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Celebrating 75 years of Richardson’s Boating Holidays!

2019 Marks the 75th anniversary of Richardson’s, a name that for many has become synonymous with the Norfolk Broads. Our story is one that spans many years, from Mr. Richardson’s great-great-Grandfather, Mr Robert Kemp, who owned and ran the Lady of the Lake in Oulton Broad, up until the present day where Mr. Richardson’s sons, Paul and Clive, still live and work within this beautiful playground for all whilst keeping the Richardson’s name alive and well in the Broads National Park.

Richardson’s Roots

Whilst Richardson’s roots are firmly planted within the Broads, our boat hiring operation began in 1944 alongside Mr. Richardson’s father, Mr. Robert Richardson Senior.

Mr Robert Richardson Snr purchased their very first motor cruiser, “Mac Nab”, from C Paget-Clark – and so began Richardson’s many years of holiday hire in the Broads National Park. 1944 also saw Mr. Richardson Senior and his son (and our present owner) Mr. Richardson Junior buy their first boatyard, Old Mill House Boatyard, in Oulton Broad. Here, the Mr. Richardson Senior let row boats, sailing boats and motor launches whilst Mr. Richardson Junior was away doing his duty in the R.A.F. during the Second World War – and 3 years later, in 1947 once the war was over, Mr. Richardson Junior was able to re-join his father in the boat letting business.

Just 10 years later, our fleet had outgrown the Oulton Broad sites. Even with the purchase of Parkers Yard (later Hamptons), 2 boat dykes in Carlton Ham and a boat building yard on Lake Loathing, in addition to the original Old Mill House Boatyard, the Richardsons’ fleet needed more room. In this time, Mr Richardson Junior had also taken over the reigns – and so, he began looking for bigger boatyards for the growing fleet in the northern part of the Broads.

In 1957, after Mr. Richardson’s mother Dora had seen an advert for an auction, the Brightside Guest House in Stalham – now known and loved as Richardson’s Boating Holidays – was purchased. In the winter of 1957 and 1958, Mr Richardson began the task of moving the entire business, including the fleet of hire cruisers, to Stalham where the hire fleet would be let in the Spring of 1958.


Photo: Robert Richardson

Here, Richardson’s boat building programme began. Over the next 15 years the fleet increased and extra plots of marsh were acquired around the original Stalham site creating the largest boatyard on the whole of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads – which we still proudly maintain to this day!

In 1969, Aquafibre Limited was created, and Mr. Richardson owned a 30% share of the company, which built fibreglass boats for our Stalham fleet. Eventually, Mr. Richardson created his own boat building operation at our Stalham marina, under the name “Horizon Craft”.

Over the next few years, Mr. Richardson sold the entire Stalham yard, including the fleet of 244 cruisers, to the Rank Organisation in 1974. From here, Mr. Richardson bought a motor repair garage at Catfield, erecting a T2 aircraft shed to continue his boat building operation, and began to let these from Acle in 1977.

Photo: Robert Richardson with some of his very first motor cruisers

Just 10 years later, Mr. Richardson bought back the Stalham boatyard from the Rank Organisation. Unfortunately, the cruisers had deteriorated both structurally and mechanically, and major work was needed to restore the fleet to its former glory. As result, of the original 244 cruisers sold alongside the boatyard in 1974, only 54 cruisers were of acceptable standard to hire that Easter. It took Mr. Richardson 3 to 4 years to restore the entire fleet to such a standard where they could be let once again.

Over the next few years, other sites were purchased, such as a small building site in Stalham High Street (which is now let as light industrial units, as is the site at Catfield). In 1986, we purchased the Horning boatyard, once again from the Rank Organisation, which was formerly known as “Caribbean Cruisers” and is now known as Horning Marina and carries out private boating work.

From here, the operation grew, with the purchase of 3 boatyards on the River Thames originally known as “Maidboats”, each renamed to “Benson Pleasurecraft”, “Maidline Cruisers” and “Ferryline Cruisers” respectively. Then, “Hearts Cruisers” boatyard in Thorpe Saint Andrew was purchased from the Mowatt Group in 1992. With the acquisition of all of these yards as well as individual cruisers, the fleet rose to around 750 boats!

