Doris to be royal attraction again

She was a floating palace who played host to an abdicated king and his American girlfriend, and was graced by comedy legends.

And now Doris, the 80-year-old houseboat cruiser, look set to weave her magic agian for a new generarion of water lovers in Suffolk.

For the last two weeks, Bob Brett has been restoring the craft on Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft, to get her ship shape and ready for cruises next summer.

Mr Brett, a 45-year-old engineer, builder and powerboat racer, bought the Doris through the eBay auction site from its previous owner Richard Orme.

Its new owner looks set to splash out up to �100,000 on the Doris, which is shrouded under sheets after suffering rot and water damage.

Although the work is in its early stages, Mr Brett can already envisage how the Edwardian cruiser will look once she is back to her prime.

In her pomp, the Doris had Axminster carpets, a spacious oak and teak interior with four cabins and a china bath. Unlike most homes in the 1930s, she also had the luxury of an indoor toilet.

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If the Doris is ready for the next summer season, it is hoped groups of up to 25 people will be able to enjoy the cruiser's plush and spacious interior and her traditional style hull.

Next summer's scenes should be a reminder of how the Doris, which was built by Lowestoft's JW Brooke, was a cruising star of the 1930s.

The Doris was taken to France by former King Edward VIII and his lover Wallis Simpson after the 1936 abdication crisis.

Comedy legends Charlie Chaplin and George Formby also went on trips on her.

Mr Brett, who lives in Ipswich, has nver restored a boat before and he admits it was an implusive purchase when he saw the Doris on eBay.

He also admits travelling at a sedate six to eight knots on the Doris once her engines are fitted will be in stark comparision to racing in his powerboat as a member of the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Motor Boat Club.

Mr Brett said: 'I have never done anything like this before. It is a bit of challege, but it is going well so far.

'It is alot of hard graft and you are always on your hands on knees.

'But it will be great to see the Doris launched agian and back to her best. It will be worth all the hard work, I am sure of that.'

Mr Brett's brother, Jonathan, 48, from Shotley, near Ipswich, is also helping with the restoration work as he has worked on classic boats before.

He said: 'It is a grand project and it will be nice to see the Doris going on a cruise again.'

His brother prasied the Doris's previous owner for the major restoration work he had done.

Mr Orme, a Lowestoft boat builder, spent tens of thousands of pounds on restoring Doris's hull over three years before she was relaunched in 2006.

He had found the Doris rotting away on the River Waveney in Beccles.