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Langford Jillings

05 September 2018

Tributes paid to a Broads boating pioneer

One of the Norfolk Broads’ great characters and boating pioneers, Langford Jillings Snr, has died at the age of 79.

Born in Lowestoft on Christmas Day in 1938, Langford worked with his father hiring boats to holidaymakers from St Olaves before building up his own successful hire and boat building business at Brundall.

He died in hospital on Monday, August 20, with his partner Margaret at his side.

Paying tribute to a man who built up Alphacraft from a handful of hire boats into one of the most influential boatyards on the Broads, NYA managing director James Fraser said Langford would be sorely missed.

“In the 1980s and ‘90s, Langford did much to advance the design and comfort of hire craft, not just in Norfolk but across Europe,” he said.

“He was an accomplished engineer who had great vision and produced some excellent river cruisers. Brundall has lost one of its great characters and he will be missed by many.”

Big character

John Cressy knew Langford for more than 50 years, and described a “very honest man” and a big character who leaves a lasting legacy on Broads boating history.

“It’s the end of an era,” he said. “He designed some fantastic boats together with John Moxham, and at least 50 per cent of the cruisers on the Broads are based on his moulds.

“If you did business with him he would never rip anybody off – he would always treat them fairly. He could be quite firey, but once you got used to him he just used to blow steam and then the steam would go.”

And John had plenty of time to get to know his one-time mentor, as a teenager working as the older man’s apprentice engineer at LBS Engineering, maintaining the trawlers operating out of Lowestoft.

Langford Jillings Snr

Langford aged three, with his first boat

Langford also worked with his father at Jillings Yacht Station at St Olaves, operating a small fleet of wooden cruisers for hire.

“I used to help him service him and his dad’s boats on a Saturday morning and used to do the trial runs with the hirers up and down the river,” said John, 67.

“In the winter the four boats Langford owned would come back to Lowestoft and be stored in a shed called Kirby’s Boatyard. We used to varnish them all up at weekends and evenings in that shed. I later got my own boatyard, but we kept in touch all our lives.”

Langford bought the Alphacraft yard at Brundall in the early 1970s, initially operating two wooden and six fibreglass boats, before acquiring Springcraft and its boat moulds, also buying the classic Caribbean hull moulds on which so many Broads boats are based.

Thriving business

He built Alphacraft up into a thriving business, increasing his hire fleet over the years and playing a major role in the burgeoning holiday trade, ultimately creating up to 1,000 boat moulds.

Outside work, Langford lived life to the full, learning to fly light aircraft, enjoying clay pigeon shooting, motorcycling and working on and driving Jaguar cars, including an XK120, XK140 and E-Type.

“I will most remember Langford for his motorcycle riding,” said John. “He was a hell of a motorbike rider.

“We used to go from Lowestoft to St Olaves on the Somerleyton Road, and he could ride that road like a TT motorcycle rider, with me on the back.

“And he loved his Jags – he’d come round with his flying hat on and his sheepskin jacket. My missus would say if that car has puppies, we’ll have one.”

He leaves two sons, Langford Jr and Paul, who both worked with him at Alphacraft.

The funeral will take place at Brundall Church on Thursday, September 27 at 2pm, with a gathering at The Yare public house afterwards.