Photo: Paul, Clive and Robert Richardson

A new Horizon – Holiday Parks

With the purchase of both Mundesley Holiday Centre on the North Norfolk coast as well as Brightstone Holiday Centre on the Isle of Wight in 1993, Richardson’s began a new venture into land-based holidays. Sadly, just over 2 years later a fire destroyed Brightstone, which was one of oldest holiday centres in England, bringing an end to 60 years of catered holidays.

In 1996, Richardson’s purchased Hemsby Beach Holiday Village (known today as Hemsby Beach Holiday Park), closely followed by the Savoy Holiday Village on the Isle of Wight. In 1998, Richardson’s also purchased the Pontins site adjacent to Hemsby Beach Holiday Village, Seacroft Holiday Village.

In 1998, the company made a further purchase – Summerfields Holiday Village in Scratby, formerly owned by Haven holidays, and another in 1999, South Downs Holiday Village, also a former Pontins site.

Over the winter of 2017 and 2018, Richardson’s combined both Hemsby Beach Holiday Village and Seacroft Holiday Village into one site to create one large holiday park, Hemsby Beach Holiday Park. With over £10 million invested in the Hemsby site since 2016 as well as brand-new accommodation, facilities and activities on-site, Richardson’s are continuing to invest in the park to create a family friendly experience on the Norfolk coast that guests will never forget.

The Millennium

At the turn of the Millennium, Richardson’s diversified once again – this time into public houses. The Limes at Fakenham in North Norfolk was the first acquisition, with the Blueberry in Norwich following in July 2000. Just 3 months later, the Angel public house in Stoke-by-Nayland in Colchester was purchased, with the company taking over the Racecourse on the edges of Norwich the following year. Then came the Waterfront Palace in Chelmsford, Essex in late 2002.

In early 2004, the company acquired Caesars Arcade, next door to Hemsby Beach Holiday Village, followed the next year by the Church Farm public house and restaurant. In 2006, Richardson’s took ownership of Lowestoft Family Bowl, now known as Richardson’s Family Entertaiment Centre. The Hog in Armour was the group’s final purchase before Richardson’s divested itself of all of the public houses in 2014 and began to focus more closely on its boating and holiday parks operations. With this also came the acquisition of Fineway day boat operation in Wroxham.

Photo: Richardson’s Day Boats (Fineway) in Wroxham
The Millennium
Richardson’s in the Present Day

At Richardson’s today we still deliver great value holidays in Norfolk and the Broads National Park.

We currently operate nearly 300 inland motor cruisers from our marina at Stalham, hiring our Far Horizon cruiser and completing private marine work at our Horning marina as well as offering a fleet of day craft for hire from our Wroxham Marina.

However, our story on water doesn’t stop at holidays – we are also boat builders! At Richardson’s we build and release 3 next-generation hire cruisers such as the Commander per year. With Commanders 6 and 7 currently scheduled for release in 2019, as well as an exciting new project, our boat building team will certainly be very busy!

Photo: Richardsons Boating Holidays in Stalham
Richardson’s in the Present Day

However, it’s not all about the Broads… We also have land based operations. We have two family entertainment centres: Caesars Arcade in Hemsby and Richardson’s Family Entertainment Centre in Lowestoft, which features a 14-lane Glow Bowling alley. Last but not least, we have Hemsby Beach Holiday Park! Located in the seaside resort of Hemsby, our holiday park boasts over 400 letting units, an entertainment complex plus a leisure complex with indoor heated swimming pool!

We’ve recently just concluded a major stage in a multi-million pound investment project for the park Hemsby, during which Hemsby Beach Holiday Park was merged with our neighbouring site, Seacroft Holiday Village. Adding fantastic new accommodation, such as caravans and lodges with hot tubs, as well as redeveloping the site’s entertainment offering to deliver a great range of fantastic Go Active activities from Archery, Air Boardz and Climbing Walls to Sea Scooters, Water Walkers and Zorbing!