Royal Tudor was the ‘last proper wooden boat built in Norwich’, built in the small shed at the back of the Ferry Inn, King Street where Earnest Royall started the family firm in 1949 by designing and building his own fleet of wooden hire boats.

The 1950’s saw an increase in the number of boats built for the hire fleets, following the Second World War, with many modern innovations introduced to the boats, such as cool boxes, hot and cold running water, the end to use of river water for ablution purposes. The start of the new decade saw Brooms of Brundall introduce the first shower on board a hire craft. Royal Tudor was constructed in 1960 and in that same year Royalls purchased their new site at Riverside Road Hoveton, which is where Royal Tudor was completed. Whenever I buy timber for Royal Tudor’s renovation from Tim Collins in Hoveton I’m just a matter of feet from the site of the original boat shed where RT was completed.

Royal Tudor originally sported a wooden ‘hardtop’ hinged canopy with canvas sides and folding windscreen. I was kindly sent images by Mr Philip Heywood of the Heywood family holiday on board Royal Tudor in 1965. These clearly show RT’s original canopy configuration. Mr Heywood tells me that the canopy was ‘very heavy and difficult to manage’. Mr Heywood’s fantastic photographs show a wealth of little details, many that still remain and have given me headaches wondering what on earth the various hooks and fastening were originally for?

By 1970 Royal Tudor had undergone a refit on her cockpit. Gone was the awkward to handle ‘hardtop’ to be replaced by a ‘soft-top’ canopy, new ‘fold-down’ cockpit sides and a tri-split windscreen.  This is the configuration that Royal Tudor has today. Although much easier to handle it is still a two man operation if speed is needed!

The cockpit canopy and folding side have undergone restoration this year. The previous owner had resorted to large amounts of filler instead of replacing timber when age began to take its toll. Consequently the port folding side of the cockpit was ready to fall to pieces. Matty and I recently spent a long weekend replacing the timbers and stitching the canopy seams after replacing the elastic holding the canopy in place.

We will be returning shortly to complete the work by sanding, staining and finally adding multiple coats of varnish to make sure the cockpit will last another forty years. We will have to look to replacing the fabric canopy in the near future, but for the minute RT is once again safe against the elements.

As evidenced by the photographs, Royal Tudor originally sported a varnished hull and cabin with yellow coaching lines around the cabin windows and her decks were painted grey. By 1981, as will all wooden hire boats, her hull was painted to cover the inevitable bumps and bashes that is the lot of a boat in a hire fleet. Most boats were given a white hull but in Royal Tudor’s case her hull was painted ivory. As part of her new colour scheme Royal Tudor’s decks were painted the now familiar ‘Royall’s Orange’. With her green bottom, ivory hull with yellow coaching stripe and yellow detail around the windows in her varnished cabin sides and orange decks she was certainly a distinctive craft!

Accommodation onboard Royal Tudor comprised of five berths, one double and three singles in three cabins as it does today. Well equipped with a spacious galley, hot and cold water with electric taps and a cooker with oven, Royal Tudor was considered to be, according to the Hoseasons 1968 brochure, ‘an immaculate brand-new cruiser fitted out to a high standard with comfort and facility carefully considered’. At the height of the 1968 season her hire cost the sum of £66 10s with a television available for an additional £2 10s per week.

Royal Tudor has changed very little internally since 1960. At some point a shower has been added into the head compartment. The original hand basin from the heads has been moved into the forward cabin and replaced the dressing table that was in that position. A metal sliding door with a window has replaced the old wooden door separating the galley from the aft cockpit. As part of the restoration of Royal Tudor this door will be replaced by a wooden one, however I will retain the window when I make the new door so that the galley gets plenty of light.

Royal Tudor left the hire fleet in 1983 after twenty three years of service and was sold to a couple living in Kent. Then on the 30th June 1992 she was once again sold to Sue and Pete Smith. Her new owners were requested to change her name by Alan Royall, and for a while she became known as Kaikoura. A much loved and well cared for boat all of her maintenance work was still carried out by Royalls boatyard. Sue and Pete kindly sent me a number of documents ranging from invoices to survey reports and a number of photographs. I will add these documents to the ‘history’ menu as soon as I can. But in the meantime here are some of the images of Royal Tudor from this period.