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History of the Richardson's Group

The history of the Richardson family can be traced back to Mr Richardson’s Great Great Grandfather Mr Robert Kemp who owned and ran a public house in Oulton Broad named “The Lady of the Lake”, which is still there today.

A son also named Robert, was a boat builder and built Norfolk Wherries on what was know as the “Salt Side”, on the east side of Mutford Lock. Robert Kemp No. 2 did not have a son, but he did have a daughter named Minnie. She married Mr Richardson. They had four sons, one of whom was named Robert after his Grandfather; the others were Frank, Jack and Dick.

Robert Richardson, father of the late Robert Richardson Jnr, served his apprenticeship as a marine engineer and worked for many years at Chambers shipyard on Lake Lothing, Oulton Broad. He is mentioned several times in Ted Frost’s book “From Tree to Sea”, which is the story of wooden steam drifters. Mr & Mrs Richardson had three children, two girls Thelma & Joy and a boy Robert John. Mr Richardson Jnr bought 4 row boats from Joe Dunnet for £36 in the early part of the war, before he was “called up”, and his father let them for him during the war, in addition to the existing fleet of day boats.

In 1944 Mr Richardson purchased their first motor cruiser “Mac Nab” from C Paget-Clark.  In early 1944 Mr Richardson Snr and Jnr bought Old Mill House Boatyard in Oulton Broad. From this yard they let row boats, sailing boats and motor launches. Robert Jnr was in the R.A.F. during the war stationed in Palestine, Egypt and India, flying in Wellingtons and Liberators as a flight engineer. When he came out of the R.A.F. in March 1947, he re-joined his father in the boat letting business.

By 1957 the hire fleet had outgrown the Oulton Broad sites, which were Parkers Yard that later became Hamptons, Old Mill House Boatyard on Commodore Road, and 2 boat dykes in Carlton Ham, as well as a boat building yard on Lake Loathing which was sold to Fred Newson. Therefore, Mr Robert Richardson Jnr, who had taken over the running of the business, started looking for larger premises on the Northern Broads.

After missing purchasing the riverside estate in Brundall, Robert’s mother Dora saw the advert for the auction of Brightside Guest House in Stalham which was purchased at the auction by Mr Richardson in 1957. He moved the business, together with the fleet of hire boats to Stalham in the winter of 1957/58, and started hiring from Stalham in the spring of 1958. Once the boat building sheds were erected another boat building programme began. During the next 15 yrs he increased the fleet and purchased extra plots of marshes surrounding the original site at Stalham to create the largest boatyard on the whole of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads.

In 1969 a new company Aquafibre Ltd was set up. Mr Richardson owned a 30% share in this company and it started to build fibreglass boats for the fleet at Stalham. Eventually he set up his own building operation on the Stalham yard under the Name of “Horizon Craft”.

In 1974, the whole of the Stalham boatyard, together with the fleet of 244 Cruisers, was sold to the Rank Organisation. When the yard was sold, Mr Richardson purchased a motor repair garage at Catfield where he erected a T2 aircraft shed and moved his boat building operation. He continued building a fleet of boats which he then started hiring out from Acle in 1977.

In April 1984, Mr Richardson bought the Stalham Boatyard back from Rank. The boats had deteriorated both structurally and mechanically and they all needed major work. The first Easter there were only 54 boats of acceptable standard for hire. Within 3 to 4 years the fleet was bought up to an acceptable standard.

In 1980 Mr Richardson purchased a small building site in Stalham High Street, which is now let as light industrial units as is the site at Catfield.

The fleet continued to increase and in 1986, the Horning Boatyard was purchased from the Rank Organisation, originally known as “Caribbean Cruisers”, later renamed “Blue Line”, and now known as “Horning Pleasurecraft”. Next in April 1991, came three boatyards on the River Thames originally known as “Maidboats”, these were also purchased from the Rank Organisation and renamed “Benson Pleasurecraft”, “Maidline Cruisers” and “Ferryline Cruisers”. The last boatyard to be purchased was “Hearts Cruisers” in Thorpe, Norwich. This came in 1992 from the Mowatt Group, who went bankrupt in August 1992. The fleet rose to approximately 750 boats after purchase of boat yards’ hire fleets and individual boats.

In early 1993 the company diverted into a new venture with the purchase of both Mundesley Holiday Centre on the North Norfolk Coast and Brightstone Holiday Centre on the Isle of Wight. Sadly one evening in August 1995 Brightstone, one of the oldest holiday centres in England, caught fire, destroying the main complex, bringing to an end 60 years of catered holidays. Next on the list of acquisitions came Hemsby Beach Holiday Village – a self catering site at Hemsby on the east coast of Norfolk, which started trading under the New Horizon banner on 1st June 1996. This was closely followed by The Savoy Holiday Village on the Isle of Wight, formerly known as the Savoy Country Club.

In March 1998 Scottish & Newcastle decided to sell their Pontins site adjacent to the Hemsby Beach site. This site, Seacroft Holiday Village, has been the subject of an ongoing schedule of refurbishment since then.

On the 15th of May 1998 a further purchase was made, this time from the Haven holidays organisation in the form of Summerfields Holiday Village at Scratby. This is another self catering site with both brick-built chalets and caravans for hire. The following year 1999 saw the purchase of another Pontins site, South Downs Holiday Village at Bracklesham Bay near Chichester.

The Millennium was to see another direction for the company as it diversified once more, this time into the area of public houses. Richardson’s purchased The Limes at Fakenham in North Norfolk now known as the Garden House. The Blueberry in Norwich came on line in July 2000, a small but very popular live music pub. In October 2000 the group purchased the Angel public house in Stoke-by-Nayland.

In 2001 the group took over the Racecourse on the outskirts of Norwich. The Waterfront Place in Chelmsford Essex joined in December 2002.

November 2003 saw the purchase of Beverley Chalets adjacent to Summerfields and these chalets were added to Summerfields’ inventory of accommodation prior to the 2004 season. In January 2004, Caesars Arcade on Beach Road Hemsby was purchased. In 2005 Church Farm public house/restaurant came on board. In 2006 the group purchased Lowestoft Family Bowl, a ten pin bowling centre in Lowestoft. The latest acquisition in September 2007 was the Hog in Armour public house in the centre of Norwich.

Mr. Richardson was still involved in the running of the business every day, until he passed away in October 2018. Paul and Laura Richardson continue to own the business to this day.

Thames Yards, Hearts Norwich, Savoy Holiday Village, Waterfront Place, Mundesley Holiday Village, the Garden House, the Blueberry, the Racecourse Inn, the Angel, Summerfields Holiday Village and the Hog in Armour have since been sold. Horning Pleasurecraft, including Moore’s Yard and Catfield Industrial Units, are no longer part of the Richardson’s Group.