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Tributes paid to ‘founding father’ of Norfolk boating Robert John Richardson

PUBLISHED: 16:44 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 22 October 2018

Robert Richardson at the Stalham Marina base.  Picture: James Bass

Robert Richardson at the Stalham Marina base. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2014

Tributes have been paid to the “founding father” of boating on the Broads, after his death aged 95.

Robert Richardson with his first boats at Oulton Broad in 1949. Picture: Steve AdamsRobert Richardson with his first boats at Oulton Broad in 1949. Picture: Steve Adams

Robert Richardson was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on Friday, October 19 after suffering a stroke. He died in the early hours of Saturday morning surrounded by his children and family.

He founded Richardson’s Leisure Limited in the early 1940s with just four rowing boats. It has since grown to become a well-known name across the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

In a statement, Mr Richardson’s family said: “He was keen to watch and learn what was being done behind the scenes with his input continuing to be invaluable.

“We are sure his legacy will be remembered through the success of the business.”

Robert Richardson (centre) with his sons Clive (left) and Paul (right) at the Stalham Marina base.  Picture: James BassRobert Richardson (centre) with his sons Clive (left) and Paul (right) at the Stalham Marina base. Picture: James Bass

Mr Richardson was conscripted into the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, during which time his father, Robert Richardson Senior, took over the business.

On returning from the war in 1947, after serving in Palestine, Egypt and India, he had already purchased a motor cruiser and moved the business into Old Mill House Boatyard, in Oulton Broad.

But Richardson’s soon outgrew the Oulton Broad base and in 1957 moved to Stalham. During the next 15 years the fleet of hire boats continued to increase, making the Stalham boatyard the largest on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

In 1986 Horning Boatyard was purchased, followed by three boatyards on the River Thames in 1991. The last boatyard bought was Hearts Cruisers in Thorpe, near Norwich, in 1992.

Robert Richardson with sons Clive, left and Paul aboard one of their hire boats at Stalham. Picture: Steve AdamsRobert Richardson with sons Clive, left and Paul aboard one of their hire boats at Stalham. Picture: Steve Adams

A year later Mr Richardson introduced holiday villages into the Richardson’s group. His work in the marine industry was recognised in 2010, when he was awarded the Boating Business Lifetime Achievement Award by Marine Trades Association and Boating Business.

The success of the business and the continuing improvements to land, buildings and boats were a daily interest to him up until his death.

As a mark of respect the Richardson’s flags will fly at half mast at the marinas and holiday park.

Mr Richardson is survived by his daughters Jess and Laura, sons Paul and Clive and nine grandchildren.

Robert Richardson with sons Clive, left, and Paul at the Horning Boat Show in 2014. Photo: Nick ButcherRobert Richardson with sons Clive, left, and Paul at the Horning Boat Show in 2014. Photo: Nick Butcher

Greg Munford, chief executive of Richardson’s and president of British Marine, said: “Mr Richardson was a pioneer, innovator and an entrepreneur ahead of his time.

“One of the founding fathers of post-war tourism in our region.

“A quiet, kind and true gentleman whose passion for boating and business has allowed millions of people to enjoy our wonderful waterways in Norfolk, Suffolk and the Thames along with holidays on land through his inspired diversification into holiday parks.

“His business has created happy memories that families and friends will never forget and that will transcend their generations.

“For those who had the privilege to know him his memory will never be lost.

“It is with sadness that we will be celebrating our 75th year without Mr Richardson but knowing the man he would certainly want it to be ‘business as usual’.”

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