“Back then, MacNab was marketed as a six-berth cruiser but it was only the size of a two-berth boat by today’s standards,” says Robert.
“In 1947, it could be hired for £31 in high season or £27 in low season; there was a gas cooker and a straight-through toilet but definitely no shower. However, you could hire a portable radio for 25 shillings (£1.25) a week.”
He recalls that the immediate post-war era was a profitable one for the burgeoning hire boat industry as people leaving the armed forces had their demobilisation money but very little to spend it on other than holidays.
By 1957, the hire fleet was outgrowing Richardson’s Oulton Broad sites, which by then had extended to Parkers Yard, later to become Hamptons, two boat dykes in Carlton Ham and a boat building yard on Lake Loathing as well as Old Mill House Boatyard.
Robert Richardson, who had taken over running the business from his father, started looking for larger premises on the northern Broads, which even then were a busy hub for boating holidays.
“My mother Dora saw an advert in the Lowestoft Journal for the auction of Brightside Guest House and a dyke in Stalham,” he says.
Buying it for £7,500 heralded the beginning of the modern era for Richardson’s, an era with Stalham very much at the heart of it.
Son Paul Richardson says: “Until then the River Ant was very quiet. There was a small boatyard at Sutton Staithe and a yacht station and boatyard in Stalham, but it was very much out of the way for holiday boats.”
His father recalls how the move immediately boosted trade for their hire fleet, which by that stage had reached 33 boats, mostly built in their own yard.
He says: “Our first year in Stalham, 1958, was a bad one for the Broads generally but we enjoyed our best ever season because of the difference in volume of trade between the northern and southern Broads.”
Once sheds had been put up at Stalham, a fresh boat building programme began and classes of boats that became Broads legends – Pacemakers, Sunways, Broadsventures – became holiday favourites.
Some of the 1960s fleet remain today in private hands and Clive Richardson fondly retains a restored Broads Venture for private use. “I have put an electric toilet on board, but there’s none of the other modern ‘luxuries’ boats have today,” he says.