowestoft have gone many decades ago. The journey is still possible with a change at Reedham, but it involves a long wait and I doubt many people do it. It might even be quicker to go via Brundall or even Norwich. But before the 1st June 1859 (when Yarmouth Southtown station was opened) this was the only route between the two towns. The station at Reedham must have been a busy place in those days with many passengers going between the two ports.
Although there is no road bridge at Reedham there is a swing bridge that takes the railway across the river Yare to Lowestoft.
When the rivers were the main arteries of communication within the country Reedham was once a much more important place. It was known to the Romans, when the estuary of the river Yare was much wider and Reedham was almost a sea port. Fragments of Roman brick still turn up in the village, and appear in quantity in the church walls. Reedham occurs in a story by Roger of Wendover (d. 1236) about St Edmund and although the legend may be pure invention the place was obviously well known to these medieval annalists. Even before the time of Edmund it is said to have possessed a church founded by St Felix around the year 640. He was the first Bishop of East Anglia, after the king turned to Christianity. (He gave his name to Felixstowe.) The church at Redham survived until it was destroyed by the invading Danes on their way to murder Edmund in the year 869. This information comes from the Liber Eliensis or the History of Ely Abbey, written in the 12th century. All those early Saxon churches would have been built of wood, and the fine church is much later. It may well have occupied the same position however.
Anybody who wishes to read more about St Edmund should send for my booklet St Edmund’s Norfolk. This available as a download by email me at the address below. Alternatively you may have a hard copy, available on Ebay, where the price is donated to Themelthorpe church.
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA