Stalham and Acle boat hire firm produces first new vessel for almost 30 years

The largest boat hire firm on the Norfolk Broads has gone back to its roots and built its own cruiser for the first time in almost 30 years.

Richardson's, which is based at Stalham and Acle and has over 300 boats, recently launched the Broadsman, a six-eight berth vessel with a sliding cockpit.

The firm was founded 62 years ago by Robert Richardson, who is in his 80s but still goes into work every day.

Mr Richardson let his first hire boats, Just Jane and Wayfarer, in 1949 and soon saw the business expand.

In 1969 a new company, Aquafibre Ltd, was set up. Mr. Richardson owned a 30pc share in this company and it started to build fibreglass boats for the fleet at Stalham.

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Eventually, he set up his own building operation under the name of Horizon Craft, which built a fleet of 46 boats which were let at the Acle yard in 1977.

Richardson's built its last boat in the early 1980s, but, after a number of years of buying in boat mouldings from other companies and fitting them out on site, the firm has gone back to building from scratch.

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In October 2009, Richardson's started the production of a new design of Broads cruiser designed by John Moxham, which went out for the first time on June 10 this year.

The Broadsman has three en-suite cabins, satellite television, reversing camera bow and stern thrusters, TV in front cabin, a games console, powered saloon canopy, 6ft 6in beds and a speed log.

Greg Munford, chief executive, said the firm hoped to build at least 10 of the boats, with other new models to follow. They would replace some of the older vessels in the hire fleet.

He said: 'This shows a real commitment to the core business and the business on which Richardson's was founded. It is a major investment in the future and a commitment to the Broads cruiser holiday industry.'

He said the company was investing �150,000 per year in development and �700,000 per year in production.

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